Protect Yourself From Credit Repair Scams


scam_alert

With an improved economy and real estate prices on the rise, your good name and reputation are more important than ever when applying for new credit cards, an automobile, rental property or home mortgage. Many creditors have tightened their lending guidelines, effectively barring millions of Americans from borrowing money.

Long gone are the days of obtaining credit, goods, benefits, services and/or employment with a 620 FICO score. In most instances, a borrower will be denied if they maintain a credit score lower than 740. Even those with high credit scores have experienced reduced credit lines or closed credit card accounts and equity lines. When an account has not been closed, credit limits have been reduced to the existing balance due.

Mortgage lenders, auto finance companies, credit card issuers, credit unions and traditional banks have all raised the bar. Borrowers with low FICO scores can expect to be denied credit or to pay significantly higher interest rates than those with excellent repayment histories.

With about 52 percent of credit profiles at the Equifax, Experian or TransUnion consumer reporting agencies containing some sort of error or omission materially impacting credit worthiness, some turn to credit repair to remedy low credit scores and issues that prevent them from borrowing money. Absent self-help and the “do-it-yourself” approach, they hire a credit service organization in the restoration of their good name and reputation.

The terms credit repair, credit restoration or credit rehabilitation are somewhat synonymous. Those with bad repayment histories cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of credit repair. In today’s economy, a strong FICO score is more important than ever.

Beware, though, when hiring a credit repair company.

Most — but not all — credit service organizations specialize in the restoration of consumer credit worthiness as well as issues related to identity. Assuming that the credit repair company is performing within established guidelines, they utilize laws enacted by Congress to dispute negative, erroneous, obsolete and/or fraudulent information contained within your consumer credit profile.

Utilizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, a reputable credit service organization will assist in the submission of disputes electronically, verbally and in writing to the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion consumer reporting agencies. Disputes are also submitted to creditors, collection agencies, and third-party record providers, in addition to state, federal, and local regulatory authorities.

Unlike most credit repair clinics that submit the same written complaint letters monthly, a reputable credit repair company will have devised a strategy whereby disputes are submitted electronically, verbally and in writing over a long period of time to the credit reporting agencies, creditors, collection agencies and third-party record providers reporting negative, inaccurate, obsolete and erroneous information.

Keep in mind that anything a credit repair company can do, you can do yourself for little to no cost. With that said, a reputable credit service organization should have an edge over consumer driven disputes as they will possess the education, knowledge and a source proven method that is generally unknown to the average consumer.

A reputable credit service organization should have a provable track record of results in the modification or removal of erroneous and inaccurate judgments, liens, mortgage foreclosures, bankruptcies, short-sales, student loans, credit inquiries, derogatory accounts and collection agency entries, personal identifiers and other transient data from a consumer’s credit report. Although the credit restoration process can take many months, most individuals should see some results within the first 45 to 60 days.

Credit repair, credit restoration and credit rehabilitation is as legal as pleading “not guilty” in a court of law. One must understand, though, that most credit service organizations are not law firms and that their employees may not be licensed to practice law. As such, even a reputable credit repair company cannot provide legal advice, nor may they represent a consumer before any court or in any legal proceeding. In the event that legal representation is required, the credit repair company should provide an appropriate attorney referral for consultation.

When self-help or the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a credit repair company to restore your credit, be sure to check them out. While the majority of credit repair clinics are scams, a few good ones do exist. Consumers can check out a credit service organization through their state Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov or through the Better Business Bureau at http://www.BBB.org.

William E. Lewis Jr & Associates opens new location in Davie


As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates – a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity – announces the opening of a new office in Davie, Florida.

Having outgrown their former location, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates recently moved to 6099 Stirling Road, Suite 210, Davie, FL 33314. 

Formerly with Credit Restoration Consultants, Bill Lewis has been widely sought by many in the restoration of their personal credit worthiness.  As such, a new credit repair component was formed.

In tough economic times, your good name and reputation are more important than ever. Creditors have tightened their guidelines effectively barring millions of Americans from obtaining credit.  Even those with excellent credit are experiencing reduced credit limits and closed equity lines. Mortgage lenders, auto finance companies, credit card issuers and banks have all raised the bar.

The terms credit repair, credit restoration or credit rehabilitation are somewhat synonymous. Those with bad credit histories cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of credit repair. In today’s economy, a strong FICO score is more important than ever.

Approximately 78% of credit profiles in the United States contain some sort of error or omission materially affecting credit worthiness.  Absent self-help and the “do-it-yourself” approach, a consumer may hire a credit repair company in the restoration of their good name and reputation within the community.

Long gone are the days of obtaining credit, goods, benefits, services and/or employment with a 620 score. In most instances, a consumer will be denied if they maintain a credit score lower than 740. Even those with high credit scores have experienced closed credit card accounts and equity lines.  When an account has not been closed, credit limits have been reduced to the current balance due.

Borrowers with low credit scores can expect to be denied or to pay significantly higher interest rates than those with excellent credit.

Operating within William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a boutique credit service organization specializing in the restoration of consumer credit worthiness as well as identity theft. Assisting consumers in achieving a favorable financial credit profile is their first priority.

Everything they do at William E. Lewis Jr & Associates is legal utilizing laws enacted by Congress to dispute negative, erroneous, obsolete, and/or fraudulent information contained within your consumer credit profile.

Utilizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act, and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates will assist consumers in the submission of disputes electronically, verbally and in writing to the Equifax, Experian and Trans Union consumer reporting agencies in addition to creditors, collection agencies, third-party record providers and state/federal/private regulatory authorities.

Unlike most credit repair clinics that submit the same written dispute letters monthly, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates has devised a credit restoration strategy utilizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, in addition to laws applicable to a consumers state of residence. 

