6/29/07

The Afni Collections, Inc. Scam

Phony Express
If you’ve come across this blog after searching for “Afni Collections” or “Afni Collections, Inc.” because you think that you’re being scammed after receiving a collections notice for a telecommunications company such as Verizon, you’ve come to the right Website. Before I explain the purpose of this site, however, I have to say something to you immediately:

Do not pay a single cent to Afni Collections, Inc.

Located in Bloomington, Illinois, Afni Collections, Inc. has been sending fake collection notices to people all over the United States—possibly even to Canada—hoping that someone is willing to take the bait and give them money that isn’t actually owed. In some cases the bill had been a legitimate one many years ago but has since been paid off; in other cases—myself included—Afni sent collection notices for Verizon bills that simply never existed in the first place.

If you do a Google search for Afni, you find yourself reading the following words: rip-off; scam; fraud; bogus; illegal. A recent consumer advice column in the Miami Herald contained the following question and answer:



• Q: I received a bill from Afni Inc., a collection agency, for $475.56 I ostensibly owe to Verizon Select Services. I haven’t used Verizon since 1998.

Since I have never left anything unpaid, I wanted to know where such information was coming from. After attempting to figure things out, Afni sent me a new bill for $240.45.

Because I was afraid to have my credit ruined, I paid it.

Is this a scam? Can Action Line tell me what I should have done?

Gerardo Martinez,
Hialeah

• A: You shouldn’t have paid that bill. With no documentation that you owed anything, Afni was just hoping you would fall for the trick.

On June 21, the Federal Trade Commission issued a press release to warn consumers about extortion schemes such as this. It focused on an English-language instruction course—Ingl├ęs con Ritmo—that was in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by falsely claiming that debts were owed. The scheme was targeting Hispanics.

“Lying to consumers about debts they don’t owe and harassing and threatening them when they don’t pay are illegal business practices, period,” Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said on the FTC website. “We will aggressively pursue companies that use these tactics to extort money from consumers.”

At ripoffreport.com, Afni is well known. We found about 255 reports from consumers throughout the country who have been in situations similar to yours. Afni asks them to pay bills dating back to the 1990s from different Verizon companies. Many of the consumers said that when they protested, the collection agency backed off.

“We sue [Afni] all the time for failing to abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Debt and Collection Practices Act,” Miami consumer lawyer Samira Ghazal said.

Beyond that, Bob Elek, a Verizon spokesman, said company records didn’t reflect the account numbers you provided.

Verizon Select Services is no longer an active company. Any outstanding bills were purchased by a collection agency long ago, but, to the best of Elek’s knowledge, Afni wasn’t one of them.

“They [the outstanding bills] may have been resold, but, short of that, I don’t know how it ended up with that information,” he said.


As an update to this Q-and-A, a search for “Afni” on ripoffreport.com yielded 263 complaints—up from the 255 only a few days earlier.

The Website complaintsboard.com has dozens upon dozens of similar stories (210 complaints, to be exact). In some cases people have attempted to contact Afni via telephone, hoping to clear things up. My advice to you is to avoid telephone contact with them whenever possible; utilize the U.S. Postal Service to retain documentation of everything that they send you and everything that you send them.

Return to Sender
I’m not an attorney, but it’s crucial that you send Afni Collections, Inc. a letter within 30 days of your receiving the fraudulent notice to dispute the validity of the debt that they’re telling you to pay. Be sure to tell them that you’re requesting the validation in its entirety pursuant to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Be sure to tell them that your letter is not a request for address validation. Be sure to request that all communications be in the form of paper documentation that is sent via the United States Postal Service, and that you will not do business—and I use that term loosely in Afni’s case—with them via telephone, e-mail, etc. Be sure to clearly state your dispute with the bill; tell them why you’re disputing its validity. Be sure to request a complete, itemized bill for your alleged debt (including proof that you ever entered into an agreement with any company for which they claim to be collecting). If you’re someone who recognizes the alleged debt as one that you’ve paid off many years ago, be sure to inform Afni of your state’s statute of limitations concerning debt and remind them that their notice is far beyond that time period (this time period differs from state to state). Finally, be sure to send the letter by certified mail, return-receipt requested (this should probably end up costing you around $5.60 in postage—sorry).

Just as a reminder, if Afni Collections, Inc. didn’t contact you by phone, there’s a good chance that they don’t have your phone number. Don’t give it to them; if you do (and this includes any attempts to contact them by phone), there’s a good chance that they’ll harass you over the telephone from that point forward. It’s also worth avoiding the telephone because three things have been mentioned several times on many of the complaint Websites: (1) the Afni phone is busy or simply is not answered; (2) the operators are obnoxious and will threaten you; and (3) they tell you that they can “help” you by assisting you in paying the debt over the phone—the same debt that you never owed in the first place.

Another piece of advice is just as important as sending Afni a letter disputing the validity of your alleged debt: sending as many officials notification of this fraud as possible. Contact the Illinois Attorney General; contact your state attorney general if you’re in another state (which many of us are); contact the attorney general of the state in which the phony phone number is located if this happens to be your situation; contact your state and federal representatives; contact your state bureau of consumer protection (or similar agency); and be sure to fill out a mail fraud report with the United States Postal Inspection Service.

To make it easier, here is the exact text from the letter which I had to use on not one but two occasions (remember to use your alleged balance, the alleged phone number, and your own account number where I've used Xs and 5s):
Afni Collections, Inc.
P.O. Box 3427
Bloomington, IL 61702-3427

To whom it may concern:

This letter is being sent to formally dispute the validity of an alleged debt, in its entirety, of $XX from a creditor known as “[insert name of creditor here]” for an alleged disconnected telephone number of “(555)-555-5555” (Afni Collections account number XXXXXXXXX-XX). Pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, I am formally requesting validation—in full—of the alleged debt on which you are attempting to collect.

Be aware that this letter is not a request for address validation; this letter is to formally dispute the validity of the alleged debt that is listed on the collection notice and demand that the debt validation is provided to me, by you, in its entirety in accordance with both federal and [your state name here] laws.

All communications and correspondence pertaining to this matter are to be carried out via the United States Postal Service at the mailing address found below and not by way of telephone, e-mail, or any form of electronic communication. Furthermore, all forms of correspondence pertaining to this matter received at and sent from said mailing address have and will be photocopied and retained for any and all future legal proceedings if necessary.

My specific dispute with the Afni Collections, Inc. alleged debt is based on the fact that I have never held any type of account with [creditor name here] at any time. Moreover, I have never had an account with [creditor name here] in any way, shape, or form at any given time, nor have I ever resided in the city of [city name here] in which the alleged disconnected telephone number listed on the Afni Collections, Inc. collection notice is located. As such, I dispute the validity of this debt and formally request evidence of validation in accordance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. I am requesting that the following information be supplied by your agency: a detailed description of the product and/or service for which this alleged debt is owed; an itemized description of how the alleged debt was calculated; and copies of all documents showing that I agreed to purchase any product and/or service in addition to paying for a product and/or service from a creditor known as “[creditor name here].”

Be advised that the hardcopy and photocopies of the Afni Collections, Inc. collection notice and all future documentation pertaining to this matter have and will be retained and/or photocopied for use by my attorney and each agency that I am contacting regarding this situation.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

NAME
ADDRESS
If your dispute was different than mine, remember to change your letter to Afni appropriately.

Spin City
Don’t be intimidated by anyone who suggests that all collections agencies are honest and that if you get a collections notice from them, you must owe them because they say so. This is a tactic that has become commonplace among Afni employees and their family members (Afni is putting bread on their table, after all). It’s obviously not to the same degree of severity, but it reminds me of the blind support that Adolf Hitler received from his Nazi storm-troopers who really thought that they were doing a good deed by trying to exterminate an entire religion during the 1930s and 1940s.

A few weeks ago, an Illinois newspaper covered the story of a malicious letter that was sent to Afni’s headquarters. The mailing was deemed a biohazard and it was suggested that a disgruntled recipient of an Afni notice decided to send them his hemorrhoid (I’m not making this up—I swear). Anyway, comments that were left at the bottom of the story were back-and-forth banter between people who pointed out the scam that Afni is pulling and Afni loyalists. (The page has unfortunately been taken down, but a similar story can be found here.)

While some of the pro-Afni comments were from folks who were single moms, trying to make ends meet, or people with limited skills trying to break into the work force (ethics be damned), some of the comments that were left were not only belligerent but downright sad.

One person who signed their name as “Current employee” wrote: “Those who bash Afni probably had a bad experience, most likely due to their own actions.” Yes, I had a bad experience with Afni, but if you think that getting a bogus collections notice in the mail is because of something that I’ve done, it’s pretty safe to say that you’re not going to be moving up the ladder unless you plan on sleeping with the boss.

Another comment was left by a man using the name “afni employees father”: “for those afni [sic] ‘bashers’ i [sic] say this[:] would you rather our young people deal drugs or participate in gangs to make money, or make an honest living working for every dollar they make? My son works hard for AFNI and in return is provided a decent workplace and a paycheck. I’m sure most of these bashers are losers who have been contacted to pay a debt that get all upset about people actually expecting to be paid for services rendered……imagine that!”

This comment was my favorite for a multitude of reasons (and no, the fact that it appears to have been authored by a second grader isn’t one of them): (1) there’s nothing “honest” about sending out fake collections notices; (2) if those of us who are “bashers” are losers because we’re standing up to crime, so be it—I’ll happily wear the title of “loser”; (3) we’re standing up to this crime because in some cases the debts were already paid and in other cases the debts never existed in the first place; and (4) if your son’s only options in life are down to drug dealing, gangs, or working at Afni, you might have more serious problems on your hands than you realize.

Resources
I’m going to attempt to make a list here of sites that might be of service to you if you’re standing up against the Afni Collections scam. If there are any that you think should be added, let me know.

Federal Trade Commission
• United States Postal Inspection Service mail fraud report: Online or PDF

Spread the Word
Don’t sit back and hope that someone else will take care of the problem. Yes, many of us have contacted the authorities and even our lawyers, but taking the time to communicate with the higher-ups and make them aware that hundreds—if not thousands—of people are being hit with the scam is important. Even more important is to talk about it by word-of-mouth. Tell your relatives; tell your friends; tell your neighbors; hell, even tell your enemies.

Your Turn
Do you have a similar Afni story and want to get it off your chest? Do you have a horror story that’s worse than mine? Are you an Afni employee who is offended that we’re standing up to your company’s unethical, immoral, and illegal tactics? Are you a relative of an Afni employee who is outraged that I’ve used words that are too big for you to understand?

I’m leaving comments open on this blog and I’m leaving it set so that you can use pseudonyms to protect your identity if you fear retaliation. I’m planning on making this the only post for this blog, but I’ll check it periodically and respond to comments if I get the chance.

I reserve the right to remove any comments that are irrelevant to the topic, are spam, or are threatening in nature (other than threatening in a legal sense).

404 comments:

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Anonymous said...

I have been watching this little drama play out since the consumer reports first spiked in Jan. 2007.

As you noted, there are many complaints on ripoffreport.com, complaintsboard.com, etc. Complaint levels on ripoffreport.com jumped from about 2 per month in 2006, to 4 per day in the first several months of 2007.

BBB complaints have passed 400 since then (comparable to the complaint forum levels), yet Afni is now a Member (as of May), supposedly rated "satisfactory", and despite that most consumer complaints are that not only is the alleged "debt" not owed, the account isn't even theirs, there is no warning to consumers regarding Afni's collection activities.

Probably the most disturbing factor visible in the consumer complaints, other than the dramatic increase, is the glimpse given thru some of them of a skip-tracing and debt collection operation that is apparently willing to send collection letters to anyone with a similar name, with no attempt to ensure correct identities, and even sending bills to people whose names may never have been on the account. Afni apparently feels it is OK to bill anyone who once lived at the address of some "account", often at some other time.

Yet in too many cases, where there is apparently no connection between the consumer being billed and the original account (never lived in that state, mangled name never used, minor child with no phone at time of account, or even verified with Verizon no such account under name or SSN), Afni miraculously has the consumer's SSN and DOB on file, presenting it as if they had obtained it from Verizon with the debt.

American Citizen said...

I noticed that BBB "satisfactory" rating, too, when I first began researching this outfit in early June. I'm thinking that this rating is due to a technicality of sorts because I recently received a letter from them telling me that Afni has decided -- after Afni "further investigated" it -- to close my bogus account. (There's no mention that Afni didn't bother to investigate it from the start.)

Anyway, a response letter from the BBB states the following: "If the Bureau does not receive a response, your complaint will close as Assumed Satisfied." Thus, Afni ends up with a good rating. A response from my state attorney general says the same thing.

It's a little frustrating when it looks as if the people who are allegedly "protecting" the consumers (and those of us who never consumed anything in the first place) from fraud are more interested in just cutting down on paperwork for themselves. There's no actual crackdown on the agency; it's more that Afni will be allowed to continue its practices and each individual simply has to deal with it.

Anonymous said...

I filed a BBB complaint once, against a merchant who placed an unauthorized charge on my CC and refused to respond to my demand for refund (I didn't catch it until after 60 days, so my CC company wouldn't step in). At first, the merchant ignored my letter. After BBB finally forwarded the merchant's letter with a bunch of BS about how the 30 days to complain about "merchandise" had passed, they marked the case "resolved" (easy to see since it was the only complaint).

I then notified BBB that this was NOT resolved, that I had never done business with them, and that their letter about "merchandise" and refusal to return the money they took resolved nothing, and they then marked the case "unresolved", where it remains to this day.


Send a follow-up letter to BBB, indicate that AFNI said it would send validation of the debt as required by FDCPA, that you requested that validation, and that they have to date not sent anything to prove there was ever any debt ever owed by you.

Document the status of this dispute with a paper trail showing that you requested validation within 30 days, it is currently "unvalidated", and including any known violations of law (such as any deceptive statements made in phone calls), usable should they restart collection of the same account against you in a year or two as others have reported.

Also check to see if they pulled your credit reports. If so, include in your follow-up BBB complaint that they pulled your credit reports without your permission, and have provided nothing to indicate they had permissible purpose, in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Similarly, determine if the original creditor (Verizon, or whoever) reports any accounts in your name, under your SSN. If not, get it in writing, or get assistance from your state AG if you need to pressure them to put it in writing. If AFNI provided you with your DOB and/or SSN, on an alleged account that the original creditor claims is not in their system under your identity, that further reveals their original intent to deceive you into believing you owed a debt you did not, using their access to credit reports or your identity information for that purpose.

Frame your BBB complaint, and similar follow-ups to AGs, in terms of probable violations of state and federal law, not just the "civil consumer dispute" AFNI wants to keep this at.

The heart of this problem is not the FDCPA niceties that allow a CA to drop collection on receiving a dispute, with no further responsibility, but that AFNI is gaming the system by flooding consumers who owe nothing with bogus claims of debts owed, spending nothing to ensure any likelyhood that their letters go to the original debtor, if there was one, and then deliberately attempting to pile costs onto consumers as a deceptive tactic to extort payments from erroneously dunned consumers who are told they have to file police reports, send notarized documents, look up old rental agreements, and otherwise substantiate an "id theft" claim actually created by AFNI's own fabrications. They are a public nuisance engaged in deceptive trade practices.

As long as they get to do this crap with no cost they will keep doing it, even scaling it up as they have recently done, even as it costs, in wasted time, money, and credit damage, lots of people with good credit and no outstanding bad debts.

Anonymous said...

