So Julie received a call this morning from a "legal mediation" company with a Very Serious Legal Issue to discuss with her. The person leaving the message on voicemail said "I don't even think you're aware of what's going on!" So, you know, very scary, and before breakfast, even.
(UPDATE: Apparently they called Julie's parents this morning, too.)
She called the number and got a high strung, angry gentleman at "the Office of the CRA". She was informed that she has an old credit card outstanding debt of over $9000, and unless she gave him her bank information RIGHT THAT INSTANT, the matter was going to go to court and the debt would be reported to the IRS as additional income, and no, we won't send you anything in print, and no, you can't have a moment, you need to give us that information right now now nownownownow!
Julie, not suffering from a head injury, declined to give Mister Furious our bank account numbers, thereby denying the Office of the CRA a sum so vast that they might actually be able to invest in not one but two tacos from Taco Bell. (But sorry, no beverage.) She did, however, keep talking, or rather she tried, but mostly she just listened to this guy with his unresolved anger issues. A few interesting points came out of his frothy rage, however:
- The credit card on which she had supposedly defaulted on $9000 in debt was one that was closed out a very very long time ago. Years ago, in fact, and the debt had been settled. More importantly, and this will perhaps not surprise you, the limit on that card was nowhere close to $9000. It might have been a thousand. Because, you know, credit card companies may not be smart, but none of them are dumb enough to give the Fabulous Rummel-Hudsons a $9000 line of credit. Certainly not way back then, during our wilder, dumber days.
- The contact address they had was that of Julie's childhood home, where her parents still live. It may have been listed at one time as a reference address, but it hasn't been listed as her home address since back when she was receiving lunch money.
- He repeatedly called her "Julie Hudson", which has in fact never been a legal name of hers. You can try a bunch of different combinations, but that's actually the only one that won't work.
- The most interesting piece of information came when Mister Furious heard me talking to Julie (probably suggesting creative and possibly physically challenging anatomical activities she should suggest to her caller), he said, "You can listen to me, or you can listen to your boyfriend there..."
After Mister Furious hung up on Julie, I called them back to try to find out who they were and where they were calling from. I got Mister Furious again, except now he was using a different name. He refused to give any information and said he could only talk to Julie, not me. When I handed the phone to her, she was told that if we called them back again, it would be considered harassment. (Really? Because on this saved voicemail message, it really did sound like you were rather insistent that we call you.)
So there you go.
Here's the thing about this. I think this company is operating under an outdated business model. I suspect they're not entirely unaware of the issues at play since they demand payment information right then, during the call. Because if you have time to go online and start Googling their information, particularly the phone numbers from which they called and which they asked for a return call, you might find some interesting tidbits of information, both from other consumers and from legal websites.
So in order to help "the Office of the CRA" improve their procedures and have more success in scaring the crap out of unsuspecting marks, here's just a sample of what turns up in about two minutes of Googling.
CRA Collection Company, Inc.
1150 Lancaster Boulevard
"does anyone know who this company is?? they somehow got my sister's number and is asking for me, claiming to be a law firm."
"who is this company? they are looking for someone who is not at my number and had even called my son in OK looking for this person. They say how important it is and that it is a very serious matter which needs immediate attention. Does anyone know who this is?"
"Paul from CRA called looking for me under a name I have not used in years. I have been divorced, remarried, and 3 kids since using this name. My oldest is in high school now. I live in a new state and number is unlisted. This is just crazy."
"I got a call from this number at my moms house. I have not lived at home for over 16 years. A Ms. Thompson is the caller and she tries to be very intimidating and almost a bully, but she will not give any specific details. My mom is ready to turn it in to the authorities."
"I just got a message from a Mrs. Karis at 866-553-0428. She left a message saying that she was looking for "RO" (married name) from "the city I grew up in." Which was strange because I haven't lived there in over 10 years. And I wasn't married when I lived there. I just felt it was very strange since any account I have with my married name I know is up to date. Do you just ignore this type of call? Or should I call back and find out what's going on? I would hate to think that they will be after my family members next."
"A lady called wanted me to relay a message to someone that's supposedly left our phone number as a contact. She just gave a six-digit case no. When I asked for what matter is it related to, the lady started yelling and became extremely rude and said it's none of my business. Caller ID showed the call was from 831-274-2477. She wanted the person to call back at 1-877-407-9274 with just a case no. What a rude scammer!"
"I just received a call (on the cellphone I use for the company that I work for). I do not know how "Kristin" got my phone #. She says she is with CRA company. She was rude and obnoxious and said that she had an urgent call for me, though I never identified myself. She also threatened that she would report me for not identifying myself or my company name. I don't have any debts that need collection, so I don't know why anyone would be phoning me- especially on my company cellphone."
"This has never happened to us! I'm glad I wasn't being too gullible tonight! They call from the same phone number 1-866-460-4260. The guy said he name was John Shelton. The guy said that he needed to speak to my husband urgently concerning a legal matter. My husband called back and spoke with a female (sounded white). We had to ask for a company name = CRA. They were unable to tell us what that stood for. They were very on edge, argumentative, and sounded threatening at times...claiming they would turn us into the IRS, if we didn't settle this now. They said that this was a last attempt to collect on a credit card debt before legal action would be taken. They stated that this was on his credit report and needed to be taken care of now. They said they only take credit/debit payment (Go figure). The card/debt they were referring to has been taken care of and the card has been canceled for many yrs, and we know for a fact that it is not on the credit report. My husband hung up on the woman, and she called right back from a different #. She said, "Mr. XXXXX, I can't help you with this, if you keep hanging up. What other legit company would ever do that. She was asking for his SS# and all kinds of stuff! I just want to turn these low life losers in, so they can get caught! It's a shame!"