Keep in mind that anything William E. Lewis Jr & Associates can do – you can do yourself.  That means that you do not have to hire William E. Lewis Jr & Associates – or any other credit repair company – to review, investigate and/or dispute alleged discrepancies on your credit report.

Where William E. Lewis Jr & Associates may have an edge over the average consumer is that we possess the education, knowledge and a source proven method that consistently yields results.

William E. Lewis Jr & Associates has obtained thousands of deletions and updates for its clients and can help remove erroneous and/or inaccurate judgments, liens, bankruptcies, student loans, inquiries, derogatory accounts, personal identifiers, arrests, etc.  While the credit restoration process can take anywhere from 30 days to six months, most clients see dramatic results in 45-60 days.

Credit repair, credit restoration and/or credit rehabilitation is as legal as pleading “not guilty” in a court of law. With that said, one must understand that as a credit service organization William E. Lewis Jr & Associates is not a law firm and that none of their employees is an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Florida.

As such, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates cannot provide legal advice nor represent any individual before any court or in any legal proceeding.  In the event that legal representation is required, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates may provide an appropriate attorney referral for consultation. 

Ordering Free Credit Reports:

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as modified by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report under a narrow set of circumstances.  If you have been denied credit, goods, benefits, services, insurance, and/or employment, the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are statutorily mandated to provide a copy free of charge.

Equifax can be contacted at (800) 685-1111 or www.Equifax.com; Experian can be contacted at (888) 397-3742 or www.Experian.com; and Trans Union can be contacted at (800) 916-8800 or www.TransUnion.com. Be sure to prompt that you were denied credit when requested to do so.

Absent these exceptions, consumers are entitled to one free “annual credit report” per year. Credit scores are not included with any of the “free credit reports” provided by the national credit reporting agencies.

For your free annual credit report, contact the central source at 877-FACT-ACT (877-322-8228) or www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Follow the voice prompts and obtain your credit report for review.

When self-help or the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a company to restore your credit, be sure to check them out.  While the majority of credit repair clinics are scams, a few good ones do exist.  Consumers can check out a credit service organization through their state Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commissionat www.ftc.gov or through the Better Business Bureau at www.BBB.org.

For more information, please contact William E. Lewis Jr & Associates at (954) 337-1530 or visit them on the Internet at www.williamlewis.us.

_____________________________________

As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 11,550 plus fans on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/thecreditreportwithbilllewis.

25 charged in identity theft and tax fraud scam


IRS warns against tax return identity theft scams
IRS warns against tax return identity theft scams

Identity theft and tax return identity theft charges were announced Thursday against 25 defendants in 19 separate cases, according to United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wifredo A. Ferrer.

Dealing with thousands of stolen identities and millions of dollars of fraudulent identity theft tax filings, the charges filed reaffirmed the joint federal and local commitment to crack-down on stolen identity tax refund fraud (SIRF) perpetrators.

Florida – according to the Federal Trade Commission – had the highest rate of identity theft in the nation last year. It had a rate of 192.9 complaints per 100,000 residents – the highest in the United States .

While identity theft in Florida ranks highest in the United States, the identity theft rate in Miami has reached near epidemic proportions – with a rate of 340.4 complaints per 100,000 residents.

In an attempt to combat the rising wave of stolen identity tax refund scams and armed with recent directives from the Department of Justice’s Tax Division making prosecutions faster and easier, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida established the South Florida Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force (Strike Force) in August 2012.

The members of the Strike Force include the United States Attorney’s Office, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Miami Field Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division, Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Aventura Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, Miami-Dade Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Miami Field Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Division, Town of Davie Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Broward Sheriff’s Office, Ft. Lauderdale Police Department, Coconut Creek Police Department, Sunrise Police Department, Coral Springs Police Department, Miramar Police Department and North Miami Police Department.

Since the inception of the Strike Force, 296 defendants – responsible for approximately $485.5 million in intended stolen identity refund fraud loss and in excess of $106 million in actual SIRF fraud loss – have been charged in federal court.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the IRS have also attacked this problem by revoking “electronic filing identity numbers” or EFIN numbers, which allow individuals to file tax returns on behalf of others. Before revoking these EFIN numbers, SIRF fraudsters had used them to file 166,495 fraudulent tax refund claims over the past two years.

“The number of stolen identities and the dollar amount of the tax fraud involved in these cases is staggering,” stated United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer. “These cases serve as a reminder that each and every one of us is a potential victim. While we have a talented and effective team dedicated to fight this fraud, we need everyone – both taxpayers and institutions – to remain vigilant in safeguarding personal identifying information. Protect it as if it were a trade secret.”

U.S. Attorney Ferrer – joined by members of the Strike Force on Thursday – announced the most recent results of their investigative efforts. The cases include:

1. United States v. Rhim-Grant, et al., Case No. 14-20181-Cr-Lenard. United States v. Nydia Tanay Laron Nelson, Case No. 14-2375-mj-Goodman

On March 21, 2014, Pamela Rhim-Grant, 40, and Eugene Moss, 33, both of Miami, were charged by information in a scheme to steal identities for the purpose of conducting stolen identity fraud.

On April 1, 2014, Nydia Tanay Laron Nelson, 30, of Miami, was charged by criminal complaint in connection with the same scheme.

According to the criminal complaint, the defendants conspired to steal the identities of Miami-Dade Public Schools students by exploiting Rhim-Grant’s access to the student information computer database as a food service manager at Horace Mann Middle School. Over the course of more than a year approximately 400 student identities were stolen from across the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district, resulting in numerous fraudulent tax returns.

The information and complaint charge the defendants with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, IRS-CI, and the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

“Criminals all over South Florida are turning to computers to make an easy buck at the public’s expense,” said George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami. “Identity theft, the fastest growing crime here, is as easy as one, two, three. One, criminals steal someone’s name and social security number; two, they use that identity to file a fraudulent tax return on line; and three, they collect the refund check. Repeat thousands of times. Don’t become a victim, learn how you can protect your personal identifying information from these thieves at FBI.GOV or FTC.GOV.”