This article on CAMCO illustrates how access to consumer information on past addresses, as well as identity and credit report information, can be used to convince a consumer that an old debt is theirs. CAMCO used their access to lexis-nexis/accurint to obtain this information:

http://creditboards.com/forums/lofiversion/index.php/t68556.html

"...
Former employees describe using a sophisticated computer program called Accurint, which provides such detailed information as a person?s date of birth, phone number, Social Security number and three most recent addresses. Employees type a name into Accurint, and a list of people with that name or a similar name across the country pops up. From there, it?s whoever collectors can harass into paying.

Mike Perez, who worked at CAMCO from March to December 2003, told of a bill he once had for a Victor Colozzi in Syracuse, N.Y. The company couldn?t locate anyone with that name, but Accurint did spit out the name of Victoria Colozzi. When Perez called, he "noticed she sounded very old, so we changed the name on the bill from Victor to Victoria."

"When you're dealing with older people, especially older people who have a deceased spouse, their memory doesn't work too well with what they had in the past. They get something in the mail and call about it," Perez said.

"They hear someone saying their Social Security benefits are being looked into, their home is being looked into ... when you?ve got all this thrown at you and there's someone talking sly on the phone, you're forced to pay." ..."

Afni uses (or misuses) the same tool:

http://www.lexis-nexis.com/clients/afni/

Anonymous said...

Afni sent me a collection letter in in the wrong name - did have the name once, for a few years when I was married to my first husband over 17 years ago!

The charge is for a company I have never used, in a state I have never lived. And, I would have been remarried with a new name for 5 years and living overseas at the time they claim this charge - no way!!!


I want to know where they are getting our names and SSN's. I think someone, somewhere got a hold of old accts from possibly cable companies and phone companies and sold them the info and they just match up similar names and then attach bogus charges and say it's you.

They can't seem to confirm any of their so called collections to anyone's satisfaction and most bills seems to be outright bogus, or very, very old or already paid.

Afni are a bunch of high-tech fraudsters. A total scam!!! Why nothing is being done about these people and they are allowed to continuing operating, I just don't know!

I guess since they are giving jobs to those who would otherwise be drug dealing or in gangs, they are allowed to stay in business since they keep the crime off the streets and into the confinement of their building.

What a joke!

Anonymous said...

As you have realized, your type of report is an example of an "accident" that reveals their actual activities. This account is unlikely to be due to "id theft" of your information, since you were not even using your old name around the time of the opening of the account, nor have you ever even resided in the state of the alleged "account". In addition, you know with certainty that you did not open it, nor could you have since you were overseas.

Therefore, AFNI could NOT have obtained your SSN from the original creditor along with the information on the alleged "debt".

What they appear to be doing is searching skiptrace databases for matches between either names or past addresses that match account information. Since those databases are not effective at tracking exactly when consumers used various names, and since their name matching is also very broad and sloppy, they may get hits on many consumers who might be the alleged debtor. They appear to be sending out collection letters to a large number of them, making no attempt at narrowing identification.

You, for example, had a past name matching who they are looking for, but none of your past address information would match, yet they still sent you a collection letter. They are attempting to shift the burden of proof on whether the debt is owed onto a large number of consumers, while spending nothing up front to ensure accuracy. As you also noted, they cannot prove or confirm anything, and in fact use a whole list of reasons why they don't have to. They have no interest in validating debts, since they don't get any money from consumers for getting documentation that will usually show a particular consumer DOESN'T owe anything.

As far as getting your SSN and DOB, they have your name and current address already from their database search, so they can just pull your credit report, under the excuse that they "think" they are collecting from you. You don't need a SSN to pull a credit report, nor do you need one to put a collection account on one. In fact, if you punch in a name and there are several choices, they are each shown along with their SSNs so you can choose the right one. The credit reporting agencies claim to be secure, but the back door is wide open to their paying customers.

If you pull your reports, you will probably find one of their inquiries on one of them several months ago. If they are sending these letters to a bunch of consumers that matched, they are also probably pulling reports on all of them. They may also be getting SSN and DOB info from the same skiptrace databases they used to "find" you thru the name you no longer use. These databases are built up from public record information, customer information bought from various companies, newspaper and magazine subscription information, etc.

Lexis-Nexis (thru their Accurint product), ChoicePoint, and others are in this business. As noted above, AFNI appears to be a client of Lexis-Nexis, since there is a URL in the Lexis-Nexis domain set up for their use in searching.

Anonymous said...

See, for example, the Accurint "Deep Skip" capability, mentioned here:
http://risk.lexisnexis.com/accurint-for-collections-features.asp
http://www.collectionsworld.com/article.html?id=200610165I7DM0RR

This article, a couple years old and with some legal errors, shows the debt collection and skip tracing perspective. Note what types of links can be found, as well as what the consequences would be to using "information" of questionable accuracy.
http://www.collectionsworld.com/article.html?id=2006101696JJZAW8

Anonymous said...

I also received such a collection notice. I immediately notified the police department at Bloomington, IL at 309-434-2355. There is someone there working on the case.

Anonymous said...

How receptive was Bloomington Police Department to accepting a complaint against AFNI? Did they request copies of any letters you had received, or anything else in writing?

Did you get any feedback regarding whether they were getting many complaints against AFNI?

Was there any indication as to whether they were handling these complaints in any other way than just passing them along, or whether they were treating complaints as due to anything other than an account opened thru "id theft"?

American Citizen said...

Local reaction was something about which I was curious, too. I had read that Afni employs over 1,000 people and it made me wonder if they were getting a free pass if they're employing many locals (which has happened in my area with a few of the bigger employers that hire locals).

Anonymous said...

What I was concerned about was this report:

http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/you-won039t-believe-this-c13356.html

"Afni Collections
Posted: 2007-06-11 by Vanessa Lapato
You won't believe this...

Complaint Rating:
I received one of these letters like everyone else is describing: $573 for a Verizon account I've never heard of, for an area code where I've never lived. I was suspicious immediately because it had not appeared on my credit report when I had recently bought a house, the notice was mailed to my new address (which was less than 6 weeks old), and I had never received a bill or overdue notice from Verizon directly.

Anyway, after reading similar posts on this and other web sites, I contacted the local police in Bloomington, IL, where AFNI is located. I attempted to file a fraud report with them, and YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS...

David White, who works in the police department's public affairs office, did not take the complaint. Instead he told me that he was a personal friend of the manager at AFNI, whose name is Jeff Shepherd. He said he'd simply forward my complaint on to Jeff.

So for those of you who actually want a real live person to pester over this thing, I suggest you ask for Jeff Shepherd at AFNI directly. And if you get no
relief there, give a call to his buddy David White at the police department. Maybe if David gets enough complaints about his buddy, he'll feel compelled to do more than "forward the message." His number at the police department is (309) 434-2355. "

Zundian said...

After receiving an AFNI letter, I calmly and methodically was able to track down someone who had worked in collections for Verizon. According to her, in the month of July 2007 alone AFNI sent out over 1,000,000 letters for accounts that were dated between 1996 and 1999.

Expect to see many more complaints about the company showing up soon.

Anonymous said...

Here's some important info on the whois records and the administrative contact of the domain name "afnicollections.com".

I suggest you include "Alan Angelo" in all your complaints to the local Bloomington Police Department, using the contact name at the police department that someone posted here prior.

Whois Record

Registrant:
Afni
404 Brock Drive
Bloomington, IL 61701
US

Domain Name: AFNICOLLECTIONS.COM

Administrative Contact:
Angelo, Alan
Afni, Inc.
404 Brock Drive
Bloomington, IL 61701
US
309-820-2918

I work for NBC and a segment producer told me he heard that Dateline was doing an indepth investigation on them, and even have two people working on the inside using hidden cameras. These employees working undercover for Dateline, are high ranking employees who are afraid of going to jail, so AFNI will have a hard time finding out which is which. Expect A LOT more media coverage on these people. Those 1000 employees better start looking for another job soon. They're gonna be shut down.

Anonymous said...

They might have good reason for worrying about going to jail.

Although normally, a debt collector collecting on a debt has a "permissible purpose" for pulling the credit reports of the consumer he believes owes the debt, as required by FCRA, that position may be harder to defend if a debt collector is sending multiple collection letters to multiple consumers on the same debt, pulling ALL of their credit reports and using their identifying information such as SSN and DOB to set up MANY on-line collection "accounts" trying to collect the same alleged debt, or using SSN or DOB information obtained without a good faith belief they had "permissible purpose" to then attempt to deceive and defraud consumers who call in to dispute a debt they never heard of.

They might have an even harder time claiming "permissible purpose" if they are sending their collection letters out and getting identification information on every name variant they find, and especially if they are doing it on consumers not even on the original account, but only chosen for collection via possibly erroneous past address skip-tracing, as has been reported by a number of consumers.

They might run afoul of FCRA violations for pulling credit reports without permissible purpose (15USC §1681b), with civil penalties as prescribe in (15USC §1681n), or criminal penalties for obtaining credit information under false pretenses under Title 18 (15 U.S.C. §1681q) of up to 2 years.

For using deception to collect (such as alleging that a consumer's SSN was on the account, when it was not, and was actually obtained by pulling this and other consumer's credit reports), there are civil penalties under FDCPA (15USC §1692e) for making false and misleading representations.

They may consider the above civil penalties as just a "cost of business" on the rare occasion that a consumer actually brings suit and prevails, but the real risk of criminal penalties that may be applicable may be in Title 18, (18 USC §1028(a)(7)) and (b)(1), obtaining and using a "means of identification" to violate federal law.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00001028----000-.html
"(a) Whoever, in a circumstance described in subsection (c) of this section—
...
(7) knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, or in connection with, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law;
...
(c) The circumstance referred to in subsection (a) of this section is that—
...
(2) the offense is an offense under subsection (a)(4) of this section; or
(3) either—
(A) the production, transfer, possession, or use prohibited by this section is in or affects interstate or foreign commerce, including the transfer of a document by electronic means; or
(B) the means of identification, identification document, false identification document, or document-making implement is transported in the mail in the course of the production, transfer, possession, or use prohibited by this section.
..."
[invoke the "Commerce Clause", for federal jurisdiction]

Note that false and deceptive collection under FDCPA is a violation of federal law, and also that obtaining credit reports thru false pretenses is a federal (and probably state) felony, triggering 18 USC §1028 (a)(7).

If more than $1000 of aggregate value is obtained within 1 year, the penalties can be not only a fine, but up to 15 years; under $1000, only up to 5 years. Statute of limitations: 5 years.

Under 18 USC §1028(f), attempting or conspiring is the same as committing the offense.

Note that although 18 USC §1028 covers many areas of identity theft, including fabricating or using fraudulent identification documents, a "means of identification" as defined in 18 USC §1028(d)(7), is broadly defined as:
"(7) the term “means of identification” means any name or number that may be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify a specific individual, including any— (A) name, social security number, date of birth, official State or government issued driver’s license or identification number, alien registration number, government passport number, employer or taxpayer identification number; "

Title 18 USC §1028 thus covers not only obtaining and using false physical identity documents, but the unauthorized possession and use of any "means of identification", even if only in information form, such as a SSN, DOB, drivers license number, etc., if it is used, or intended to be used, to violate a federal law.

It may even include what credit reporting agencies use to identify a specific individual, such as a name combined with various, even incomplete, mixtures of address, past addresses, SSN and DOB information, particularly if that information is obtained and used as "identification information", as would be the case if it was used to falsely allege that a particular individual is the one who owes an alleged debt.

Anonymous said...

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/awc-ntel.htm#intelbasics

Basics of ACH (analysis of competing hypotheses), useful in studying AFNI complaints compared to their claims:
http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/psych%2Dintel/art11.html
Complete book:
http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/cia/heuer.pdf

To understand the full scope of AFNI's deceptive tactics as applied to debt collection, look into ACH-CD (analysis of competing hypotheses - counterdeception). Their various responses, whether written, or on the phone, fit classic deception tactics. Their phone drones may be morons of varying competence, but there are indications someone has charted out their full plan with respect to maximizing collection without regard to legallity while avoiding liability.

In particular, look at their reliance on denial of information, combined with abuse and "suggestions" or "assumptions". They are attempting to create uncertainty in the consumer, and then play on it to psychologically extract payments.

The value of counterdeception is inadequately represented in much non-military literature on "critical thinking", although it would appear to apply as much in the civilian sphere as the military one.

This may account for the lack of response by IL AG, FTC, BBB, new media, etc.:

"Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity."
--- Marshall McLuhan

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that others have been contacted by AFNI after moving residences. I received a letter from AFNI today, only 8 weeks since moving from the west coast to the east coast. Ironically, the account in question is approximately 7 years old and does not exist according to Verizon (the creditor). My complaint follows the same MO as those made by other complainants. Unfortunately, AFNI and other unscrupulous firms continue to exist and operate. Their actions are no less criminal than a thug stealing money from one's wallet under the premise of physical harm; however, AFNI's weapon is the direct or implied threat of a ruined credit report. Not surprisingly the local law enforcement is reluctant to attack a local employer; however, given that AFNI has operated on an interstate basis, it seems that the federal authorities (e.g., FBI) should be involved.

Anonymous said...

http://www.9wsyr.com/content/news/your_stories/story.aspx?content_id=C2FD654E-EF16-49C1-8A0E-87F622D8502A&gsa=true

"Your Stories Q&A: Senator Calls For AFNI Investigation
Last Update: 9/10 6:12 pm

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - We have a Your Stories Q&A, with the latest on a debt-collection firm that many of you have complained about.

A downstate state senator is now asking the Attorney General to take a look. Senator Owen Johnson has fired off a letter to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo asking Cuomo to probe "what appears to be an unfair debt collection act by Anderson Financial Network, Incorporated," otherwise known as AFNI. ..."

Anonymous said...

Class action suit against AFNI, specifically related to addition of fees to Cingular collection accounts.

http://www.9wsyr.com/content/news/your_stories/story.aspx?content_id=c2fd654e-ef16-49c1-8a0e-87f622d8502a

Your Stories: Debt Collector Sued
Last Update: 9/18 7:23 pm

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - A Midwest debt collector, which has been hammering Central New Yorkers with threatening notices, is now the target of a class-action lawsuit in its home state of Illinois.

The suit says AFNI broke federal law in the way it went after people for old phone bills that had long since been paid.

We heard from Central New Yorkers who got the notices from AFNI about old Verizon bills. If there ever was a debt, it had been paid more than a decade ago, but on the phone, AFNI representatives put on the pressure to pay up.

The federal lawsuit, filed in Illinois, “alleges violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.” The suit says “AFNI is engaged in the business of purchasing charged-off debts allegedly owed by consumers and attempting to collect the debts.”

It says AFNI “pays an average of less than 10 cents on the dollar for the debts.” At issue in Illinois, Cingular cell phone bills. The suit says "plaintiffs resolved the account with Cingular and did not owe anything." And that “the (collection) letter adds to the balance...a collection fee."

Under the law, the suit says, "no such fees are authorized." Further, the filing claims, “It is a standard practice of (AFNI) to impose collection fees on cellular phone debts generally and Cingular phone debts in particular.”

AFNI, through a lawyer, says it cannot comment on any ongoing investigation or pending lawsuit. AFNI has yet to answer the allegations.

The Illinois class action suit has nothing to do with the Verizon debts we've focused on here in Central New York. "

Might be by Edelman, Combs, Latturner & Goodwin, if this notice is related:
http://www.edcombs.com/CM/Custom/TOCSpecial.asp
"AFNI cellular phone bills: Please contact us if AFNI is attempting to collect a cell phone bill from you."

