On Your Side Alert: Viewer concerned about threatening calls

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A concerned viewer received a suspicious phone call claiming she was wanted for bank fraud. We did some digging and tracked down the company whose name was being used in the scheme.

A recent phone call was enough to rattle Rhonda Barnes-Bell. "Who, what, it was really disconcerting. I was nervous, I was like, okay, I don't think I have done anything bad," she said.

Barnes-Bell said she kept receiving calls from someone claiming to be with Capital Recovery Systems.The company said she was connected to a bank fraud case, and they needed to talk to her. Barnes-Bell said she believes they were after her personal information and money. "I got sick that morning. I was like, okay I feel nauseous, I am worried. When someone says legal, it scares you," she said.

Capital Recovery Systems is based in Ohio. The company's website says it's an exclusive government debt collection agency primarily focused on local court collections.

A representative for the company released this statement:

Regarding the issue concerning your viewers and a company using the same name as ours, Capital Recovery Systems, for me the most important thing is to make sure that your viewers and any other folks who might be contacted by these folks know how to distinguish between them and my firm.  Our firm is a third party debt collection agency who represents only local municipal courts in the collection of outstanding fines, fees and courts costs.  We have over 500 local government clients.  Our firm has and maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and has never been sued, sanctioned or fined by any regulatory body, court or any other entity.  To never have been sued for any violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is an amazing feat.  In this industry, legal fees, settlement costs and court costs in defense of law suits is usually factored into a company's budget.  It is a normally a given that you are going to be sued.  Since we represent elected officials, judges, magistrates and appointed government officials we have to be above reproach and operate in a complaint-free environment.  We have done that for 17 straight years since the day we started.  With our record it is pretty easy to differentiate between us and pretty much any other company.  (I should note that a "sovereign citizen" did attempt a lawsuit for a TCPA violation that was dismissed immediately)

What I have learned about that Capital Recovery Systems bunch is that they are operating out of Georgia in the 912 area code.  I have called them on several occasions to look into the very same complaint that your viewer brought to you.  We were getting numerous complaints under those same circumstances.  In my attempts to talk with them and find out why this was happening I was treated unprofessionally, belittled with profanity, hung up on and essentially treated as if I was not a human being.  After doing some checking around I was able to discern that this business is a company that attempts to get "process service" on people through the legal system on behalf of creditors, collection agencies and individuals.  As an example, ACME Widgets has a customer who owes them for services provided and has filed suit against them.  The court is unable to obtain service on this person and their certified letters are coming back and they are not home every time the court tries to personally serve them.  ACME then hires this bunch from Georgia (I can't bring myself to calling them by our name!) to locate and personally serve  ACME's delinquent customer.  What is obvious is that they do this in ways that seem criminal to me but is an unregulated business or complete industry.  They operate with lies, fear, bullying and misinformation in order to find the person they have been tasked to locate.  In fact, we had an employee here who fell into their hands as they were trying to locate his daughter.  In my estimation, not only does this outfit need to be sanctioned, fined or put out of business, but the industry itself, which I am not sure of how large it is, needs to fall under some type of state and federal regulation.  In that vein, we contacted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB) a regulatory body for businesses in the banking, lending, debt. Collection, mortgage and investment areas.  Our communications with them, both written and verbal was an attempt to make sure they were differentiating between us and the bunch from Georgia when these complaints came their way.  So far, they have done that.  The other reason we contacted them was to try and effectuate some kind of action against them which would hopefully prevent us from getting mixed up with them in the future.  We were told that it seemed like a business that was not regulated by the CPFB but they were not sure.  We are waiting to hear back from them.  In my estimation they should be because they are representing and working for several of the business types that the CPFB is regulating.  We hope to bring about that change if they are not in charge of regulating them.

For your viewers to be able to tell the difference between them and us is pretty simple.  First, we tell each and every person we call what court we are calling on behalf of.  We will answer any and all questions as they are asked and without hesitation or reservation.  We also point folks in the direction of the court if they have any reservations as to who we are.  Many times our clients have web sites with public access records that we can point them to.  The most important and thorough way for your viewers to distinguish between the two is to verify with the court for whom we represent.  They can also check with the BBB.  Also, we operate only out of Ohio. You can also refer them to our website at www.caprecsys.com. There they can actually pull up their case.  They will get more information from the courts public asset site, but nonetheless it helps to identify us and gives them the ability to call upper management.  You may also feel free to refer individual viewers my phone numbers if they wish to speak with me.  My direct Office line is listed just above our logo at the bottom of this email.

There is another debt collection agency out of Massachusetts using the same name which seems to operate in a rogue way and has been sued in federal court many times over.  We fight this same battle with them.

If you get a similar call, the company says don't give up any information. Another good idea is to research a company with the Better Business Bureau before you give up any information.

"It is sad. It is the meanest thing you can do to someone, because in your home you are vulnerable. You are relaxed, you are doing your day to day. The phone rings and it can just shake you," Barnes-Bell said.

She wants this to serve as warning. The next phone call you get, pause and do some research before you give up any information. "It just makes you so nervous that you could pick up the phone and be like, 'What did I do?' and he could get anything, because now your heart is racing. It seems legitimate. You get a docket number, there is an extension, your hands are shaking," she said.

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