2. United States v. Marlon Maikel Palacios, Case No. 14-20121-Cr-Cooke

On February 28, 2014, Marlon Maikel Palacios, 38, of North Miami, was charged in a twelve count indictment for his participation in a conspiracy to defraud the government and mail theft.

According to the indictment, the defendant, a former mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, provided to his co-conspirators addresses on his mail routes used with filing false tax returns with the IRS, receiving IRS correspondence, and tax refund checks. The defendant would then identify and pull the IRS correspondence and refund checks, for which the defendant would be paid. With the IRS correspondence, the defendant’s co-conspirators would file false, fictitious, and fraudulent federal income tax returns and thereafter claim refunds to which they were not entitled from the IRS.

The indictment charges the defendant with conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to federal income tax refunds and theft of mail by a postal employee.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the USPS-OIG, USPIS, ICE-HSI, and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy R. Camacho.

“U.S. Postal Service employees are honest, hardworking, and trustworthy, but when a Postal Service employee engages in criminal activity, our Special Agents will investigate those matters vigorously, as we did in this case,” says Max Eamiguel, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General.

3. United States v. Rodelyn Lamour and Nestor Armando Herrera, Case No. 14-20169-Cr-Martinez

On March 14, 2014, Rodelyn Lamour, 26, and Nestor Armando Ficquire Herrera, 22, of Miami, were charged in a seven count indictment for their participation in a conspiracy to steal mail and a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendants used a stolen postal service key to open various apartment complex mailboxes and steal mail containing debit cards. The debit cards contained refunds from fraudulent federal income tax returns filed using stolen identities. The defendants then used the stolen debit cards to obtain cash, without the knowledge or authorization of the identity theft victims. The intended loss to the IRS was approximately $39,000.

The indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy, theft of mail, use of a postal service key, unauthorized use of personal identification information, and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of USPIS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Snyder.

Ronald Verrochio, Inspector in Charge for Postal Inspection Service stated, “Tax return fraud directly affects millions of Americans each year and indirectly affects every tax payer throughout the country, we are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to combat this problem.”

4. United States v. Paul Evans Auguste, Case No. 14-80087-Cr-Scola

On February 12, 2014, Paul Evans Auguste, 30, of Miami, was charged in a seven-count indictment for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the criminal complaint, Auguste sold approximately 260 stolen identities to an undercover law enforcement officer and stated that he could provide the undercover law enforcement officer any types of identities he would want, including those of children and the elderly. Auguste also stated his intention to conduct tax fraud with the multitude of stolen identities he maintained at his residence. Law enforcement obtained a federal search warrant for Auguste’s residence which revealed an additional 1,200 stolen identities in his possession.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

5. United States v. Freddie Howard, Case No. 14-60068-Cr-Rosenbaum

On April 1, 2014, Freddie Howard, 56, of Davie, was charged in a one-count information in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme that involved the submission of approximately $22 million in fraudulent refund claims.

According to the information, Howard operated a tax preparation business called QTS1, Inc. (Quality Tax Service) in Broward County. Howard prepared false and fraudulent tax returns using the identity information of willing participants and stolen identity information. Howard used false and fictitious income and withholding tax information on the returns submitted to the IRS to justify fraudulent large-dollar refund requests. The requested refund amounts generally ranged from $60,000 to $1,400,000, and Howard typically requested payment of these refunds via U.S. Treasury tax refund check. To conceal his identity, Howard submitted the tax returns to the IRS by mail and did not include preparer information. Howard also blocked out the tax preparer software information, and used other people to contact the IRS to inquire about the status of the fraudulent returns.

According to the information, Freddie Howard submitted over $22 million in false and fraudulent tax refund claims to the IRS. The IRS paid approximately $4.5 million on these refund requests.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to the FBI and IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

IRS Special Agent in Charge José A. Gonzalez stated, “Today’s announcement should send a message to those who might consider disguising themselves as legitimate tax return preparers or Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) holders for the purpose of submitting false claims with the IRS. Protecting the integrity of our U.S. tax system is essential, therefore, those who chose to corrupt this system will be investigated and brought to justice, regardless of their level of participation in the fraud.”

6. United States v. Anthony A. Pace, Jr., et al., Case No. 14-20101-Cr-Moore/Torres

On February 18, 2014, Anthony A. Pace, Jr., 29, Brandon A. Terry, 29, Derel L. Henry, 39, and Rosa Johnson, 26, all of Miami, were charged in a twenty-three count indictment for their participation in a $3.3 million stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendants obtained personal identifying information, including names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers, of hundreds of identity theft victims, for use in this identity theft tax fraud scheme. The defendants used this stolen personal identity information, including personal identity information of former and current inmates of the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Program, to file false and fraudulent federal income tax returns without their victims’ knowledge and authorization. Based on Internet Protocal data and a unique tax filing number issued by the IRS called an EFIN, each of the defendants filed false and fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities and directed the IRS to deposit the funds into bank accounts and onto debit cards accessible to the members of the scheme.

According to disclosures at bond hearings, Anthony A. Pace, Jr. was employed as a correctional officer with the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Program. False and fraudulent tax returns were filed in the names of former and current prisoners using an EFIN associated with defendant Pace. These same tax filings directed payment of the illicit tax refund proceeds into accounts controlled by Pace and Johnson. ATM video reveals that Pace was withdrawing funds from the accounts into which the illicit funds were deposited.

The indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to make false claims, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ‘ 286 and aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ‘ 1028A, defendants Brandon Terry and Derel Henry with access device fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ‘ 1029, and defendants Anthony Pace and Rosa Johnson with theft of government property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ‘ 641.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI, FBI and USSS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter A. Forand.