Anonymous said...

Class action suit against AFNI over added fees on Cingular collection accounts may be building on this decision:

http://www.myfairdebt.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2958

"Seeger v. AFNI, Inc.
Slip Copy, 2007 WL 1598618
E.D.Wis.,2007.
June 01, 2007

DECISION AND ORDER RE: CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

WILLIAM E. CALLAHAN, JR., United States Magistrate Judge.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

*1 On July 7, 2005, the plaintiffs, Marvin Seeger (“Seeger”) and Bradley Gamroth (“Gamroth”), filed a single count complaint against the defendant, AFNI, Inc. (“AFNI”), alleging that AFNI's attempt to collect a collection fee from the plaintiffs violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et. seq. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that AFNI's attempt to collect collection fees violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692f, that AFNI's representation that collection fees were owed violated 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692e, 1692e(2)(A), and 1692e(5), and that AFNI failed to state the true amount of the debt owed, in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)(1).
..."

Anonymous said...

I have been puzzled why several debt collectors notorious for their level of consumer complaints (CAMCO, Arrow, to name 2) have operated out of Illinois, until after years of complaints, some action was finally taken. The one year jump of 65% in 2006 is far higher than the FTC's 3.8% reported increase for the same period.

There are repeated consumer reports that complaints to the IL AG do eventually get a response out of AFNI, yet Madigan has as yet taken no action against them.

Consumer lawsuits under FDCPA's private right of action have to date been inadequate to stem systematic debt collection abuses. The damages, even including attorney's fees, in the few cases that ever get to court are generally small enough to consider just a "cost of business", and too small to attract adequate interest from plaintiff's attorneys willing to work on contingency.

The passage of this Illinois state law may indicate some change is coming, however it doesn't go into effect until 2008. It does at least indicate that the AG's office thinks there is a problem.

We shall see.

http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/pressroom/2007_09/20070917.html

"Chicago —Attorney General Lisa Madigan today announced that a recently enacted law will afford Illinois consumers greater protections from abusive debt collection practices.

Drafted by Madigan's office and sponsored by State Senator Don Harmon ( D-Oak Park ) and State Representative Marlow H. Colvin (D-Chicago), the Illinois Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (P.A. 95-0437) will ensure that consumers receive the same level of protection under state law as they receive under federal debt collection laws.

Madigan proposed the legislation after debt collection complaints filed with her office jumped more than 65 percent in 2006 from the previous year to a total of 2,210.
...
In addition to creating a dispute procedure for victims of identity theft, the new law updates Illinois law so that it more closely resembles the Federal Fair Debt and Collections Practices Act. Specifically, the Act harmonizes state law with federal law by:

providing that a debt collector must validate the debt upon request of the consumer,
requiring the debt collector to cease communication upon the consumer's written request, and
expanding the definition of “debt collector” to include the rapidly growing number of debt buyers in the industry.
...
The new law also gives the Attorney General authority to enforce its key provisions—authority the agency will share with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

The law, which was signed by the governor on August 27, will take effect January 1, 2008. "

Anonymous said...

Interesting timeline on the passage of IL P.A. 95-0437, which was just signed into law.

Apparently it was first introduced in the IL Senate on 2-09-07, about a month after the AFNI complaints first shot up on consumer forums, and a little over a month after Madigan filed suit against Arrow for egregious violations of debt collection law. It made its way thru the legislature, to be signed by the Govenor on 8-27-09, and will go into effect on 1-01-08.

In effect, AFNI will have had about 1 year to get whatever they can out of their Verizon "bad debts" before Illinois law is brought into conformance with FDCPA, and before the IL AG obtains the law she wanted in place to enforce debt collector compliance. Based on consumer reports of inquiries by AFNI on their credit reports, AFNI may have bought the old Verizon accounts around summer to fall of 2006. They may have known they had a limited time to use their current tactics with relative impunity, although the absence of these changes in IL law would have still left them subject to the corresponding federal FDCPA requirements in all cases, should FTC decide to prosecute.

http://www.ilga.gov./legislation/billstatus.asp?
DocNum=1398&GAID=9&GA=95&
DocTypeID=SB&LegID=29485&
SessionID=51&SpecSess=#actions

Anonymous said...

Cleburne News did an expose on Boyajian Law Offices, based in part on some information obtained from Bud Hibbs site. Boyajian sued, but the parties settled in exchange for Cleburne publishing a "correction" on their website.

Part of that correction was the reporting of some of the terms of the sales contract between Verizon and Innovision-NCO, which transferred some of the old accounts that Boyajian claimed he was collecting on. The contract apparently prohibited Innovision-NCO from seeking assistance or supporting documents from Verizon. This practice is, apparently, fairly common in the debt collection industry.

The "debts" bought by AFNI from Verizon may have been bought with similar restrictions, which might block AFNI from providing validation from the original creditor in response to a consumer FDCPA request. They may therefore be responding to consumer FDCPA validation requests using various evasive tactics, knowing up front that they cannot validate.

http://www.jaxnews.com/news/2005/
cn-local-0609-wruple-5f09n4751.htm

"A contract between Verizon and Innovision shown by Boyajian to the Cleburne News shows that Verizon's contract with Innovision-NCO prohibits anyone collecting debts on its behalf from seeking assistance or supporting documents from Verizon."

Anonymous said...

http://www.insidearm.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=9&threadid=6892

"In Pintos v. Pacific Creditors Association (Case No. 04-17485, 09/21/07, 9th Circuit) the agency violated FACTA in pulling a consumer's CBR for a towing bill.

The court held that since there was no "underlying credit transaction", then there was no permissible purpose to access the person's CBR. The court also held Experian liable for allowing the impermissible pull.

That means a collection agency cannot access the credit report of a consumer for things like towing bills, court fines, parking tickets, taxes, damage awards, hospital bills, etc.
..."

The debt collection industry is apparently concerned about this decision. Debt collectors do NOT have a general right to pull credit reports simply because they are debt collectors collecting on an alleged debt.

The allowed "permissible purposes" are spelled out in FCRA/FACTA, and generally require that the original transaction be initiated by the consumer, and involve the extension of credit. If the alleged debt was not created by a transaction initiated by the consumer, according to this court there would be no permissible purpose, regardless of whether the debt might be owed.

AFNI appears to be trying to brush off consumer complaints as just innocent mistakes, which might work on a one by one basis involving similar names, but there also appear to be substantial numbers of consumer reports that they send collection letters based on past addresses, where the consumer being billed is NOT even on the account, or where AFNI's claim that it is, lacking any validation, is not credible.

Although they might claim the party they are billing "might owe it", obtaining such a consumer's credit reports when their name is NOT even on the account would fail FCRA's requirement for permissible purpose, since the consumer did not INITIATE the transaction.

Here are two such reports:

http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/afni-c26686.html

Afni
Posted: 2007-09-23 by Nick Cassidy
Fraud and cheating!

Complaint Rating:
Just received a letter from Afni about a phone bill with Verizon from 1998. The bill was never in my name and I lived with my college roommates for about a month. My friend went through this same ordeal about six years ago over the same bill. He paid it, and now they have contacted me. If anyone has any suggestions on what I should do, please email me. I have always paid my bills, but this is obviously a corrupt practice. "

http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/afni-collections-c21763.html

"Afni Collections
Posted: 2007-08-21 by John Charles Parr
Phone scam!

Complaint Rating:
They claim I owe a Phone bill from 2000 from an address I have not lived at since 1972. They have my social and my current address. This is a scam. "

Anonymous said...

Decision was posted here:
http://www.myfaircredit.com/forum/
viewtopic.php?p=12382

It appears to hinge in 2003 FACTA amendments to FCRA. Here is an excerpt:

"Pintos v. Pacific Creditors Ass'n,
--- F.3d ----, 2007 WL 2743502, C.A.9 (Cal.), September 21, 2007 (NO. 04-17485, 04-17558)
...
The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Relying on our decision in Hasbun v. County of Los Angeles, 323 F.3d 801 (9th Cir.2003), the court held that PCA was authorized to obtain Pintos's credit report under 15 U.S.C. § 1681b(a)(3)(A) because it was attempting to collect a debt from Pintos. Hasbun held that debt collection was a permissible purpose for obtaining a credit report, but we decided that case prior to the enactment of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (“FACTA”), Pub.L. No. 108-159, 117 Stat.1952. FACTA makes clear that debt collection is a permissible purpose for obtaining a credit report under § 1681b(a)(3)(A) only in connection with a “credit transaction” in which a consumer has participated directly and voluntarily. Because PCA obtained a credit report on Pintos unrelated to any such transaction, we reverse the district court with respect to Pintos's claims against PCA and remand for further proceedings with respect to damages and to Experian's liability.
..."

David Szwak appears to be particularly interested in CRA liability when the CRA knows a particular credit report customer is collecting on debts not arising from credit transactions directly and voluntarily initiated by consumers.

Anonymous said...

Key takeaway from this article is that regulatory awareness of and actions against fraud often lag disclosure thru other sources, and that timely disclosure of internal fraud often depends on existence of competing interests to disclose negative information. Such competing interests often include employees, and the press.

This may be more limited in the case of a privately held company than with a publicly traded company.

Due to the possibility of competition, rising interest by the press may be the most likely path to action by regulatory agencies, who might otherwise just sit on even large numbers of complaints that may be unverifiable without taking legal action allowing discovery.


http://faculty.chicagogsb.edu/luigi.zingales/research/PSpapers/whistle.pdf

Anonymous said...

(Link got clipped.)
http://faculty.chicagogsb.edu/luigi.zingales/
research/PSpapers/whistle.pdf

Anonymous said...

Confirmation that FTC has "received numerous complaints."


Consumer report consistent with alteration of alleged account information by AFNI to attempt to collect from consumer not actually on the account, based only on address skip-tracing.

Attempts to evade validation and dispute by threats to report on credit reports if not paid immediately, followed by offering a "discount", then waffling on promise not to report if paid. Indicates agent knows they are on shakey ground legally.

My poker sense says they also know it is not this person's account, as they are pushing so hard to "close" immediately, playing it like they are "settling" a disputed debt.

Due to the very short length of visiting this address, AFNI's "skip-tracing" may actually be nothing more than tracing phone calls on the statements of the account collected on. Those statements would likely have repeated calls to this consumer's cell phone, even though that would be no evidence whatsoever that this person owes anything.

Other consumers have reported AFNI agents have questioned consumers about calls on statements, or alleged that calls to the consumer's town "proved" it was their account.


http://www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/
afni-collections-c30293.html

"Afni Collections
Posted: 2007-10-15 by Jonathan Falkner [send email]
Fraudulent Verizon Bill

Complaint Rating:
On 9/14/07 AFNI states that they were given a bill to collect on from Verizon for Home Telephone Service in Florida that has been unpaid since May of 2007. Funny, my Verizon *cell phone* did not get turned off for the 3 years that I had it following this supposedly delinquent debt. This bill was supposedly exactly one month in duration (no more, no less) and was for a total of $80.82 (though their online database driven website said $80.81? Pretty bad record keeping, or perhaps FRAUD?)

The problem with their assertion is that though I did physically stay at the address in question for a brief period, around the time they say I racked up this bill, I was not living in Florida, nor would I have any use or need for a home phone, as I was visiting Florida and staying with an acquaintance of a friend, and still had my North Dakota cell phone with unlimited roaming (no charge!).

They claim that I had Florida residency at this address (false) and that I opened an account with Verizon for a home phone for exactly one month (also false). They then tell me that this will be reported on my credit history if I don't pay within 24 hours. They then said that if I paid them only $50 within the next 24 hours, they would not report this onto my credit, and then proceed to say that they cannot give me any written guarantee of this fact. I began to really get suspicious of this whole thing, as I knew that I hadn't had a home phone number since 1998! Why would I, with a good nation wide free roaming cell phone plan?

I searched the site, saw it's horrific BBB rating, and contacted the FTC. Turns out they have received numerous complaints about this fraudulent collections efforts. Everyone needs to go to www.consumer.gov/idtheft and download "Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft". Print out the ID Theft Affidavit, fill it out, get it notarized, and mail it to AFNI certified mail. Also, call the FTC: 1-877-438-4338 (Option 4) and report the "identity theft" which caused the fraudulent account to be opened... AFNI most likely opened the fraudulent account themselves just so they could collect on it!

Don't give in! Don't give them a cent of your money! Fight back for your rights! "

Anonymous said...

FTC Debt Collection Workshop was held on Oct. 10 to 11, 2007
http://debtcollectionworkshop

FTC site contains links to transcripts. Debt collection and consumer attorneys presented virtually opposite pictures of the compliance of the industry.

Note Robert Murphy's comments, in
Session 2, on FDCPA compliance, and the difference between the industry's claims to compliance, and the reality. The debt collectors claim that because compliance is a requirement of their contracts, they must be compliant. The debt collection attorneys claim that because they would never risk their licenses to practice law, there are few illegal acts by attorneys. "Proof" by tautauligy.
"ROBERT MURPHY: I know you think that, that's what a lot of people believe but I heard the same mantra in Buffalo December two years ago and as it was being said to me by the president of the company, I heard in the background, in the pit as they describe it, exactly the things I was describing in my lawsuits going on. I'm like, wow, this is weird. The fact of the matter is it's not isolated occurrence."

Also note that the industry solution to consumer complaints about receiving excessive unwanted collection calls on their cell phones with the associated charges, is for the creditor to just slip the "consumer authorization" into the next "change of terms". There, now the consumer authorized every debt collector we sell this to, to call that cell phone all they want!
"ROBERT MURPHY
Predictive dialing, I have followed a lot of lawsuits concerning predictive dialing.
When you get a senior citizen with 15 phone calls in one day, how is that compliant? It isn't. Against the law but I just heard Robert make a comment I wrote down, everyone asks for permission to call a cell phone.
>>ROBERT L. DiGENNARO Yes.
>>ROBERT MURPHY That's in the mythical world of complete compliance. It is not complete compliance. If it's complete compliance why have I deposed six or seven people in this room more than once? And it is because your compliance is as you are the managing people running the companies saying this is supposed to be."

Anonymous said...

Definition: "talk-off": A scripted response by a debt collector to divert a consumer's dispute and force payment.

Note that consumer reports show numerous consistent examples of AFNI employees using "talk-offs" to evade consumer disputes of questionable "debts" and attempt to extract payments, consistent with organized training by AFNI management.

From Session 3:
"DALE W. PITTMAN
My experience anecdotally is that it's getting worse so I can't point to trends. But the -- described deception and abuse earlier from the sheriff's department, which is not true but recently had one where they said Ms. Jones you are in Virginia which is a commonwealth state. The defense from the lawyer was Dale it's true it's the commonwealth of Virginia. But that means, ma'am, that it doesn't make difference that you never had anything to do with your husband's premarital debt.
So I sued on that and they said look, we don't believe you, they didn't say that. If they did we'll get rid of this bad apple. Before we settled that I had another one come in with exactly the same thing that was brought to me on tape. Mr. -- Mrs. Adams. You are in Virginia which is a commonwealth state. That means you have to pay your husband's debts regardless of the fact that you didn't know anything about this debt until you married the gentleman. So clearly they were playing off a talk-off. So to me that's another anecdotal non-empirical indication in my mind that there is rampant deception.
>>KATIE HARRINGTON-McBRIDE
I'm sure everyone knows but talk off meaning?
>>DALE W. PITTMAN
The collector sitting there in cubicle to someone referred to it as monitoring, I think it's maybe to monitor complaints but it's to increase profitability has been told to use a script and there will be a script that says, say that you have to pay your husband's debts because Virginia is a, whatever, a commonwealth state.
And my earlier example of a talk-off was where they said we're going to come and take care of you in your home. There was a written talk-off produced in discovery to show that's what the collector was told by her supervisor to say."