"Calling all of my daughter's relatives, threatens to serve paper's, she is going to be arrested, calling her elderly grandparents, parents, says it is on excessive debt on a non existant credit card debt of a limit that she was never approved for. The woman "FLIPPED" out, was YELLING, CALLED my daughter CRAZY, would not confirm any information. "
"CRA woman became agitated when i asked for her address, refused, said she'd only been calling for a month, that they were not a collection agency but a 'mediation service.' supervisor Stephanie Martin came on line, said they'd never called me before today, i'd be taken off list. i said i'd been trying to stop calls for a year and a half. also refused address then hung up."
"866-452-9518 called my neighbor advising her that I gave them permission to contact them to get info about me. My neighbor knew better than this and told them she has nothing to tell them. They then proceeded to advise her that they are going to press charges if I do not call them back. I called them to tell them to NOT call looking for me ever again & I Never gave them authority to call my neighbor advising them that I said they could. The guy started yelling at me sayibg he wouldn't have to call if I paid his client monies owed. I asked what client? What monies? He refused to answer and continued yelling. I hung up the phone. I will be reporting them to FTC as well."
"These people called my Uncle\'s ex- wife from 1988 and initially stated that they wanted to deliver a package and needed to verify the address. That did not work so the called again and stated that they were calling from the office of CRA and some investigators needed to speak with him immediately. I called them back multiple times and they hung up on me whenever I asked what CRA stands for and what type of company were they. Finally they advised me that they were the Consumer Recovery Associates."
"These people caled me 8 months ago, had the wrong first name, middle initial and SS#, told me it was a mistake. They have since reported nick name, alternate SS# to the credit bureau and are now harrasing me again. I think these people are scum. They also stated I made the last payment from an address I had 9 years ago just 6 years ago so it is within the statute of limitations, what idiots! I complained to the FTC and the VA Attorney General! I hope the hard inquiry comes off my credit report and they leave me alone for good. This account is apparently outside the SOL anyway."
Here's a big one:
"If you receive a call from this number, you have been called by junk debt / collection agency that buys debt from original creditors that has been written off or settled and is beyond the statute of limitations in most states. They are trying get the money for themselves, not the original creditor.
They are reportedly a serial violator of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). They may be illegally using credit information obtained from Experian or other credit reporting agencies.
This company has been known to contact and harass people they believe may know the person they are trying to reach including distant relatives, ex-spouses and possible former co-workers.
NEVER answer these calls if you see this as a caller ID. NEVER return these calls. NEVER give them ANY information about the person they are seeking or refer them to others.
Any "positive" comments you read in these notes about the company may have been written by employees of the company.
The company is:
Consumer Recovery Associates
2697 International Parkway #4
PO Box 2916
Virginia Beach, VA 23450-2916
The following is the most comprehensive information gathered about this company from various sources on the Internet.
***If you've been called by a number not on this list or by someone using a different name, please copy this list, add the number/name in the correct order and repost it in its entirety.
Company Names that CRA reportedly uses:
CIA and Associates
Consumer Credit Association
Consumer Recovery Associates
C & R Associates
Farm CIA & Associates
J Lamb and Associates
and possibly GC Services
Phone numbers that CRA reportedly uses:
(list redacted because it is crazy long.)
Individual names that CRA reportedly uses:
(also redacted for length, but the woman who left the voicemail, Mister Furious and his Furious Twin are all on the list)"
Pennsylvania Consumers Challenge CRA Security Systems' Collection Practices
Bradley v CRA Security Systems, Inc.
CASE ID: 3131 | CREDIT / DEBT | 02/06/2004
A statewide class action has been filed in Pennsylvania against CRA Security Systems, Inc. and their parent company, Capital Recovery Associates, Inc. The action is brought on behalf of all Pennsylvania residents who received a form type collection letter demanding immediate payment of the consumers' alleged debt. The action is brought under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and seeks statutory damages as well as injunctive and declaratory relief.
According to consumers, CRA used language in its initial collection letters that was confusing and deceptive. Federal law requires that all collection services include a notice in their initial collection letters that informs consumers of their right to investigate the validity of a debt within 30 days. Although CRA's letter contained this notice, consumers allege that other language in the letter overshadowed the notice and rendered it ineffective. Specifically, the letters requested immediate attention by remitting payment. Consumers allege that by demanding immediate attention and payment, they were unable to determine if they were given 30 days to investigate the validity of the debt, or if they were required to pay immediately. Additionally, the letters were allegedly "signed" by Richard Lyons. According to consumers, there is no viable evidence to suggest that a Richard Lyons reviewed their debt or that Richard Lyons is even employed by CRA. However, consumers claim this "signature" is meant to convey to them that the debt had been reviewed by an actual person. According to consumers, CRA also routinely charges allegedly illegal fees for returned checks. Finally, even after repeated attempts to dispute the validity of the debts, many consumers claim that CRA never provided them with validation.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, any unfair, misleading or intimidating language is forbidden in collection letters or other forms of communication. The consumers allege that the language used by CRA fulfills this standard. They claim that CRA's language overshadows and renders ineffective the 30 day notice of disputing the validity of the debt. They claim that CRA's use of a signature that is allegedly bogus conveys a false and misleading impression that an actual person has reviewed their account, when in fact the letters are "form" type and mass mailed. Finally, consumers claim that CRA typically ignores all attempts to dispute the validity of the debt and continues with coercive efforts designed to elicit immediate payment. According to consumers the potential class is quite numerous, numbering in the thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands.
So there you go! Best of luck, Office of the CRA. Also, we filed reports with the Attorneys General of Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania. You really should check out this Internet thing. I didn't even have to put my pants on!