7. United States v. Judes Stanley Celestin, Case No. 13-60243-Cr-Scola

On September 27, 2013, Judes Stanely Celestin, 36, of Hallandale Beach, was charged in a sixteen-count indictment in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of approximately $1 million in fraudulent refund claims.

According to the indictment, Celestin set up Florida corporations (JC Easy Tax and Taxes on Time) with himself as the president and then opened up bank accounts at numerous different banks from 2010 through 2012 in the name of these corporations. Celestin subsequently caused false and fraudulent tax returns to be filed with the IRS in the names of individuals without these individuals’ knowledge or authority. In total, Celestin caused approximately $1 million dollars in tax refund monies to be direct deposited to these bank accounts and related bank accounts from 2010 through 2012 and then withdrew the money for his own personal use.

The defendant was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

8. United States v. Karl Moltimer, Case No. 14-20117-Cr-Altonaga

On February 27, 2014, Karl Moltimer, 34, of Miami, was charged in a fourteen-count indictment in a stolen identity tax refund fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of over $1 million in fraudulent refund claims.

According to the indictment, Moltimer obtained EFIN numbers that permitted him to file tax returns in the names of other persons. Moltimer opened bank accounts for himself and his business name. Moltimer, through his EFINs, caused false and fraudulent tax returns seeking refunds to be filed with the IRS using stolen individuals’ personal identity information. Moltimer caused the fraudulently obtained tax refunds to be either deposited into bank accounts controlled by him, paid via refund anticipation checks controlled by him, or paid via pre-paid debit cards controlled by him. Moltimer caused over one million dollars in false and fraudulent tax refund claims to be submitted to the IRS from 2009 through 2012 through his EFINs.

The defendant was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

9. United States v. Marlon Hamilton, Case No. 14-20175-Cr-Moreno

On March 18, 2014, Marlon Hamilton, 40, of Hialeah, was charged in a six count indictment for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendant obtained and sold the personal identifying information of numerous identity theft victims, including their names, dates of birth, and social security numbers, to an individual who intended to utilize the information to electronically file false, fictitious, and fraudulent federal income tax returns without the knowledge or authorization of the identity theft victims, and thereafter claim refunds to which they were not entitled from the IRS. The intended loss to the IRS was approximately $190,000. The indictment charges the defendant with unauthorized possession of personal identification information and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Snyder.

10. United States v. Marcus Braxton, Case No. 14-20174-Cr-Ungaro

On March 18, 2014, Marcus Braxton, 29, of Plantation, was charged in a six count indictment for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendant obtained and sold the personal identifying information of numerous identity theft victims, including their names, dates of birth, and social security numbers, to an individual who intended to utilize the information to electronically file false, fictitious, and fraudulent federal income tax returns without the knowledge or authorization of the identity theft victims, and thereafter claim refunds to which they were not entitled from the IRS. The intended loss to the IRS was approximately $58,500.

The indictment charges the defendant with unauthorized possession of personal identification information and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Snyder.

11. United States v. Richard Anthony Siler, Case No. 14-20116-Cr-Williams

On February 27, 2014, Richard Anthony Siler, 50, of Hollywood, was charged in a nine-count indictment in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme that involved the sale of over 5,000 people’s identities.

According to the indictment and other documents filed in court, Siler discussed selling approximately 10,000 to 15,000 identities to a confidential source who told Siler that the identities would be used to file taxes. Siler indicated to the confidential source that these identities were “never revealed before.” Siler discussed selling the 10,000 to 15,000 identities to the confidential source for approximately $6,200. On February 14, 2014, an FBI controlled e-mail account received an e-mail from Richard Siler containing approximately 5,200 individuals’ personal identifying information that appeared to be patients. On that same date, the confidential source provided Siler with $6,200 in currency and Siler was arrested.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to the FBI and IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

12. United States v. Giovanni Francois Noel, Case No. 14-20198-Cr-Moore

On March 28, 2014, Giovanni Francois Noel, 24, of North Miami Beach, was charged in an eight count indictment for his participation in an identity theft tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendant possessed the social security numbers of at least fifteen individuals. The indictment also alleges that the defendant stole the means of identification, specifically, the name and date of birth, of seven individuals.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to the IRS-CI and the NMBPD. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John R. Byrne.

U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Paula Reid added, “Once again, the U.S. Secret Service is glad to be an integral part of combatting this massive fraudulent scheme that is plaguing South Florida. Together, we will continue to identify and penalize those who misuse our government systems with no regard to the financial and unjust impacts they cause on others.”

13. United States v. Wallens B. Alcime, Case No. 14-02372-mj-Goodman

On April 1, 2014, Wallens B. Alcime, 26, of Miami, was charged by criminal complaint for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the criminal complaint, a confidential source informed law enforcement that Alcime was using the mailing addresses of accomplices to receive stolen identity tax refunds deposited onto pre-paid debit cards. A controlled delivery was arranged where Alcime took possession of a debit card loaded with stolen identity tax refunds while under law enforcement surveillance. Alcime was later captured on surveillance video making cash withdrawals from the debit card.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

14. United States v. Steven Toussaint, et al., Case No. 14-20161-Cr-Martinez

On March 14, 2014, Steven Toussaint, 32, and Emmanuel Alphonse, 28, both of Miami, were charged by indictment in a scheme to launder money from stolen identity tax refund fraud.

According to the indictment, the defendants conspired to conduct financial transactions the purpose of which was to conceal the proceeds of theft from the government. Each defendant is also charged with ten counts of money laundering connected to individual money orders cashed on various dates alleged in the indictment.