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Tautology_%28logic%29

Spelling correction: Tautology

Industry defines its own legal compliance as having documented procedures to show that they have systems in place to ensure compliance. In other words, they are complying with the law as long as they think they can defend a lawsuit claiming that they don't, dismissing all problems as due to a "bona fide error", or a "bad apple", that couldn't possibly be their standard procedures, since their documents say otherwise. In other words, as long as their legal costs are acceptable.

The real costs to consumers is irrelevant to industry, even when consumers do not owe debts or are misidentified.

"Talk-offs" can provide evidence of the willful intent to deceive, and to collect by deception, as the instituted policy of a company.

Anonymous said...

Examples of AFNI "talk-offs" reported by consumers:

www.ripoffreport.com/reports/
0/270/RipOff0270904.htm
"...When I spoke to Brenda, Afni, Inc. she stated that Virginia is a 'single billing' state and as such I needed to pay the bill.
...
Upon, speaking with Verizon (800) 688-2880 they confirmed that the account for my past phone number (703) 318-7351 was in fact closed with no balance due. ..."

www.ripoffreport.com/reports/
0/275/RipOff0275504.htm
"...I contacted this company and asked for a copy of bill that they say verizion states I owe and was told that they did not have to send it to me because the law states they dont. ..."

www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/3894/page/11
"...She said maybe it was a company that merged & I told her NO I’ve been w/ Sprint for many years. She said Yes Alltel bought Sprint out. I told her NO in fact Sprint bought Nextel out & she needed to get her facts straight. ..."

www.ripoffreport.com/reports/
0/272/RipOff0272829.htm
"...Skeptical and concerned I called. I asked the rep that answered what company they were representing, she said Alltel. I told her I have never had an Alltel account. She started listing various other companies associated with Alltel, which I have NEVER done business with. I told her after she was done naming off companies and 'guessing', that they would be receiving a letter from me soon. ..."

www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/3894/page/12
"...During the phone call, the representative also provided me with incorrect information, likely as some form of scare-tactic. I was told that my wife had already admitted to the debt and arranged payment. I was also told that the representative would terminate that payment. No such admission was ever made by my wife and no payment was arranged or terminated. ..."

Anonymous said...

Dispute talk-offs, both verbal and written.

The common characteristic is to imply that the consumer has the legal burden of proof to show the debt is not owed, and that providing that "proof" may be a difficult, time consuming and unending process that will also result in exposing the consumer to possible further fraud, and made more difficult and expensive by AFNI's total denial of any access to reliable information about the alleged "debt".

Phone version of AFNI "fraud dispute" talk-off, consumer report by an attorney in NY:

www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/afni-inc-c4658.html
"...Next, they gave me the same story about disputing at their bogus website, and then proceeded with a long list of requirements such as filing affidavits and proving fraud. All sheer nonsense from a legal standpoint. ..."

Letter version of AFNI "fraud dispute" talk-off:

www.ripoffreport.com/reports/
0/218/ripoff0218186.htm
"...I should explain that I am a law enforcement officer. During the time that this account was opened, I was working for my current police agency. I brought AFNI's letter to one of our Detectives who runs background investigations for agency employees. He wrote a letter to AFNI telling them that at no time did I live in Nebraska, and since I had been an employee since 1998, it was not my account and that I had in the past been a victim of Identity Fraud.
...
Now, today, I receive another nasty surprise letter from AFNI, demanding that I send them a copy of drivers license, copy of SSN Card, Proof of residence at time the account was established (like I'd know!) Since they could or would not tell me when in 1999, or any address, other then 'Nebraska' - and WHO here keeps utility bills back that far? They also want copy of tax records and a Police Report - which they already had based on the letter
and facts provided by my employer.
..."

Text of AFNI "any dispute or validation request" talk-off letter, sent in response to consumer's timely FDCPA dispute and validation request letter. This letter has been reported in a number of different consumer reports. Attempt to evade FDCPA validation requirements and divert consumer from written contact to phone where verbal talk-offs can be employed, implying that a consumer's written dispute and validation request will not be accepted and "investigated" by AFNI until the listed information and phone contact is provided by the consumer.
www.ripoffreport.com/reports/
0/236/ripoff0236239.htm
"We have received your dispute but we are unable to investigate at this time. You have provided insufficient information to substantiate your claim. We will complete our investigation within 30 days of receipt of the following information:
..Specific information you dispute
..An explanation of the basis of your dispute
..All supporting documentation to substantiate your claim. Examples may include but is not limited to, photocopy of your driver's license, the identification page of your passport, proof of residency at time of service, receipts, etc.
..A valid phone number to contact you.

Please call our office to resolve this matter..."

Anonymous said...

Soldier stationed in Baghdad trying to deal with fraudulent or "erroneous" AFNI collection, damaging credit.

www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/271/RipOff0271533.htm

"I checked my credit report like I always do and noticed a derogatory account (AFNI INC) claiming my account is over 120 past due and that I owe $1044. Date opened May 2007, I am stationed in Baghdad, Iraq and have been since August 2006. I never opened this account and need to know what to do to get it removed. How can this happen? Anyone that has 'fixed' their own problem, I would love some advise so I can do everything I can from out here in the desert to fix mine."

Anonymous said...

See also:
progressivevalues.blogspot.com/

"The Verizon-Afni Collections Grave Robbing Scam

It's nearly Halloween time, but a billing scam operation is already putting an early scare on the season with their own creepy tale of grave robbing abuse. A collections agency located in Illinois, Afni Collections which claims a 70 year history in the debt shakedown business is getting more negative publicity by sending out bogus Verizon bills in the name of deceased persons, maybe by culling through obituary ads to add new pain to grieving families.

Our family was a victim of this Afni scam this week, when a bogus Verizon bill from Afni was sent to our home asking for $1,852.86 for a Verizon bill my deceased father never owed to begin with. My deceased father was never a customer of Verizon or Verizon Wireless according to their records. And according to Verizon records by father was never a customer, never had an account, and Verizon never authorized Afni to send out any demand for cash letter in the name of my father. Afni took it on themself to make up the request for money, claiming that we could agree to a "settlement offer" of $926.43 and that the "good folks" at Afni would consider that "once paid, this account will be closed and you will no longer have to worry about this obligation". And our family is not the only victims of the Afni bogus Verizon billing scam. ..."

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to see what people infer from AFNI's "erroneously matched" collection attempts, which result in essentially random mailing of bills to people with no relation to the original debt. Although we can't rule out combing thru obituaries to send "bills" (the old "Bible scam" from "Paper Moon" comes to mind), the existing evidence of billing based on "loose" name or address matching is sufficient to cover this case.

We can infer that the deceased father had his own phone, not with Verizon, probably lived at a different address, and probably died relatively recently, perhaps within the last year. Yet AFNI has sent this bill to the son's address, in the name of the father, perhaps indicating mail forwarding after his death.

The son might be wise to pull his own credit reports, to see if AFNI is trying to transfer alleged liability beyond their already "erroneous" initial misidentification, or to set up a fabricated "relative id theft" scenario. Being in a privileged position to see multiple collection attempts on the same alleged claim might uncover the scope of deception.

Anonymous said...

www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/3894/page/12

"10 hours 44 minutes ago by Pc

Greeting all,

For those of you that live in NY state, I just thought I'd let you know that the NYS Attorney General's Consumer Fraud dept. has contacted me about AFNI. They are planning to take legal action against AFNI for their fraudulent practices.

Perseverance pays off. NYS is going to do something about this. I would suggest that those of you from other states write your attorney generals as well. "

Anonymous said...

Mainline news media has already discovered and reported on "zombie debt".

Now, with the interest in the recent sub-prime mortgage debacle, and its effect on the whole U.S. housing market, they are finally discovering "illegal collection of non-existent debt", in this case, debt discharged in bankruptcy, which is easier to "prove" than merely "erroneous" debt.

In effect, a whole part of the debt collection industry has grown up on the premise that "debt" can still be collected regardless of whether it is really owed, and that therefore ANY alleged record of a debt, however questionable, has a saleable value, as long as it's value is cheap enough, and as long as someone is brazen enough to try to collect it.

This is leading to increasing corruption of our credit reporting system, undermining the lendability of the consumer base that is the real colateral behind ever increasing levels of U.S. consumer debt.

In the end, as we are starting to learn, even hard assets are not colateral. Only earnings and resulting cash flow can actually pay off debt, whether from the original debtor, or thru sale to a new home buyer to avoid foreclosure.

If credit reporting is corrupted, in the present consumer lending environment, the resulting ratcheting up of interest rates will drain that cash flow tipping those consumers into the red and weakening even the resale market that might otherwise bail out the foreclosing lenders.

www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21580018/

"In a financial version of Night of the Living Dead, debts forgiven by bankruptcy courts are springing back to life to haunt consumers. Fueling these miniature horror stories is an unlikely market in which seemingly extinguished debts are avidly bought and sold.

The case of Van Rathavongsa illustrates how canceled debts regain vitality. The Raleigh, N.C. factory worker pulled himself out from beneath a mountain of bills by means of a bankruptcy proceeding that wrapped up in 2002. One of the debts the judge canceled, or "discharged," was $9,523 Rathavongsa owed to Capital One Financial, the big credit-card company. But Capital One continued to report the factory worker's discharged debt to credit bureaus as a live balance, according to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Raleigh.
...
Despite several calls and a letter from his attorney, he says, Capital One never revised the credit report. To obtain the home loan, Rathavongsa eventually did what many consumers in this situation do. He gave in and paid Capital One $9,523 he no longer legally owed.
...
The very existence of this marketplace confounds even some veterans in the bankruptcy field. During a preliminary hearing in New York in March, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain asked a lawyer for JPMorgan Chase how the bank had managed to sell consumer credit-card debts that had been discharged. "I don't know who would buy a discharged account," the perplexed judge said.

"Happens all the time, your honor," the Chase lawyer, Thomas E. Stagg, responded.
...
In the 1990s, businesses adept at tracking and trading consumer debt expanded their reach to dabble in accounts enmeshed in bankruptcy. That dabbling has grown into a robust market. Some of the trade in so-called bankruptcy paper involves debts that remain collectible. What's troubling is that the market now also includes billions in discharged debts, which ought to have no dollar value. Owners of canceled liabilities can revive their value in two main ways: By directly pressuring consumers to cough up cash or by gaming the credit system, as allegedly happened in the Rathavongsa case.
..."

AFNI's activities are only one tip of this iceberg.

Anonymous said...

To scare you even further.

I checked my credit report and AFNI had an inquiry. Apparently they got my information from my credit report which they are authorized to request. They can get access to my credit report even if I put a freeze or fraud alert on it.

They had no legitimate reason to make an inquiry. More than a year after the inquiry (11.10.07) I received a threatening letter from AFNI demanding payment for a disconnected Verizon phone number that I never had. I called the number and someone else has had the number for years. They did not use my identity

AFNI has made the whole thing up.

The AFNI inquiry was on TransUnion.

You can get your annual free credit report. I'll bet AFNI inquired about your credit and got your personal info, past addresses, past employers...

File complaints. Call your local TV consumer reporters.

Anonymous said...

By waiting a year after their inquiry to send their demand letter, they may have blocked you from sueing them under FCRA for an illegal credit inquiry, since you only had 1 year to do so, regardless of when you found out!

Dispute the debt (in writing certified return receipt requested), and if they can't send you legitimate "validation" on the debt, file complaints with IL AG and FTC for pulling your credit report without permissible purpose anyway. Criminal SOL is 5 years not 1.

Anonymous said...

From time to time AFNI employees appear to have responded on forums such as complaintsboard.com.

This looks like an employee trying to look like a consumer:
Can't spell "AFNI", but at least it wasn't all upper-case like some.
Innovative pseudonym: "John Smith"
(Although "John Smith" might be AFNI's most profitable name, since they can send bills to so many people for each account.)
"Customer scenario" sounds like it's from their training course.
"Amber" was "very polite" and had a full explanation of exactly what this "debt" was, even though 1995 would place it among the old debts Verizon acquired with its merger with GTE and other telecoms, for which little info is available to everyone else. No one else seems to get this exceptional miracle worker.
"final bills do not get fowarded by the post office"? Since when?
And if Verizon wanted the forwarding address, don't they know to just put "Address Service Requested" on the envelope like everyone else, so the Post Office will send it to them? Oh, that's right, AFNI thinks Verizon is dumb. But it makes a good "talk-off"!
AFNI offered to settle an alleged $302.50 bill for 50%, but "John Smith" was so impressed he immediately offered his debit card number to pay the full amount!


www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/anfi-inc-c33922.html

"Anfi inc
Posted: 2007-11-10 by JOHN SMITH [send email]
outstanding bill from 1995

Complaint Rating:
A few days ago i recieved an outstanding bill from this collection agency called Afni. This bill was from 1995 when i had service with verizon. So i called Afni because this bill did not sound familiar. I talked to this collector named Amber, and she was very polite and she explained that this was a final bill that i had from when i lived in Chicago. the only reason that i did not recieve this bill back in 1995 was because i had moved out of the city and i fowarded my mail with the post office but final bills do not get fowarded by the post office so i never knew about the bill. the original amount of the bill was for 302.50 but Afni offered to close the account for 50% off which is 151.25 but i went ahead and paid the full amount with my debit card and yesterday i went on thier website and printed a reciept that shows that i paid the full amount. Afni was really helpful in this matter and i am glad that they brought this outstanding bill to my attention. "

Anonymous said...

Correction: FCRA violation SOL is 2 years from discovery, or at most 5 years from the act.

Anonymous said...

"John Smith" chimes in again, a day later, this time without his name in all caps (although he still doesn't capitalize at the beginning of sentences). His prior post didn't make it into this thread since he misspelled "ANFI" [sic], so no-one commented on it.

www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/3894/page/13

"1 days ago by John Smith
first off there is no statue of limitations of how long a company can collect on a debt. that is saying that just because you did not pay a bill for service that you did use no matter how long ago that you don't have to pay it. that is a bunch of bull crap!!!! if you used the service then you are responsible for the debt. so pay your bill!!! it is as simple as that. i have read a lot of the comments posted on this fake website and you all sound like a bunch of babies!!! so grow up and pay your bills!! "

One response:

"2 hours 25 minutes ago by John Retherford
You are correct Frank B.

I have spotless credit, I make a awesome salary, I can afford to pay a $177 debt, and would, if I owed it. I am not going to be blackmailed by Afni by them threating to put it on my credit report if I do not pay. Plain and simple, I am not going to pay what I do not owe. I never heard of the phone number, the address, and never lived in or near that area code during the timeframe they said. I actually have Verizon bills from my correct address during the same timeframe, and 4 years after! If I had past dues bills, why did Verizon not contact me during those 4 years, but more than 6 years later? I had the same name, the same SS #. "

Consumer never had alleged phone number, never lived at alleged address, had Verizon service during whole period bracketing AFNI's alleged debt, and has the bills to prove it.

It appears that AFNI has probably skip-traced on an approximate name match, using access to approximate location information, but no verification of other attributes such as original identification info such as SSN, actual address and time of residence, etc, that would cause rejection of erroneous matches.