The complaint charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of USPIS and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

15. United States v. Mark Anthony Dacres, Jr., Case No. 14-20204-Cr-Ungaro

On April 1, 2014, Mark Anthony Dacres, Jr., 30, of Homestead, was charged in a seven-count indictment for identity theft in connection with his unauthorized possession of at least fifteen social security numbers belonging to other individuals. Dacres was found with over 1,700 names, dates of birth and social security numbers of other individuals.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI and USSS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gera Peoples.

16. United States v. Providencia Llanos, Case No. 14-20205-Cr-Lenard

On April 1, 2014, Providencia Llanos, a/k/a “Providensia Llanos,” a/k/a “Providencia Allison,” 36, of Miami Gardens was charged in a seven-count indictment for identity theft in connection with her unauthorized possession of at least fifteen social security numbers belonging to other individuals. Llanos was found with over 3,000 names, dates of birth and social security numbers of other individuals.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI and USSS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gera Peoples.

17. United States v. Stevens Nore, Case No. 14-14016-Cr-Middlebrooks

On March 24, 2014, Stevens Nore, 35, of Port St. Lucie, was charged in a twenty-eight count indictment for his participation in tax fraud and identity theft schemes.

According to the indictment, from June 11, 2009 through April 2012, Nore owned and operated Fraternity Tax and Services, a tax return preparation business located in Fort Pierce. Nore prepared and submitted Individual Tax Returns (Forms 1040), with accompanying schedules, to the IRS on behalf of taxpayers claiming false deductions and credits for tax years 2009 to 2011. Nore also filed false tax returns for 2010 and 2011 by falsely stating the amount of gross receipts and sales on Schedule C forms. The defendant stole three tax refunds totaling $26,349.30 to which he was not entitled, and used the identity of two individuals without their permission.

Nore was charged with twenty-one counts of preparing false tax returns, two counts of filing false tax returns, three counts of theft of public money, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaniek Maynard.

18. United States v. Rony Maurival, Case No. 14-14014-Cr-Middlebrooks

On March 24, 2014, Rony Maurical, 38, of Port St. Lucie, was charged in fifty-two count indictment for his participation in tax fraud and identity theft schemes.

According to the indictment, from July 3, 2008 through March 23, 2012, Maurival owned and operated RJ’s Tax & Services, a tax return preparation business located in Fort Pierce. Maurival prepared and submitted Individual Tax Returns (Forms 1040), with accompanying schedules, to the IRS on behalf of taxpayers claiming false deductions and credits for tax years 2008 to 2011. Maurival also filed false tax returns for 2009 and 2010 by falsely claiming Head of Household and falsely stating Schedule C income, gross receipts, and sales. The defendant stole three tax refunds totaling $3,292 to which he was not entitled, and used the identity of three individuals without their permission.

Maurival was charged with forty-four counts of preparing false tax returns, two counts of filing false tax returns, three counts of theft of public money, and three counts of aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell R. Killinger.

Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge for ICE-HSI stated, “Homeland Security Investigations utilizes its vast authorities to work with their partners to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations involved in tax refund fraud schemes and other financial violations that affect our citizens and economy.”

If convicted, the defendants face a possible maximum statutory sentence of twenty years in prison for each count of wire fraud; ten years in prison for conspiracy to make false claims against the United States; five to fifteen years in prison for access device fraud; ten years in prison for stealing government funds; and two years in prison consecutive to any other term for aggravated identity theft.

An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

William E. Lewis Jr & Associates announces the formation of a credit repair component


William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity, is proud to announce the formation of a credit repair component.

Facing uncertain economic times, Bill Lewis – formerly with Credit Restoration Consultants – has been widely sought by many in the restoration of their personal credit worthiness.

Approximately 78% of credit profiles in the United States contain some sort of error or omission materially affecting credit worthiness.  Absent self-help and the “do-it-yourself” approach, a consumer may hire a credit repair company in the restoration of their good name and reputation within the community.

In tough economic times, your good name and reputation is more important than ever. Creditors have tightened their guidelines effectively barring millions of Americans from borrowing money. Even those with excellent credit are experiencing reduced credit limits and closed equity lines. Mortgage lenders, auto finance companies, credit card issuers and banks have all raised the bar.

The terms credit repair, credit restoration or credit rehabilitation are somewhat synonymous. Those with bad credit histories cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of credit repair. In today’s economy, a strong FICO score is more important than ever.

Long gone are the days of obtaining credit, goods, benefits, services and/or employment with a 620 score. In most instances, a consumer will be denied if they maintain a credit score lower than 740. Even those with high credit scores have experienced closed credit card accounts and equity lines.  When an account has not been closed, credit limits have been reduced to the current balance due.

Borrowers with low credit scores can expect to be denied or to pay significantly higher interest rates than those with excellent credit.

Operating within William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a small credit service organization specializing in the restoration of consumer credit worthiness as well as identity theft. We assist consumers in achieving a favorable financial credit profile.

Everything we do at William E. Lewis Jr & Associates is legal utilizing laws enacted by Congress to dispute negative, erroneous, obsolete, and/or fraudulent information contained within your consumer credit profile.

Utilizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act, and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates will assist consumers in the submission of disputes electronically, verbally and in writing to the Equifax, Experian and Trans Union consumer reporting agencies in addition to creditors, collection agencies, third-party record providers and state/federal/private regulatory authorities.

Unlike most credit repair clinics that submit the same written dispute letters monthly, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates has devised a credit restoration strategy utilizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, in addition to laws applicable to a consumers state of residence.

Keep in mind that anything William E. Lewis Jr & Associates can do – you can do yourself.  That means that you do not have to hire William E. Lewis Jr & Associates – or any other credit repair company – to review, investigate and/or dispute alleged discrepancies on your credit report.

Where William E. Lewis Jr & Associates may have an edge over the average consumer is that we possess the education, knowledge and a source proven method that consistently yields results.