These "nonsense matches" are consistent with initial "debtor identification" and collection letters being sent out automatically with no specific human checking for reasonableness. One report that AFNI sent out one million letters on these accounts in July would appear to confirm this.

Any P.I. will tell you you don't just trust Accurint or Choicepoint information without separate verification, since they throw in a lot of unchecked junk, and to claim that finding "J. Doe, in Anytown, once upon a time" proves a particular "John Doe" owes anything is ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

"Greetings for Veterans Day, from AFNI".
Another military victim.

Military and soon-to-be college graduates make good targets. Relatively unsophisticated, multiple recent addresses, limited access to payment records, steady or about to have steady income, and soon to need to use their credit. And the high turnover on campuses and bases probably results in both more closed accounts and many names matching similar addresses, so lots of deniability to bill all of them. Only downside is half of them probably know little about credit, so they will just tell you to go to hell, but you can make up for that by just broadening the net.

www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/3894/page/13

"[11-13-07] Zoomie
I just received a collections notice from afni today--same deal, it's on a past-due Verizon phone that I never had. I've never been with Verizon in my life. Like so many others, I'm also in the Military, and the supposed disconnected phone is from a base I haven't been stationed at since 2002...I was only there for about 6 months too. These guys are good. If anyone ever finds them, please post it here. I would really like to meet these bastards face to face. "

American Citizen said...

Afni’s new approach?
It’s shameful that the folks at Afni have taken their game to a new level by hitting the complaints Websites to spread as much disinformation about state statutes of limitations with respect to debt (real debt, of course—not the fictitious debt which they’ve created). Then again, should we expect anything less from them? They’re already trying to steal money via bogus bills. Their next step would probably be mugging or armed robbery.

For the record, statutes of limitations for debt are real and do exist, no matter what John Smith and/or the folks at Afni say. In addition, each state has a different statute of limitations for debt. Please be aware of what your state’s limitations are. I found a nice chart at Credit Infocenter, which lists all 50 states. Please inform John Smith that this site links to each state’s official site where the statutes are listed and they’re not “bullcrap” as he wants people to think.

The links that I tried are accurate. If you’re in Pennsylvania like me, the link is for the index because the Pennsylvania legislature has yet to post all of their laws online. They only voted to begin doing so a few months ago so it’ll take awhile to get all of them uploaded. Pennsylvanians don’t like living in the twenty-first century, but that’s a long story and has nothing to do with Afni.

Why are they still in business?
Many of us who have fallen prey to Afni have wondered why they haven’t been shut down, and recent news articles affirm one of my hunches: Afni provides jobs and employment is a good thing to down-on-their-luck people.

The Tucson Citizen reports that “Afni Inc., a call center, will add 350 jobs in 2008. Though no pay range is shown, Tucson call center jobs generally pay $10 to $15 an hour.” (SOURCE) In the San Antonio area, Afni has expanded their workforce by 400 people; the Website Business Facilities says that it’s an area that is “helping to bolster the call center industry in the U.S.” (SOURCE)

I don’t remember if I mentioned it here or on another site, but this is similar to a situation that happened near me a few years ago. One of the largest employers in my area was discovered to have been dumping large quantities of automotive fluids on a desolate tract of their property, and it was discovered by our state environmental agency (which was rumored to be corrupt even before this incident). Lo and behold within a few weeks the whole thing was forgotten and no one heard anything more about it. No fines; no penalties; no harm; no foul.

Why? My guess is because our local politician likes to routinely use this company in his re-election bids, in order to show economic growth and employment. If he were to allow one of the area’s biggest employers to be fined—or worse, shut down—he’d not only lose the next election but he might also find himself lynched.

It’s similar to Afni: they provide jobs and people like a paycheck, whether they’re making that paycheck by doing something legal like feeding the elderly in a home for the aged or illegally by sending the elderly fraudulent Verizon bills.

Anonymous said...

Before CAMCO was shut down (for attempting to collect bogus debts from consumers), they were actually benefiting from several Illinois state government subsidies.

http://illinoisissues.uis.edu/
news/news200509.html

"News September 2005

State seeks to recover dollars
from collection agency

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration is trying to recoup a $75,000 grant it gave to a Rockford collection agency later declared a scam operation by federal regulators.

In March 2004, Capital Acquisition and Management Corp, or CAMCO, paid $300,000 to settle a federal complaint that accused the company of threatening thousands of consumers who had debts too old to be enforced or who never owed money in the first place.

A month later, Blagojevich’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity gave the company $75,000 to train 150 new employees.

“This grant was part of an agreement that was made by the previous administration and, because of the way that agreement was structured, the fine that the company paid did not violate those terms, so the grant was executed,” says department spokesman Andrew Ross. “But this is an example of why greater corporate accountability is required.”

A federal court shut down CAMCO in December 2004. In the eight months since the March settlement, the company had racked up more than 2,000 new consumer complaints. Up to 80 percent of CAMCO’s collections were bogus, according to the Federal Trade Commission, but the company pried payments from consumers by threatening to “hound you ’til the day you die.”

Prior to those allegations, former Gov. George Ryan, awarded CAMCO $3.7 million in tax credits over 10 years and gave the company $500,000 to purchase its Rockford headquarters. Ross says the additional $75,000 grant was tied to that package.

CAMCO never received any of the $3.7 million in tax credits, Ross says. The state has ordered CAMCO to return the $575,000 in grants, with the Illinois attorney general’s office filing a claim in federal court.
..."

Anonymous said...

I got an Afni Collections Scam letter saying I owe Verzion over $100 for outstanding debt. I know this is a scam because I never have Verzion in my whole life of 32 years! Never brought their services under my name for a home or cell phone. Plain never, ever done any business with Verzion. Thank god I have a smart and savvy computer wiz as a brother. I showed this letter to him and he just googled Afni and SCAM just pops up all over the websites.

Anonymous said...

Some confirmation from a debt collection site that AFNI is recognized in the industry as being on IL AG's radar, and it is implied that this is for problems with validation, consistent with the many consumer complaints they are attempting to collect from the wrong person.

Also note about the implied routine use of a "talk off" as a common debt collection tactic for using deception in a deniable fashion.

http://www.insidearm.com/
forum/messageview.cfm?catid=9&threadid=6982&STARTPAGE=1

"Go Get Them
Member

Posts: 47
Joined: Dec 2006
Tuesday 11/27/07 1:57 PM
...
There are a few states with very agressive (and popular) AGs that are taking a hard line with some agencies, but from what I understand it's agencies that work mostly purchased paper. The two that come to mind are the IL AG vs. AFNI and the Michigan AG vs. Asset Acceptance. Our "monitor" has friends/associates/god knows what in the Michigan AG's office and I understand they are a constant harrasment to Asset.

A sign of the times I guess.... I expect more of it coming into election season. "

"...
And herein lies the problem: it's one thing to blow smoke to a debtor on the phone for a talk off - that is part of our job; it is an entirely different matter when agency managers start believing that their smoke actually amounts to something bigger. "

Anonymous said...

It's rather funny that the above discussion started as a complaint from a debt collector that a consumer had complained to his state AG (for disclosure to a third party), and the AG had sent a letter that also requested validation of the debt, that the debt collector wanted to ignore for not being sent by the consumer directly.

The reply quoted above, from another debt collector, implies that it is common practice to "blow smoke to a debtor on the phone for a talk off - that is part of our job", essentially verbal deception used to convince consumers to pay without exercising their federal dispute and validation rights, but that it might not be wise to believe one's own BS, especially when contacted by an AG.

The state AG requesting validation does not appear fooled by "smoke".

Anonymous said...

Good to know that people are banding together regarding this hassle! I, too was sent a similar letter but with a twist--they offered me the opportunity to pay half of my supposedly overdue Verizon bill. Like most people here, it was sent to an old address and I've never held any account with them. Advice to all: check your credit reports because it showed up on mine as a negative and I'm going to dispute it with all 3 bureaus. Despite the opt out and pay half "deal" they are trying to cut me, I will make certain they don't get one red cent from me. I've seen all kinds of forums and blasts out there about these guys and as far as I'm concerned, anyone who works for this disgusting company is a disgusting person. The bullying that is going on is just more proof that you are wrong. Don't let them have it--it's ours and was never theirs to begin with!!

Keep Fighting

-G

Anonymous said...

If you did pay it, even without owing it, you would be stuck with a recent paid collection account on your credit report, which as recent activity on a negative account, will tank your scores.

Dispute and request validation, via U.S. Mail, return receipt requested. Skip their website, which will just send you on a wild goose chase trying to prove someone else's debt isn't yours, when they haven't even sent you an original bill showing there ever was a debt, who it was to, what the name, address and phone number was, and when it was open.

Also skip their phone center, as they will just lie to you, trying to convince you you can't dispute and have to pay, even on debts you never owed.

The law (FDCPA) requires that they stop all collection activity if you send your validation request within 30 days of receiving their first collection letter, which is required to notify you of your right to dispute and request validation.

After confirming their receipt, proceed to dispute their errors on your credit reports. If they verify and refuse to remove their errors, send written complaints to FTC, your state AG, and Illinois AG, and start shopping for an attorney.

Disputing thru your credit reporting agency, followed by their "verification" of the erroneous information, is required to sue them under FCRA. In addition, if they continue to demand payment without sending you validation of the debt obtained from the original creditor, you can sue them under FDCPA.

In either case, you can sue in your local state or federal court, even though they are based in Illinois, and the court can award attorney fees if you win.

Anonymous said...

Consumer did not have phone during period of alleged account, was in England. Damage to credit, on an account that is probably not owed, at best id theft, more likely "misidentification".

Deceptive talkoffs by AFNI phone drones, as well as by AFNI's "compliance officer", Lisa Anderson, both claiming they didn't have to send any proof of the debt, just their own "verification". This is the root of the problem: AFNI's legal compliance problems start at the top, not the actions of rogue employees.

30 day FDCPA validation request period begins on receipt by consumer, and consumer does not waived it, as AFNI implies, just because it was sent to an erroneous address, by "mistake", and never received, yet they try to convince her they only have to "verify" it, not send proof.

Violation of ACA International Code of Ethics, which as of August 2007 requires members to respond to validation requests even when they are NOT within 30 days. AFNI is an ACA member.

Includes report of BBB's response to consumer complaint. They are in effect discounting all consumer complaints against AFNI, claiming they are reasonable for the size of their business, while ignoring the consistent patterns and nature of the complaints. Other BBBs have kicked out members for patterns of abuse (e.g. ER Solutions), yet all AFNI's complaints are "resolved" one way or another, so they are "satisfactory".

Supposedly, AFNI will now send "bills" to prove the debt. Meanwhile, the black mark stays on her credit reports.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/291/RipOff0291487.htm

"Report: AFNI
Category: Credit & Debt Services

AFNI Advised that they did not need to send itemized bills and subsequently hung the phone up on me. Bloomington, Illinois
*Consumer Comment ..You may also want to contact NACA

AFNI
Phone: 309-828.5226
Fax:
404 Brock Drive, Bloomington, IL 61701
Bloomington, IL, 61701, Illinois, Nationwide, 61707
U.S.A.

Submitted: 12/14/2007 3:13:59 AM
Modified: 12/17/2007 8:26:03 PM
Heidiw
wilton, Connecticut


AFNI kept me on the phone waiting over an hour in attempt to resolve my disputed Cingular (Verizon) account. They claim that I owe, and have bills for a telephone line in 2004. Only in 2004, I was living in England and didn't have a phone.

AFNI put a negative mark on my US credit report and advised they took due notification to contact me. Due notification consists of a letter sent which allowed me 30 days to request information. I never received the letter. They sent it to an address where I lived six years ago.
...
they refused to send me bills as they were not required to do anything other than verify them by law.
...
I complained to the BBB. The BBB has received 975 complaints since mid 2007 about AFNI and still holds them in satisfactory status. AFNI has been a member of the BBB since 2007 and pays monthly dues. Bonnie Bakin, president of the Peroria BBB advised that the BBB takes into account the company's size and volume of transactions for BBB complaint reporting purposes.

In a response to my complaint from the BBB, AFNI is sending me bills. They refused to do so from the onset. I have yet to receive them, but am certainly eager to see the justification. Upon receipt of those bills, I will certainly re-approach AFNI and the BBB.
...
Lisa Anderson, ACP, AFNI's compliance officer assured me that they were not required to do anything other than verify the debt. They advised they were not required to send bills. I believe that is in full violation with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Heidi
wilton, Connecticut
U.S.A."

Anonymous said...

Attempt to evade FDCPA validation request by trying to convince consumer that it had already been "validated", that sending a letter was not an option, and by refusing to disclose AFNI's mailing address to allow a written validation request to be sent.

Failure to mark credit report entry as "disputed".

Attempt to pass off a "garbled printout" plus Lisa Anderson's unsubstantiated verbal claim to have skip-traced addresses as "validation", shifting the burden of proof onto the consumer. Although AFNI's allegation that they were billing the correct consumer was allegedly based on skip-tracing thru "snap track", Ms. Anderson refused to provide this alleged "proof" in writing.

Consumer filed complaints with IL AG, and BBB, then sued, and a settlement appears to have been reached. Consumer's actions in rejecting "garbled printout" validation are consistent with "erroneous identification" by AFNI.

http://creditboards.com/
forums/lofiversion/index.php/
t220258.html

"shaitanrx
Dec 6 2006, 01:49 PM

I did not receive a letter, I pulled a CR and found them. When I made an attempt to call and find out what it was the guy was absolutely rude. He said I had no option but to pay. When I asked for a mailing address he said what for and that it was not one of my options. I merely said I to write a letter to validate the debt and he said it was validated and that it is mine. because of the way he acted and I filed a complaint witht the BBB and AG of IL.
..."

"shaitanrx
Dec 19 2006, 05:00 PM

Check this out...I talked to a Lisa Anderson and she was very polite...but she said that they have this system to trace addresses...something called snap track or something like that and they said it let back to my address and that that's how they verified it is mine. She also mentioned that she will send a verification form if I have any info that I can give that proves this account is mine. Why should I prove it. Why are they not furnishing me with proof that it is mine. Is it legal for them to just say it's mine by word of mouth and not provide me with proof on paper. I asked her send me the results of your snap track..whatever it's called...and she said she can't do that. so if they only send me a printout with garbled printout...does not seriously justify proof...why do I have to proof to them that it is not mine. They are the one who came up with this info. This is rediculous. "

Anonymous said...

Pretty complete report summarizing AFNI's tactics, including deceptive use of credit report data.

Consumer didn't move to address on account until a year AFTER alleged debt. Therefore, account could not have been originally opened under that name with Bell Atlantic, yet AFNI claims this person "owes" it, apparently based only on address. Evidence of alteration or fabrication of account data using skip-tracing. Original letter might qualify as mail fraud. Oops!

AFNI disclosed "previous phone number" (actually mother's phone number), which has no relevance to proving the debt is valid or the debtor correctly identified, probably as intimidation. AFNI had SSN, which couldn't have been obtained from Bell Atlantic, therefore they must have obtained it from other sources. Probably pulled credit report, which would show SSN, and possibly old phone numbers reported by old creditors. Credit inquiry would have had no permissible purpose, as the only connection to this consumer is later moving to address on account AFTER account closed. THIS consumer did NOT initiate a credit transaction. It is improbable that name would match, yet AFNI appears to be pulling credit reports based only on their sloppy skip-tracing.