William E. Lewis Jr & Associates has obtained thousands of deletions and updates for its clients and can help remove erroneous and/or inaccurate judgments, liens, bankruptcies, student loans, inquiries, derogatory tradelines, personal identifiers, arrests, etc.  While the credit restoration process can take anywhere from 30 days to six months, most clients see dramatic results in 45-60 days.

Credit repair, credit restoration and/or credit rehabilitation is as legal as pleading “not guilty” in a court of law. With that said, one must understand that as a credit service organization William E. Lewis Jr & Associates is not a law firm and that none of their employees is an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Florida.

As such, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates cannot provide legal advice nor represent any individual before any court or in any legal proceeding.  In the event that legal representation is required, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates may provide an appropriate attorney referral for consultation.

Ordering Free Credit Reports:

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as modified by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report under a narrow set of circumstances.  If you have been denied credit, goods, benefits, services, insurance, and/or employment, the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are statutorily mandated to provide a copy free of charge.

Equifax can be contacted at (800) 685-1111 or www.Equifax.com; Experian can be contacted at (888) 397-3742 or www.Experian.com; and Trans Union can be contacted at (800) 916-8800 or www.TransUnion.com. Be sure to prompt that you were denied credit when requested to do so.

Absent these exceptions, consumers are entitled to one free “annual credit report” per year. Credit scores are not included with any of the “free credit reports” provided by the national credit reporting agencies.

For your free annual credit report, contact the central source at 877-FACT-ACT (877-322-8228) or www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Follow the voice prompts and obtain your credit report for review.

When self-help or the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a company to restore your credit, be sure to check them out.  While the majority of credit repair clinics are scams, a few good ones do exist.  Consumers can check out a credit service organization through their state Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or through the Better Business Bureau at www.BBB.org.

For more information, please contact William E. Lewis Jr & Associates at (954) 337-1530 or visit them on the Internet at www.williamlewis.us.

_____________________________________

Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

The Credit Report with Bill Lewis airs live, Monday through Friday from 7am-8am Eastern Time with an encore presentation Saturday’s at 4pm on AM 740 WSBR. Streaming audio is available at http://www.wsbrradio.com and on air participation is welcome at (888) 721-0074.

If you miss the early broadcast, The Credit Report with Bill Lewis is still available weeknights at 9pm Eastern Time, Saturday’s at 6pm and Sunday’s at 8pm on AM 1470 WWNN by streaming audio at http://www.wwnnradio.com.

For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 35,550 plus fans on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/thecreditreportwithbilllewis.

South Florida Credit Scores Drop in September


Credit rating agency Experian released Wednesday its second-annual “State of Credit” list of cities with the highest and lowest credit scores.

The study found that the cities with the worst average credit score were concentrated in the South, while those with the highest average score were centered in the upper Midwest.

According to CreditKarma.com, the credit scores of consumers in the Miami metropolitan statistical area dropped in September as they continued racking up significant personal debt.

The average credit score in the Miami area was 649 in September, down from a previous low of 652 in August. The trend was the same statewide, although other Floridians seemed to maintain better credit scores. The average Florida credit score was 654 in September, down from 657 in August.

The Sunshine State ranked 35th for credit score averages nationwide. California residents had the best average credit score, at 682, while those in Mississippi ranked at the bottom, at 626.

CreditKarma found that consumers in South Florida piled on debt in three significant categories.  In September, they had an average mortgage debt of $199,701, student loan obligations of $32,254, and credit card balances of $5,548.  This is an increase of 4 percent, 2.8 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, from the previous month.

The study also found that consumers in the Miami area ranked higher in mortgage and student loan debt, but had less credit card debt than others across the country.

Obtaining credit reports and correcting credit reporting errors is something for every consumer to seriously consider.  This is especially so in tough economic times.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as modified by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report under a narrow set of circumstances. 

If you are denied credit, goods, benefits, services, insurance, and/or employment, the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are statutorily mandated to provide a copy free of charge.  Absent these exceptions, consumers are entitled to one free “annual credit report” per year. 

Equifax can be contacted at (800) 685-1111 or www.Equifax.com; Experian can be contacted at (888) 397-3742 or www.Experian.com; and Trans Union can be contacted at (800) 916-8800 or www.TransUnion.com

For your free annual credit report, contact the central source at 877-FACT-ACT (877-322-8228) or www.AnnualCreditReport.com.  Follow the voice prompts and obtain your credit report for review.

Walking Away from a Successful Business


While 2010 has been challenging with baby Rebecca and William III joining their older sister Katherine in the Lewis household, decisions and choices for change in 2011 are proving an equal challenge.

Between a growing family and commitment to several businesses and charitable causes, there is simply not enough time in the day.

Struggling through tough economic times and an industry that is heavily scrutinized and frowned upon – the credit repair industry – decisions must be made. Does one continue working in an industry they have grown to hate?

Does one sell the business with its perfect record and reputation within the community? Or do they simply shut down and walk away from a profitable business after a decade in existence?

When you hear about credit repair companies from “reputable” sources, such as the Attorney General’s Office or Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you are usually warned about the disreputable nature of the industry. You are warned about hiring credit repair companies and advised that you are better off repairing your own credit through a do-it-yourself approach.

Why have credit repair companies been made into villains? Answer – because most of them are, in fact, nothing more than scams or fly-by-night outfits. Most of these companies promise unsuspecting customers that they can magically erase all of their debt for a small fee. Others advise they can legally create a new identity through use of a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) or Credit Profile Number (CPN), thus segregating one credit identity from another.

Use of a Taxpayer Identification Number or Credit Profile Number, also referred to as a Credit Privacy Number, is highly illegal and could result in criminal charges of mail or wire fraud, identity theft, or misuse of personal information. File segregation is something that is not advised if you value your freedom.