Multiple attempts to collect by deception, violating FDCPA:
1) SSN and "old phone number" disclosed as "proof", implying they were from original account when they could not possibly have been.
2) Consumer "asked for proof that it was my debt, such as old phone bill", was told neither AFNI nor Bell Atlantic had any records, but that the debt was "valid". Talkoff attempting to evade consumer dispute and validation request, and shift burden of proof onto consumer.
3) "The woman told me that I should just pay the bill to keep my credit clean." Threat to illegally damage credit, since a debt from 1997 cannot be legally reported.
4) False claim that bills had been sent "for years", as a talkoff to evade consumer's request for validation. Bills could NOT have been sent to this consumer, who could not even have been on the original account.
5) False statement that NY does not have a statute of limitations, when it is in fact 6 years. "She claimed that there is no such thing." Implied threat that they might sue, when they could not legally do so, and in fact they seldom do.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/294/RipOff0294134.htm

"Report: #294134
Report: AFNI
Category: Collection Agency's

AFNI Verizon Account from 10 years ago that I never had! Bloomington Illinois

AFNI
Phone:
Fax:
PO Box 3427
Bloomington, Illinois,
U.S.A.

Submitted: 12/24/2007 6:19:44 AM
Modified: 12/24/2007 6:20:00 AM
Kelly73
nassau, New York

I also received a letter a couple days ago from AFNI claiming that I owe $221.35 from 1997 for Bell Atlantic. They gave me the address where the service was and I wasn't even living there at the time. I moved in the following year. They also gave me my previous phone number which turned out to be my mothers phone number. The rattled off my social security number without even verifying that it was me on the phone. I asked for proof that it was my debt, for example an old phone bill. They said that since it was so old they had nothing and neither did Bell Atlantic. Bell Atlantic became Verizon so how could I have had phone service for another 6 years and still owe them money. ..."

Anonymous said...

Signed into law on August 27, 2007, the Illinois Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (P.A. 95-0437) will take effect as of January 1, 2008.
www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/
pressroom/2007_09/20070917.html

Collection industry sites have focused on its effect in specifying how consumer id theft allegations must be handled by debt collectors in Illinois.
www.creditcollectionsworld.com/
article.html?id=2007091958Y36IEW&
from=creditandcollectionnews

However, its main effect may be to bring Illinois law in line with federal law, in particular since it now defines junk debt buyers as debt collectors, clarifying enforcement authority of the Attorney General's office for laws dealing with debt collection in a part of the industry that has grown in both volume of collection activity, and in volume of consumer complaints.

This enforcement gap may have helped make Illinois home to some of the most notoriously abusive collection agencies in the country, some of whom have routinely engaged in harassing consumers for alleged debts they didn't even owe. One such Illinois debt collector, CAMCO, was shut down over a year ago, although that action was led by the FTC, not IL AG.
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/
2004/12/camco.shtm

BBB currently shows AFNI's "resolved" complaint level at 1001 over the last 36 months, with 730 closed in the last year. Closed 2007 complaints were thus 5.4 times the average levels for earlier years.

Although the BBB complaint rate toward the end of 2007 appears to have dropped some from the extreme levels at the beginning of 2007, the nature of the complaints (mainly "not my debt, WTF?") has NOT changed, and reports continue of AFNI employees trying to evade validation requests and deceive consumers into paying debts they do not owe, on "accounts" that were never theirs.

If you have been subjected to abuse and harassment by AFNI, and in particular, if they are attempting to collect on a debt that is not yours, damaging your credit, evaded your attempts at disputing or validating the debt, sending their own fabricated "validation" letters with nothing from the original creditor, or pulled your credit reports but refused to provide debt validation to show they had a permissible purpose to do so, be sure to file a written complaint with the Illinois Attorney General, on top of complaints to FTC and your state AG.

Anonymous said...

Consumer has final original creditor statement showing paid in full. AFNI has sent collection bill based on much earlier account statement information.

Evidence that Verizon has sold or transferred account information on paid and closed accounts, and that AFNI may be "cherry-picking" non-final account information to produce alleged bills with remaining "balances".

Nothing short of validation directly from the original creditor could resolve this, if even that could be trusted, yet AFNI systematically evades such requests.

http://www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/
afni-inc-c13637/page/2.html#c50070

"14 days ago by Greg
I was kind of suprised to discover that I actually do have bills, posted check receipts , etc from 1999 (I was almost certain I would have shredded everything prior to 2000 by now), and since my service continued much longer than Afni alleges, I did have a copy of the final bill, and I have to tell you folks that I have no idea what these Afni people are looking at when they create these collection notices. It's starting to smell a lot like deliberate fraud in my specific case. They have some information correct, some is so far off base it is laughable, checks were cashed every month and well beyond the time Afni says the account was closed, and the final bill reads, "Paid in Full".

I would strongly advise anybody receiving a notice from Afni to question the authenticity of their claims and take all neccessary steps to protect yourself. "

Anonymous said...

Two additional reports where the consumers continued to have a Verizon account in good standing YEARS after the alleged date AFNI claims the account was delinquent.

In one case, AFNI even sent "bills" supposedly supporting their claim, even though Verizon's later statements, with payments by the consumer, would supercede those account balances in Verizon's own computer records, as well as establish successive new balances under "account stated".

It would appear that Verizon has sent to AFNI account records on customers whose accounts continued in good standing long past the date AFNI alleges they were delinquent, or alternatively that AFNI has fabricated alleged "bills" using partially accurate old customer data, putting in question the accuracy of any "validation" provided by AFNI, whether they are actually obtaining it from Verizon (who claims they don't have it), or fabricating it themselves (contrary to the FDCPA requirement that validation be obtained from the original creditor, not just copied from their own possibly erroneous records).

Despite their claim, Verizon would probably still have records accessible on-line from as recent as 2005, if for no other reason to check out new customers who might have outstanding balances.

http://www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/3894/page/15
"3 hours 3 minutes ago by Stephen Fell
I just received a bill for $253.72 and a second one for $65.00 that are eleven years old. I would think that sometime in the past eleven years Bell Atlantic now Verison would have sent me a bill. Called Verison and was told they do not show any outstanding bill for either of the two notices and the second number is the one I have been using for the past thirteen years. ..."

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/297/RipOff0297302.htm
"Report: #297302
Report: Afni verizon
Category: Cellular Phone Companies

Afni Don't fall for this ripoff Bloomington Illinois
Afni verizon
Phone: 888-804-2409
404 Brock Dr
Bloomington, Illinois, 61702
U.S.A.

Submitted: 1/5/2008 12:16:10 PM
Modified: 1/5/2008 12:16:00 PM
Sendenthomas
monroeville, Pennsylvania

I received a bill in October 2006 stating that I owed Afni a collection agency for Verizon phone company, over $400 back in 2000.

I called Verizon who stated that they didn't have the records to verify whether I owed this money. I stated to them that I could not have owed this money because I had the same phone number up until July 2005 and haven't had my phone disconnected nor services interrupted. ..."

Anonymous said...

Countrywide caught submitting fabricated "recreations" of letters, allegedly sent to a homeowner previously in bankruptcy, to a court forclosure hearing. Homeowner, bankruptcy attorney, and bankruptcy trustee all claim no such letters were received, and attorney caught that letter allegedly sent to him had his new address that he only moved to AFTER the alleged date of letter.
http://consumerist.com/342226/
countrywide-invents-evidence-
in-foreclosure-hearing

"New York Times
...
Lender Tells Judge It ‘Recreated’ Letters
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON
Published: January 8, 2008
The Countrywide Financial Corporation fabricated documents related to the bankruptcy case of a Pennsylvania homeowner, court records show, raising new questions about the business practices of the giant mortgage lender at the center of the subprime mess.

The documents — three letters from Countrywide addressed to the homeowner — claimed that the borrower owed the company $4,700 because of discrepancies in escrow deductions. Countrywide’s local counsel described the letters to the court as “recreated,” raising concern from the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing the case, Thomas P. Agresti.

“These letters are a smoking gun that something is not right in Denmark,” Judge Agresti said in a Dec. 20 hearing in Pittsburgh. ..."

Anonymous said...

WSYR reports again on problems with AFNI. Their reports in June 2007 included AFNI's claim that these were just occasional problems that AFNI would help resolve, but after later reporting on a NY state senator calling for investigation of the company by the NY AG, and on a lawsuit filed against AFNI, they don't appear to be buying AFNI's excuses any more.

http://www.9wsyr.com/content/
news/real_deal/story.aspx?
content_id=e3139293-48b8-478d-
8099-8df1dfe27954

"Afni trying to collect debts some don't have:The Real Deal

Last Update: 1/21 7:00 pm

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - They're being hounded by a collection company for debt they've never heard about and aren't responsible for--that's the story we've gotten from dozens of people who are being told by a collections company called Afni if they don't pay up on past due Verizon accounts, they'll be reported to the credit bureaus. Thing is, as we've been telling you for months, many of the people don't owe a dime!
..."

American Citizen said...

I didn’t think that it would happen, but it has: I received yet another fraudulent Afni, Inc. collections notice (for another “account”—this time supposedly from NYNEX) today. Yes, this is my second form of Afni harassment in less than eight months. Similar to my approach with my first bogus notice, I’m formally disputing the debt and sending letters to the attorneys general and BBB of Central Illinois.

This is getting on my nerves and it’s now entered the realm of harassment. Unfortunately it seems as if the attorneys general and BBB are more interested in cutting down on paperwork for themselves by simply saying that if Afni drops their attempts against innocent people who have disputed the debt, they’ll consider the issue “closed.”

That’s convenient, isn’t it? Meanwhile working stiffs like me have to pay for even more certified letters to Afni and politicians, and we have to read shit like this which tells us that Afni is building a new facility and will add 350 criminals to their payroll in Arizona.

How many unsuspecting people will continue to be scammed by this outfit? How many public officials who are supposed to be “protecting” consumers are just looking the other way while it happens?

Anonymous said...

Send the usual dispute and validation letter, CRRR. But don't stop there.

You aren't the only one getting multiple letters. There are several reports on complaintsboard.com of people receiving letters on more than one account not theirs. In some cases, one spouse gets a letter, they dispute, then the other spouse gets one.

Based on the quantity of alleged accounts, and the absence of any real attempt to identify the correct party, they must be sending out numerous letters on the same account. One report was that they purchased 5 million "accounts" from Verizon (possibly verified by a Verizon employee), and another is that they sent out 1 million letters in July, which wasn't even the peak period of complaints in January to March when this started.

I would estimate that they have sent out letters to on the order of at least 20 million addresses. Some may come back, but that's still probably about 10% of U.S. residences.

For a letter to have a chance of reaching the debtor, when they may be sending letters to any similar name in a city or region, they might be sending out 5 to 15 letters on some accounts. The same uncertainty over common names that would lead them to send lots of letters on one account would result in people with common names having a higher rate of multiple bogus letters.

On top of being a nuisance, this is an "unfair trade practice". The FDCPA and FCRA were written based on the assumption that debt collectors mostly try to collect from the right person, that abuses were rare, and that debt collectors wouldn't intentionally make "errors". AFNI is sending letters with no real belief they are dunning the correct party, and taking advantage of the nuisance factor to collect unowed payments. Whereas they can cheaply send letters at minimal postal costs, consumers must respond with CRRR replies, or they risk weakening any case they might have to bring to recover from damaged credit.

Attack it on that basis: "Unfair trade practice", "fraud", "mail fraud", "violation of the FTC Act", etc. Call it what it is, since AFNI's actions gave you that right.

Widespread sending of bogus collection letters to wrong consumer with no real basis results in substantial total losses to consumers in certified mailing costs even when they dispute. It also undermines the intent of Congress in enacting the free annual credit report provisions of FACTA, as consumers exhaust their free reports dealing with bogus claims. It is the debt collection equivalent of spam.

It also may be a fraudulent invoicing scheme, illegal under postal regulations. Directory marketers, or magazine sellers, to name two shady groups, cannot legally send invoices for unordered product (or anything looking like a demand for payment, which is what an invoice is), since they have no reasonable belief the recipient incurred any obligation. Similarly, AFNI is sending a "demand for payment" with no reasonable belief the recipient incurred any obligation.

Sending multiple letters on the same account undermines their claim to believe each recipient has any obligation of any sort. It also undermines their claim that they had permissible purpose to pull credit reports, particularly if they pulled reports on multiple individuals for the same "account".

File a complaint with FTC, indicating that this is the second bogus account collection letter you have received.

Also file a mail fraud complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspector, as you have reason to believe they are targetting you in a fraudulent invoicing scheme using the U.S. Mail. Scammers have been trying to skirt postal regulations for years, sending junk that looks like bills, but on being caught they claim it was only an "offer". AFNI is doing the same thing when 10 bills go out for each "account", they just change "offer" to "mistake" when you challenge them. The responsibility to avoid the appearance of fraud is on the sender, and they are clearly not putting "This is a solicitation, and not an invoice" in bold lettering, so they don't have that out. Calling it a "debt collection" letter doesn't automatically keep them clear of postal regulations, as other scammers who have tried playing "collection agency" as part of their invoicing scams have found. See U.S. Code Title 39 §3001 (the Cornell Law site is one place).

Contact the NY Attorney General's office, both because this alleged debt was supposedly once NYNEX, and because they have been reported to have opened an investigation of AFNI due to numerous similar complaints.

File a complaint with the IL AG. As mentioned earlier, an Illinois law went into effect in 2008 that placed purchasers of debt, such as AFNI, under the same requirements as other debt collectors, bringing outdated IL law in line with federal law (FDCPA).

Although the debt collection industry mainly noted the changes in requirements for handling id theft cases (Why talk about abusive collection? No one does any of that!"), Madigan's press release had a different emphasis, primarily publicizing the increase in consumer complaints of abuse, harassment, and collection of unowed debts. That was NOT an accident; it was a message. IL AG may have more power to act now, and you want to give them the ammunition.

With regulators, sometimes you can find a lot out by a phone call that you wouldn't get in a letter. It is probably worth a phone call to FTC, NY AG, and IL AG.

American Citizen said...

I’ve decided to remove the link for the Better Business Bureau of Central Illinois as I’ve lost faith in their ability to provide accurate and honest information to consumers. After my first dealing with them, in which they took the couldn’t-care-less attitude by saying that if Afni closes the bogus account that everything would be kosher in their eyes, I had considered removing the link.

Now, after looking at their current report on Afni, I really have no faith in them. This is from the Website of the
BBB of Central Illinois
regarding Afni, Inc.: “Based on BBB files, this company has a satisfactory record with the BBB…The company does not have an unusual volume of complaints, or any government actions involving its marketplace conduct.”


Yes, it really says that. We already know that complaints against Afni are more voluminous than the Encyclopedia Britannica. As for actions against Afni, these aren’t brought by the government but by ordinary folks like you and me: 66 lawsuits against Afni, Inc. for the same violation. Of 85 listed federal district court filings, all but 19 have been filed for violation of the Fair Debt Collection Act.

It’s difficult to view the BBB of Central Illinois as little more than a PR front for Afni, Inc.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. Look at the definition of "strategic deception", in the glossary.

http://www.fas.org/irp/
eprint/deception.pdf

American Citizen said...

After looking at the definitions in that glossary, I might be tempted to say that “fabrication” is a more applicable term for Afni.

American Citizen said...