Started on Sept. 10, 2001 approximately 100 yards from the downtown Hollywood home of 9-11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, Credit Restoration Consultants attempted to present a new approach in the “credit restoration” industry. Hesitant to utilize the forbidden term “credit repair,” Credit Restoration Consultants branded itself as a credit service organization specializing in the restoration of consumer credit worthiness as well as identity theft.

Among the clients of Credit Restoration Consultants were a variety of sorts. Whether the “average Joe,” attorneys, doctors, multi-millionaire developers, celebrities, pro-sports players, or politicians; including, a sitting governor, U.S. senator, and several congressmen, each had varying expectations bordering on the unreasonable, unrealistic or downright ridiculous. Each expected an 800 FICO score despite late payments, collections, repossessions or foreclosures, in addition to federal tax liens and bankruptcies.

One would not be surprised on just how many politicians have had federal tax liens filed against them.

While the FTC shutdown 33 credit repair companies in 2008 and 36 in 2009 for violations of the Credit Repair Organizations Act, Credit Restoration Consultants has never had a complaint to any state, federal, or local regulatory authority. In fact, Credit Restoration Consultants maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and a complaint free history.

According to a recent Small Business Administration study, seven out of 10 new businesses survive at least two years, half at least five years, a third at least 10 years, and a quarter 15 years or more. Credit Restoration Consultants lasted just under 10 years.

Tired of the bad actors and scam artists in an already heavily scrutinized credit repair industry, I have decided to simply shut down, throw in the towel, and walk away.

Rather than sell the successful business that Credit Restoration Consultants became and have another destroy it and my personal reputation, walking away seems the best course of action. With that – I quit.

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune – Media General Group http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2011/jan/02/walking-away-from-a-successful-business/

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series at the Highlands Today, visit www.williamlewis.us.

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.

Specialty consumer reporting agencies: the ‘other’ credit bureaus


If you have ever applied for credit, you are probably familiar with the Equifax, Experian and Trans Union consumer reporting agencies. Based upon creditworthiness and the likelihood of repayment, creditors will determine whether to extend you credit.

What many consumers do not realize is that “other” consumer reports exist on them. Known as specialty consumer reports, these files contain user specific information detailed toward a particular industry.

Specialty consumer reports are designed to meet the needs of the reporting agencies’ clientele. They are used by insurance companies, landlords, banks, etc., to predict how likely you are to get into a car accident, damage your apartment, or bounce a check.

The most widely used specialty consumer reports relate to:

Check-writing history – bounced checks, fraud and accounts closed due to insufficient funds.

Tenant history – rental history, including relevant information obtained from court records and previous landlords.

Insurance claims history – history on your past claims.

Medical history – routine health information and history of medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma or depression.

Prescription history – prescription drugs used and dosages/refill history.

Employment background – screening for criminal history, marital status, prior addresses, driving record, and/or credit history.

While specialty consumer reports do not exist for every consumer at every agency, it is to your advantage to learn what has been reported and to whom. It is equally important to understand your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act as the information contained within a specialty consumer report may be used to deny employment, a bank account, apartment rental, health, life or auto insurance.

If you are denied based upon information contained within a specialty consumer report, be sure to obtain the required notice of adverse action. Thereafter, request a copy of the offending specialty consumer report and dispute any information deemed inaccurate, obsolete or fraudulent.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates the specialty consumer reporting industry. In conjunction with other legislation, consumers have important rights:

•The right to one free report every year or upon notice of adverse action. Upon request, specialty consumer reporting agencies must provide a free copy of your report once per year or upon denial based upon information in the report.

•The right to dispute inaccurate or obsolete information. The specialty consumer reporting agency must investigate your dispute and correct or remove inaccurate or outdated records.

•The right to be advised of a background check. An employer who plans to conduct a background check must notify you and get your permission.

•In an effort to avoid unnecessary embarrassment, consumers should order a specialty consumer report prior to applying for employment, a bank account, apartment rental, health, life, or auto insurance.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends requesting specialty consumer reports under the following circumstances:

•When shopping for homeowner’s or automobile insurance. Order a copy of your CLUE (comprehensive loss underwriting exchange) or A-Plus claims report. If you filed claims on existing policies, review the report for accuracy.

•If someone has fraudulently accessed your bank account. Order a copy of your Chexsystems report.

•When applying for employment. Find out the name of the screening company and order a copy of your report prior to authorizing release to a third-party.

•If you are an identity theft victim. Order all credit and specialty consumer reports. Place a fraud alert and dispute all information related to the identity theft.

•If you plan to rent a home. Order your tenant history report.

•When applying for private health, life, long-term care, or disability insurance. Order your MIB report from the Medical Information Bureau.

Unlike the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union, there is no one-stop shop for obtaining your specialty consumer reports. An individual request must be submitted to each agency.

To order your check writing history report, contact Chexsystems at (800) 428-9623; Shared Check Authorization Network at (800) 262-7771; and Telecheck at (800) 366-2425.

To order your tenant history report, contact ChoicePoint at (877) 448-5732 and SafeRent at (888) 333-2413.

To order your insurance claims history report, contact ChoicePoint at (866) 312-8076 and A-Plus Reports at (800) 709-8842.

To order your medical history report, contact Medical Information Bureau at (866) 692-6901.

To order your prescription history report, contact MedPoint at (888) 206-0335 and IntelliScript at (877) 211-4816.

To order your employment background screening report, contact ChoicePoint at (866) 312-8075.

To order your ChoicePoint Full File Disclosure, visit www.choicetrust.com

For more information on a wide range of consumer protection topics, including background checks, medical records and other privacy issues, please visit The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse at www.privacyrights.org.

 

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.