I just found this blog post from 2006 and it’s truly frightening. It’s from the Peoria Pundit and talks about criminals (yes, actual incarcerated criminals) getting jobs in Peoria businesses. Here is the part that caught my eye:

“Last week, 3rd District Peoria City Councilman Bob Manning asked the city manager’s office to ask Work Force Management to explain what role it has, if any, in bringing convicted criminals on parole to Peoria to work at jobs in Peoria or Peoria area businesses.

“I know for a fact that inmates at Peoria’s downtown work release center—part of the Illinois Department of Corrections—hold jobs at many Peoria businesses. I used to work right alongside some of them at Afni answering phones from customers of the Sprint telephone company. These inmates—who weren’t even paroled—were collecting personal information about callers, including names, addresses, phone numbers and Social Security numbers.”

When I referred to Afni employees as “criminals” earlier I was being sarcastic. Now I realize that I was accidentally being 100% accurate.

Anonymous said...

"Fabrication" would apply to the originally deceptive letters sent out to just anyone with a similar name, claiming that recipient owes the "debt", as well as some of their responses to validation requests, that simply say they "verified" the account with Verizon, with no accompanying proof.

"Manipulation" is a component of AFNI's response to most consumer calls, where they use a combination of psychology (rudeness and abuse, as if they were "wronged") and half-truths to brow-beat and steer consumers toward paying unowed bills. Implying that immediate payment will avoid credit damage, or that you have to either file fraud documentation or pay, on a decade old debt yet, are the most common examples.

Their claims that having SSN information proves they have the right debtor is a mixture of both, as they routinely pull credit reports with SSNs, and there is evidence in multiple reports of their deceptive use of SSN info they couldn't possibly have gotten from Verizon.

My reference to "Strategic Deception" was with respect to their BBB membership. Legitimate businesses use BBB to resolve disputes and improve customer relations. However, BBB can also be misused by businesses so inclined, to intercept complaints before their number causes trouble with regulators, and to enhance their public image, buying credibility that assists them in strong-arming consumers. One such debt collector, ERS, was recently kicked out of BBB, since although they "responded" to complaints, the complaints of abuse and harassment continued unabated, indicating they had no intent to actually change their practices.

Anonymous said...

Since intimidation is a common tool used in concert with deception in the debt collection industry, and since such intimidation and deception are often deliberately trained skills, to attempt to avoid FDCPA liability, it is worth examining intimidation tactics, just as it is worth examining deception tactics.
http://www.jaymorrissey.com/
2008/01/09/the-art-of-verbal-
intimidation-learn-it-and-
fight-back/

Anonymous said...

Example of AFNI "Your parents stole your identity" gambit, sometimes tried when the victim points out that the "account" couldn't be their debt since they were only a minor when it was opened.

They get you to suspect that, and the next move is "You either accuse them and turn them in" (with no evidence but AFNI's "suggestion"), or "You gave them permission so pay us off".

Pure evil.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/304/RipOff0304702.htm

Anonymous said...

Consumer was 16 and living with parents at time of alleged account, never lived at alleged address. Unlikely to have been id theft. No indication address is even recognized, so probably not even relative id theft. More likely usual AFNI "skip-tracing", using loose name matching and geographic region, with SSN acquired via credit report, as is their practice.

Probable use of a "means of identification" (SSN), obtained without authorization, for purposes of attempting to defraud consumer into paying an unowed "debt", thru deceptive collection.

The only id theft here is by AFNI.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/306/RipOff0306390.htm

"Report: #306390
Report: Afni, Inc
Category: Corrupt Companies

Afni, Inc Attempting to collect a debt on a Charter cable account I never had Bloomington Illinois

Afni, Inc
Phone: 866-633-4379
Fax:
PO Box 3427
Bloomington, Illinois, 61702
U.S.A.

Submitted: 2/5/2008 1:40:26 PM
Modified: 2/5/2008 1:40:00 PM
Jmendez
Marquette, Michigan


I had received a letter in the mail today from this collection company called Afni, Inc for a Charter Communication bill totaling 628.15.

I was baffled because I knew I hadn't run up such a bill with this company so I proceeded to call their toll free number to get more information. The lady I spoke to stated that I had an account with Charter back in 2000 and that they were attempting to collect the debt from me for charges that occurred at this time. For one, I knew I never had an account with Charter before 2007. For another, I was 16 back in the year 2000, and I know from my previous customer service experience that a company such as Charter Communications does not provide service for individuals under the age of 18.

The scary thing is, this lady read off my whole social security number to me stating that it was the one provided for this account. Needless to say with all the cases of identity theft in this country these days, I was pretty freaked out. Next she named off the address that was listed for the service provided and I had never lived at such address since I was residing with my parents at the time attending high school.

My immediate thoughts were that this company might be a rip-off trying to collect money fraudulently and I came across this website showing that there are hundreds of other people who are having the same problem as I am with this exact credit collection agency. They need to be stopped, this is ridiculous and people don't need to deal with the stress of having such fraudulent things on their credit record.

Jen
Marquette, Michigan
U.S.A."

Anonymous said...

You are not the only one who has concluded that BBB has been less than useless in this matter.

http://community.9wsyr.com/
forums/thread/2415742.aspx

"01-25-2008, 10:33 PM 2435473 in reply to 2415742
Raspberriskies
Joined on 01-26-2008
Posts 1

Re: AFNI Strikes Again

I recevied a letter in the mail this afternoon from AFNI for a debt that isn't mine. The bill is almost 200 dollars owed to bell atlantic with whom I have never even had an account with. I contacted AFNI by phone and spoke to two very rude people that were of no help they couldn't give me much info on the number listed. They were asking for more personal info from me than I felt comfortable giving. The bill supposedly originated in 1997 and I have never heard of this account before today. I am frustrated and angry that I now have this to deal with. I am sending them a letter demanding them to validate this debt under the FDCPA and notifying them of the SOL in New York State. I was going to contact the BBB but after 500 and some odd complaints why bother?! Any more advice is appreciated "

Anonymous said...

Having received a second bogus AFNI "debt", after they dismissed your first debt, you would be wise to determine the likelihood that this will continue as long as AFNI faces no consequences.

You may be one of the "lucky" ones who have a larger than average skip-trace cross-section, whether thru having a common name, having lived at many addresses, or having lived at addresses (such as colleges) where many others have lived). You need to determine whether this combined with AFNI's current "erroneous" collection tactics will make their harassment a regular part of your life at the rate of 1 to 2 per year, and whether or not this is acceptable to you.

You need to consider how to permanently bring their harassment to a close, whether thru direct legal action, or by forcing action by other regulatory or consumer protection organizations. To protect your interests, this curtailment of their activites might be specific to you (as might result from settlement of a lawsuit, or possibly response to an AG complaint), or it might be more global, affecting their ability to safely continue with their current tactics.

For example, although you (and others) currently dismiss Peoria BBB as useless, you might be in a position to get Peoria BBB audited by their national organization for their failure to maintain appropriate reporting standards. That might put enough pressure on them to report the nature of consumer complaints against their "home-town" client, AFNI, admission of which might lead to AFNI's ouster.

National contact:
http://www.bbb.org/about/contactus.aspx

Since you already know the scope of AFNI's tactics (their "playbook"), you could first request validation in writing to protect your FDCPA rights, and if you get any problem, proceed to contact, document, and record their illegal collection activities. Then file a BBB dispute, including in it specific documentation of their violations of law.

In particular, check your credit reports to verify their initial illegal credit pull, and if they send you the usual "we investigated and closed your account", you push further on that issue, and the deceptive attempts they would likely make to convince you that your SSN (most likely obtained from your credit report) was on the account, that the burden of proof that it is not your "debt" is on you and they have no obligation to validate, that an old debt (over 7 years) might damage your credit, etc.

After they "close your account", you include your claims of illegal use of credit report information for deception and fraud in your BBB complaint, along with their earlier "erroneous" collection attempt, to support your claim that they are routinely pulling credit reports with no good-faith permissible purpose, a violation of law (FCRA). File IL AG and FTC complaints as well.

If, as is likely, Peoria BBB just replies that AFNI already closed your account, so they consider the matter resolved, you file a complaint with national BBB, based on Peoria BBB's failure to warn consumers of AFNI's illegal and deceptive collection tactics. You include your original AFNI complaint, and that there are hundreds of complaints against AFNI (on ripoffreport.com and complaintsboard.com) for similar deceptive and illegal practices, and that you found AFNI's BBB report "deceptive and misleading" since Peoria BBB has no specific warning to consumers about AFNI's reported tactics (not just the generic "industry tips") and maintains AFNI's "satisfactory" membership despite over a thousand complaints.

You may want to contact your local BBB to find whether they have any written guidelines or policies that the local organizations are supposed to follow.

Anonymous said...

How to turn the law on its head, threatening legal action on a 10 year old debt, while maintaining deniability. Just mention the very consumer protection laws you violate, and claim the consumer is the one breaking them. Maybe then when you are called on it, you just claim you were notifying the consumer of their rights, and they must have "misunderstood"! What a joke!

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/306/RipOff0306527.htm

"Report: #306527
Report: VERIZON NORTHWEST - AFNI
Category: Telephone Companies

VERIZON NORTHWEST - AFNI Both companies attempting ILLEGAL & FRAUDULENT collection of over $1.000.00 using 12 yr. old closed account! BLOOMINGTON, ILLINOIS, CONCORD CALIFORNIA
*UPDATE Ex-Employee responds ..AFNI phone scam
VERIZON NORTHWEST - AFNI
Phone: 800-357-7004
Fax:
VERIZON.COM
Nationwide,
U.S.A.

Submitted: 2/5/2008 9:53:17 PM
Modified: 2/11/2008 5:52:43 PM
Warrior woman
aumsville, Oregon

Out of the blue I received this so called 'settlement offer' from afni inc. collections. They state they are making ANOTHER attempt to collect $1221.65 for Verizon Northwest Inc. on a non-verizon phone number I had closed the account on 12 years ago when I moved away from that city!
...
This guy was OBSSESSED by this time with reassuring me that I HAD TO PAY THIS DEBT, BECAUSE THE LAW WOULD MAKE SURE OF IT! Over & over he tried quoting the act of something fair collection something else and congress this and then had the GALL to demand my promised Attorney's name, stating that they could not discuss anything with him when he calls without my permission!!! "

The reply from an alleged AFNI ex-employee, is at least different from the usual troll response, and provides some glimpse into what AFNI may or may not normally have access to from Verizon. AFNI has a call center in San Antonio, Texas.

"Submitted: 2/11/2008 5:04:24 PM
Modified: 2/11/2008 5:52:43 PM Tomknight
Irving, Texas
U.S.A.
Ex-Employee

AFNI phone scam
It's terrible what collection companies attempt to do.

In your case ask the collection company to send you copies of the phone bills that you supposedly did not pay. Check with an Attorney but I believe you have the right to see exactly what you are being billed for prior to paying and bills. AFNI will not be able to send you duplicate bills because Verizon only maintains phone records for 3 years.

Hope this helps,
Let us know how it turns out.

Tom
"

Anonymous said...

http://fdcpalaw.blogspot.com/2008/02/
nj-woman-sues-afni-inc-for-false-credit.html

"Friday, February 15, 2008
NJ Woman Sues Afni, Inc. for False Credit Reporting Threats
...
Voorhees, NJ, February 15, 2008 - The Law Office of Dimitrios Kolovos, LLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of a New Jersey consumer against Afni, Inc., a debt collector based in Bloomington, Illinois alleging that it violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Complaint alleges that Afni falsely threatened to report a debt belonging to the consumer to the credit reporting agencies if it was not paid; it was filed in the federal court for New Jersey on January 31, 2008.

According to the Complaint, Afni contacted the consumer to collect on an old telephone bill from another state. The consumer believed she lived at the address in question approximately eight years ago. However, since the alleged debt is so old, the consumer is unable to determine if any money is even owed.

When Afni attempted to collect on the debt eight years later, the Complaint alleges that Afni’s debt collector told the consumer over the phone that if she did not pay the debt, Afni would report it to the credit reporting agencies. Since very old debts that are delinquent cannot be reported by the credit reporting agencies, the Complaint alleges that Afni made a false threat. ..."

American Citizen said...

In an earlier comment I had mentioned that I lost faith in the BBB of Central Illinois, and after a recent incident involving the Pennsylvania Attorney General, I might be losing faith in that agency, too.

In the 02/24/08 issue of Pennsylvania’s Morning Call newspaper, reporters Sam Kennedy and Tim Darragh wrote the following about a for-profit “college” that was investigated for being a potentially criminal outfit:

The big winners in Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett’s $200,000 settlement with Lehigh Valley College last week were the state and the school’s parent company, Career Education Corp.

Students who had turned to Corbett for help after accusing the Center Valley school of steering them toward high[-]interest loans got nothing. The attorney general’s office said “there wasn’t a legal case to be made for individual restitution.”

So, after a 2½ year investigation into claims that the school misrepresented information about student loans, job placement and the ability to transfer credits — burdening students with crushing debt loads — the state is keeping the whole settlement for itself.

[…]

Career Education, a Chicago area company with about 80 for-profit schools nationwide and annual revenue of $1.7 billion, was able to shield itself from legal jeopardy by agreeing to what financial analysts equate to a slap on the wrist.

Said Joe Goldberg, a former director of the state Department of Consumer Protection, an office under the attorney general’s department, “It would be much more encouraging to see somebody taking much more aggressive action and getting some results for these consumers.”

Corbett did not respond to The Morning Call’s request to speak with him directly.

Pennsylvania’s consumer protection law, created in part to address unfair contracts, allows the attorney general to compensate victims of consumer fraud. According to attorney general spokesman Nils Frederiksen, the Lehigh Valley College students didn’t have a clear case for restitution because they signed contracts for their loans, and they did receive an education.

[…]

Corbett’s office announced the end of its investigation into Lehigh Valley College on Tuesday. Under the terms of the deal, the state dropped its probe. In return, Career Education paid the state $200,000 and admitted no wrongdoing.

According to the agreement, $50,000 will go to the state treasury, $50,000 to the attorney general’s office and the remainder is to be used to create a “Your Money” section on the attorney general’s Web site. That site, scheduled to go online in June, will offer advice to student borrowers, homeowners and others who typically fall prey to financial crimes.

Frederiksen said the settlement puts Career Education “on notice” that the attorney general’s office has its eye on the company, which has two other schools in the Philadelphia suburbs.

[…]

The settlement is “embarrassing,” said consumer advocate and Philadelphia lawyer Irv Ackelsberg. He said it was doubly disappointing because The Morning Call “basically handed” the case to the attorney general’s office. Corbett launched the department’s probe into Lehigh Valley College in the summer of 2005, shortly after The Morning Call published an investigation of the school’s practices.

Among the newspaper’s findings: Lehigh Valley College engaged in aggressive recruiting tactics; its job placement services fell short of expectations; academic standards were lax, and expensive tuition and high-interest loans left some students with overwhelming debt.

[…]

At least one state has sought restitution from Career Education. In California, the state office that oversaw for-profit education companies won a preliminary order for restitution from Career Education’s Brooks Institute of Photography in 2005, for allegedly inflating employment and earning prospects. That case was overturned when a judge ruled that the state office didn’t follow proper procedures. The office has since been eliminated.

Goldberg, who left the Department of Consumer Protection in 1999 after more than six years, said its first priority was recovering money for consumers when he was in charge.

I know a guy who had been a student at this “college” but quickly left when he realized what was going on. Professors routinely “lost” or “misplaced” class projects, homework, and tests, thus issuing zeroes for everything that was “lost”; other professors were marking correct answers wrong. By the end of the semester, students were being told that since their grades were so low, they’d have no choice but to take the class over the following semester — and shell out a few more thousand dollars.