Beware of Fake Debt Collectors – FDCPA May Not Protect You


Over the last several decades, America has truly transitioned into a debtor society. Despite tough economic times, consumers are more likely to borrow than they are to delay when making a purchase. With consumers having financial obligations to multiple institutions, keeping accurate records and documentation can become a challenge. Opportunistic con artists posing as “fake” debt collectors recognize this as an area of vulnerability and are more than willing to use it to their advantage.

These fake debt collectors speak English with a foreign accent and call themselves “Affidavit Consolidation Services,” Criminal Bureau of Identity,” “U.S. National Bank,” “US Justice Department/Payday Loan Division,” “Federal Investigation Bureau,” “United Legal Processing” and other phony names. They refuse to disclose real names and addresses and are believed to be operating from homes, automobiles, and foreign countries such as India. As these scammers have kept themselves well hidden, law enforcement authorities have been unsuccessful in locating or shutting them down.

Fake debt collectors typically pose as lawyers, law enforcement officers, investigators, and bankers while attempting to collect on phony debt. They threaten consumers with immediate arrest for “bank fraud” or other crimes unless funds are wired immediately. They scare and confuse consumers by using meaningless legal phrases such as “We are downloading warrants against you” or “We are filing an affidavit against you.” Consumers that do not immediately fall for the scam are warned, “Only God can help you now.”

Fake debt collectors almost always call consumers at work – sometimes several times a day – advising their supervisors, “Your employee has committed bank fraud and is about to be arrested.” Such threats have been unsettling to consumers and employers. Because the scammers make a special point of calling at work, employers should realize that their employee is an innocent victim of a criminal enterprise and cannot stop the calls voluntarily.

“My office works to protect consumers from fraudulent activities by seeking to stop deceptive practices and resolving consumer complaints,” stated Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. “However, a consumer’s best defense is to be aware of the scam so all demands for money can be resisted and personal identification information is not misused.”

In general:

A debt collector may contact you in person, by mail, e-mail, telephone, telegram or fax. A collector may not contact you with such frequency that can be considered harassing. A debt collector may not contact you at work if they know your employer disapproves nor may they contact you at unreasonable times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

A debt collector is required to send written notice within five days of first contact advising the amount due. The notice must also specify the name of the creditor and what action to take if you wish to dispute the debt.

You may stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter ceasing them from communication. Once the agency receives it, they may not make further contact except to advise there will be no further contact or to notify you of a specific action contemplated by the creditor.

A debt collector may not harass or abuse a consumer. A collector may not use threats of violence against a person, property or reputation; use obscene or profane language; advertise the debt; or repeatedly make calls with the intent to harass or abuse the person at the called number.

A debt collector may not use false statements, such as implying they are attorneys; that you have committed a crime; that they operate or work for a credit reporting agency; misrepresent the amount of a debt; or indicate that papers mailed are legal forms when they are not.

A debt collector may not threaten arrest or that they will seize property or garnish wages unless the collection agency or creditor intends to do so; or that a lawsuit will be filed when they have no legal right to file or do not intend to file such a suit.

If you are being harassed by a debt collector – real or fake – file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling (866) 9-NO-SCAM (866-966-7226) or by visiting their website at www.myfloridalegal.com. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a consumer collection guide detailing your rights at www.ftc.gov.

 

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.

Beware of Credit Repair Scams


You have heard many synonyms or phrases that mean the same thing in the realm of bad credit.  The terms credit repair, credit restoration or credit rehabilitation are completely synonymous. Those with bad credit histories cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of credit repair.

In today’s economy, a strong FICO (Fair Isaac) score is more important than ever.  Approximately 78% of credit profiles in the United States contain some sort of error or omission materially impacting credit worthiness.  Absent self-help and the “do-it-yourself” approach, a consumer can hire a credit repair company in the restoration of their good name and reputation within the community.

Credit repair companies are governed by a federal law known as the Credit Repair Organizations Act.  This law requires a credit service organization fulfill certain obligations to a consumer.  You should avoid any credit repair service that fails to follow the following rules:

  1. You are not provided with a copy of the “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law” advising of your right to obtain a credit report directly from Equifax, Experian and Trans Union as well as “self-help” opportunities available under the law.
  2. You are not provided a copy of the service contract for review and contemplation prior to execution.
  3. The service contract does not contain the following information: (a) the amount being charged; (b) full details about the services to be performed; (c) the start and end date by which services will be performed; (d) the full name and business address of the credit repair company; (e) a statement advising that the service contract can be cancelled within three business days.

         You are requested to pre-pay before the credit repair services have actually been performed.

         The company promises to remove accurately reported information from your credit report.

         The company promises to create, or asks you to create, a “new” identity with a new social security number or federal employer identification number (EIN).

         You are requested to execute a document specifically waiving your rights under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA).

If you are considering a credit repair service, keep in mind there is nothing legally they can do to improve your credit that you cannot do yourself.  Many of these companies promise or guarantee to remove harmful, but accurate, negative information from your credit report.  If the information is wrong or otherwise inaccurate, you have the right to dispute it yourself.  You only need to dispute the inaccurate entry to the credit reporting agency and/or creditor maintaining the record.  However, when the information is truly accurate, you do not have the right to dispute it, nor does a credit repair company.

Although you may not be prosecuted for disputing accurate information on your credit report, you can be prosecuted for fraud if you lie on a credit application.  For example, it is considered fraud to answer “no” that you have never filed bankruptcy when you actually have.  Just because you, or the credit repair company you hired, successfully removed the adverse bankruptcy entry from your credit report does not mean the bankruptcy never existed.

When the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a credit repair company to restore your good name and reputation within the community, be sure to check them out.  While the majority of credit repair clinics are scams, a few good ones do exist.  Consumers can check out a credit repair company through their state Attorney General at http://www.naag.org, the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.FTC.gov or through the Better Business Bureau at http://www.BBB.org.  In any event, do not allow a credit repair company to get away with scams.  Take action if your rights have been violated.  Report the offending company to your state attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.