If something like this gets off with a $200,000 “fine” (does it really cost $100,000 to set up a “Your Money” page on a Website that already exists?) I’m not too sure if Afni will even become a blip on Tom Corbett’s radar.

Then again, three years ago the Pennsylvania legislature voted themselves an illegal pay raise during a 2 a.m. session, so corruption isn’t anything new in the Keystone State.

Anonymous said...

This message showed up on a google search as a recent cached page (no longer present), indicating an interest by a business reporter in talking to people dealing with problems with AFNI/Verizon. The original post (on "answerbag") apparently was blocked, possibly because it included an e-mail address. You can find other stories he wrote over the years by searching on "Allan Drury".

" I am a business reporter for Gannett Newspapers and I am interested in speaking with people who have had problems with AFNI?Verizon. I can be reached at adrury@thejournalnews.com or at 914-694-5069. "

Anonymous said...

If you are in Pennsylvania, and you find that you need an attorney who practices in the area of debt collection harrassment, you might check this:

http://www.pennlawyer.com/

This is NOT a personal recommendation (by "anonymous"?), but I just note that he is aware of the range of abuses common in the debt collection industry, and according to his site practices law in that area.

Anonymous said...

Question: Why does a company that clearly has a focus on employee compliance training have such a high rate of consistent consumer complaints of "erroneous" or "misidentified" collection, abusive and deceptive responses from employees including accusations of "lying" or "fraud", refusals to validate or claims they don't have to, etc? If this is the result, what is the "training"?

From Google cached page (now a dead link), originally at:
http://www.pantagraph.com/articles/2008/02/24/money/b2b/doc4761a36faeb32576654307.txt

"B2B
Friday, February 22, 2008 5:18 PM CST

NEWSMAKERS in January

A roundup of the movers and shakers and people on the move in Central Illinois.

Debra J. Ciskey

Debra J. Ciskey, director of compliance at Afni Inc., was named one of the Top 50 Most Influential Collection Professionals of 2007 by Collection Advisor magazine.

Ciskey was recognized for her contributions to the collection industry, primarily in the areas of education and training.

Ciskey has taught nearly 100 seminars on behalf of ACA International for 14 years as a certified instructor and contributes to the development of materials for ACA education programs. She is also a member of the association’s education council.
..."

Treasurer, IL ACA:
http://ilcollectorsassoc.org/board.aspx

http://www.trmanet.org/eventsagendneworleans99.htm
"Workshop 3
Call Center Management: Creative Training for CSRs on Motivating Customers to Pay Their Bills Sponsor: Sandra Castillo Jackson, Spring

Presenter: Debra J. Ciskey and Brian Briggs, Anderson Financial Network, Inc.

In this highly interactive session, participants learned how to analyze customer needs and how to motivate the customer to pay his bill based on appeals to those needs. Also learned were techniques to motivate the customer in a positive, customer service-oriented way. "

From InsideARM:
"Pseudonyms Encouraged at Many Collection Agencies
(11/19/04) In industries as varied as telemarketing, debt collecting, retail sales and hotels, some workers on the front lines of customer contact use pseudonyms to protect their privacy and avoid harassment outside the job. At Afni Inc., a Bloomington, Ill.-based collection agency, all 200 collectors have pseudonyms, said Debra J. Ciskey, director of the performance development group. ..."

Example training tape:
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Answering+machine.-a011011645

Related HTML Amazon download:
http://www.amazon.com/Answering-machine-industry-specific-publications-programs/dp/B00092C4P8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1204145231&sr=8-1

"Debra J. Ciskey" in outer space?
http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/overview/microchip/names2c17.html

Anonymous said...

And as an aside, how much does the common practice of using pseudonyms in the collection industry foster a culture of lack of accountability that rewards those who push beyond the limits of the law?

For example, the most eggregious violators of FDCPA, beyond anything even AFNI does, are known for threatening arrest and criminal prosecution while hiding behind pseudonyms while refusing to disclose even their addresses. Witness FL AG's recent actions against several in the Jacksonville area.

Anonymous said...

Press release from IL AG Lisa Madigan. Failing to validate debts on request, and collecting from the wrong person, top the list of complaints against debt collectors. Again, junk debt buyers are now treated as debt collectors under Illinois law, as they are under federal law.

With 2231 complaints in 2007 against debt collectors in IL, and over 700 BBB complaints against AFNI in 2007, it is likely that a substantial portion of those 2231 debt collector complaints are against AFNI.

Note that the press release singles out "refusing to validate" and "collecting from the wrong person" as the main complaints against debt collectors, just as they are the main complaints against AFNI in most posted consumer reports.

Does AFNI get the message?

http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/
pressroom/2008_02/20080228.html

"For Immediate Release
February 28, 2008 Media Contact: Robyn Ziegler
312-814-3118
rziegler@atg.state.il.us

MADIGAN ANNOUNCES 2007 TOP 10 CONSUMER COMPLAINTS

ID Theft Tops List of Complaints; Credit-Related Problems Place Second

Chicago—Attorney General Lisa Madigan today announced that identity theft complaints claimed the top category on her office’s Top 10 Consumer Complaint List for the second year in a row.

Madigan’s Consumer Protection Division received a near-record 32,577 consumer complaints in 2007. Of those complaints, 6,388, or 20 percent, were related to identity theft.
...
Credit and Collection Complaints

The economic downturn and rising number of home foreclosures pushed complaints related to credit and financial services to the second spot on the Attorney General’s Top 10 list, with 5,267 consumers reporting these problems.

Problems with collection agencies topped the credit category at 2,231 complaints. These complaints included allegations that agencies refused to verify that a consumer owed the debt, even though collectors are legally required to substantiate debts at the consumer’s request. Other consumers complained of agencies failing to properly identify the debtor, resulting in efforts to collect a debt from the wrong person. In addition, many consumers reported instances of abusive collection practices, such as agencies making calls to a consumer’s work place or at inappropriate times, or using threatening language when talking to consumers.
..."

Anonymous said...

No response to request for proof of the debt. Just an extortion attempt: "Pay us or we'll spread your wife's SS# and personal information around." Thugs.

http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/3894/page/16

"17 hours 27 minutes ago by R. Gibson
I called AFNI today on behalf of my wife. Like so many others, we get this bill from AFNI that said she owed Verizon (GTE) a very small amount (and I mean small) from over 9 years ago. ... we originally got a letter from them back last fall, in which I told the girl if they could prove to me that we owed it we would be more than happy to pay it. Guess what, didn't get anything back from them till today. And guess what?! They didn't send me anyting other than a letter saying I owed them...lol.
...
So, anyway...she tries to scare me into paying half the debt because if I don’t it will hurt my wife’s credit...lol..which when she found out that I knew she couldn't do that, she changed tactics and said, "if yo don't pay this, your wifes SS# and all her personal info will be floating around and being accessed by anyone that wants to collect this debt"...basically she's again trying to scare me into paying. Well, once that didn't work either, she tried to tell me that Congress is thinking about passing a law allowing companies like AFNI to put things like this on our credit. HAHA...I told her she needed to find another job because this one wasn't working for her..lol All she was trying to was to scare me, which was better than the other guy who just tried to itimidate me. Either way…they were both intentially lying to me to get me to pay…"

Anonymous said...

Confirmation from Verizon spokesperson that AFNI bought about 5 million bad debts in August 2007. However, the uptick in AFNI/Verizon collection activity started in January 2007, with indications from several sources that they were purchased in summer of 2006. Either Verizon sold some more "debts", or the Verizon spokesperson doesn't have her facts straight.

In addition, despite claiming to have transferred only legitimate bad debts, there are internet reports of AFNI collection of alleged Verizon bad debts that Verizon has directly verified to consumers as paid and closed with no balance due. Other consumer reports claim AFNI collection attempts on Verizon accounts earlier documented as and closed due to fraud.

Despite their claim, Verizon may, in fact, have transferred illegitimate account information to AFNI as "bad debts".

http://articles.lancasteronline.com/local/4/216831

"...
Ranck said several of his clients have been contacted by another firm, AFNI Collections.

Verizon spokeswoman Sharon B. Shaffer confirmed that Verizon sold approximately five million accounts to Bloomington, Ind.-based AFNI in August 2007. AFNI, she said, has collected overdue or never-paid bills for Verizon predecessor companies like GTE, Bell Atlantic and NYNEX.

"Verizon carefully reviewed all accounts before the debt sale to AFNI," Shaffer said. "Certain accounts were marked and set aside so that they weren't included." That included accounts that were part of a bankruptcy, if the account owner had died or the account was fraudulent.

All the accounts, she said, previously went through Verizon's collection process before being sold to AFNI. "It is a common practice for companies to sell old, unpaid receivables," Shaffer said. "It's an acounting practice used by many companies."

She said Verizon encourages customers who receive a bill from AFNI and don't feel they're liable for the account to call AFNI, which "deals fairly and quickly with customers and will help to clear the charges as quickly as possible."

Many of the debts involved are small; Ranck said one client was getting pestered over an old $40 phone bill.
..."

Anonymous said...

Recent press report of original "erroneous" collection letters from AFNI in 2004, allegedly fixed, but collection resumes in 2008. Complaints being filed with Wisconsin state Representative, and Wisconsin Attorney General.

http://www.waff.com/global/
story.asp?s=7881108

"Madison man hassled by collection agency

Updated: Feb 15, 2008 04:55 PM PST

Collection agency hounds man for bills that aren't his

By Elizabeth Gentle
WAFF 48 News Reporter

What would you do if a collection agency hassled you to pay debts you don't owe?

A Madison County man says he's received 4 collection letters on past due bills that aren't his.

February 2004 -- Jimmy Hill received these 2 letters from AFNI Incorporated, a collection agency in Illinois.

The notices show that "Jimmy Hill" with a Madison address owes $956.00 for a past due Cingular bill.

And $385.00 on a late Sprint payment.

Hill contacted the company, explaining to them that the bills don't belong to him.

"Again I called the people they did not know how it happened but again my name was deleted from their files. They assured me again it would be deleted this time and I would not hear from them again," says Hill.

Then last month, the collection agency sent a settlement offer, requesting that hill pay the balance due on the late Cingular bill.

A fourth letter dated February 5 requested the same, this one for the Sprint tab.

Hill became suspicious and concerned about identity theft.

So, he logged on to his computer and ran a background on the agency.

"I found there's over 400 complaints on the Internet on this company across the United States. They are doing similar things with people who have never had business with those phone companies."

Hill contacted state representative Mac McCutcheon and plans to notify Attorney General Troy King about the erroneous collection letters.

To get in touch with Elizabeth, email her at egentle@waff.com."

Anonymous said...

This is a new tack. Instead of directly evading sending validation, send a copy of the bill with the initial contact letter. Only problem is it is still just as erroneous as the rest.

AFNI may be producing a copy of a statement from electronic records purchased with the debt from Verizon. Technically, this is NOT validation and they probably don't call it that, although it may appear to be, as it was not obtained directly from Verizon and sent in response to the consumer's validation request.

Verizon has NOT in any way confirmed that any amount is owed, or that the alleged "debt" is owed by this consumer, and in fact the consumer indicates it's not their account.

Probably means AFNI can't even request validation from Verizon, perhaps due to the purchase contract, or that the fee to do so is more than they want to pay. So they preemptively send a statement printed from their own records, hoping the consumer doesn't know the difference. Deception by what is not said, as it appears to be validation, when it is in fact not.

Maybe their "verification letters" (with nothing included directly from the original creditor) started to get them into trouble.

Again, it puts the erroneously billed consumer in the position of having to prove it isn't their debt, evading validation by AFNI.

From 2001, it may be on the consumer's credit report. The initial contact letter better still have the standard legal boilerplate.

Based on the many ways they attempt it, evading validation appears to be one of AFNI's main tactics.

http://www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/3894/page/16

" 8 hours 45 minutes ago by Shavon F.
Oh Boy! I didn't think I would see so many people complaining about this company. I just received a letter from AFNI, stating that I have a Verizon bill from May 21, 2001 and they even included a Verizon bills. I currently have Verizon and I up to date with my payments. The phone number on the bill is from a different state from which I live in. I called AFNI and has been on hold from almost half the day. They want me to pay $220.30. Just when you think all your bills are accounted for, a scam like this occurs. "

Anonymous said...

Appeals Court decision clarifies "aggravated id theft". Note that this requires use of the "means of identification" of a particular person.

Case involved a person passing fraudulent checks, using a false drivers license. Although there were a number of people with the name on the license, the DL number did not exist. "Aggravated id theft" part of conviction was therefore thrown out.

Fraudulent use of an actual person's name and correct SSN would have met this test.

http://pacer.ca4.uscourts.gov/
opinion.pdf/065169.P.pdf

Anonymous said...

Chris Hoofnagle (with UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law) requested 2 years of FTC data from consumer id theft reports in May 2007 under the Freedom of Information Act. In February 2008, he finally obtained data for 3 random months in 2006, and analyzed it to try to determine what types of businesses were associated with the most id theft complaints, attempting to normalize for size of business where possible. As expected, the largest banks show up on the top of the list, but accurate normalization is difficult without total account information, where only total deposit information was available. Telecom id theft was also a major category.

Note that of all debt collectors, AFNI alone shows up in the top 25 banks and other businesses reported in connection with id theft. In addition, among all debt collectors named in FTC id theft complaints (AFNI, Asset Acceptance, NCO, TRS Recovery?, Allied Interstate, Midlan[sic] Credit), AFNI is at the top.

Keep in mind that this data is for 2006, when AFNI's BBB complaint rate was relatively low. Chris has requested, but not yet received, FTC id theft data from 2007, for which AFNI's BBB complaint rate jumps drastically (reported over 700 for last year, but only over 1000 for past 3 years).

Prediction: We can expect AFNI's ranking on the 2007 report to shoot up, possibly into the "Top 10", among the largest banks and telecom companies.

http://repositories.cdlib.org/bclt/lts/44

Anonymous said...

A company called AFNI, Inc. P.O. Box 3472 in Bloomington, Il. 61702 is a third party collections company.

They buy old worthless, incorrect and often out of statute of limitations debt portfolios.

Recently, ANFI, Inc. sent out a second notice collection bill on an old phone account through Verizon California Inc. they said I owed in 2001. Note I never received a first notice.
It struck me funny that they reaged the debt to 2007, which is against the law also.
They offered to settle for half of what they said I owed, about $45.00.

Dumbfounded I knew I never had any account of any kind with Verizon, so I called Verizon Cal. Inc. on Feb. 26, 2008, and spoke to Eric. He looked in his data base for my name, SS# and the phone number. He said there was nothing about me in any of their files. He also said the phone number wasn't even a Verizon number.

So I did a phone number search at my own expense and found out what I already Knew, it was not mine.

I checked my credit reports and found in violation of the Fair Debt Reporting Act they also placed this bill on my consumer’s credit reports without ever notifying me and then reaging it to 2007.

I checked other web sites and found out a lot about AFNI, Inc. scamming people, not just a few but hundreds.

I then disputed the bill by Cert.Letter, with return receipts.Over $35.00in mail. Also, I filed with my state’s Attorney General and the IL. A.G., the FTC, and the BBB. The IL.
BBB says that AFNI, INC. says it is my bill from 2001, but they AFNI, Inc., have not validated it to me per my letters as required by law.
Even if it were mine, it is out of SOL in California as it is over 6 years old, and not mine. I am not sending them one red cent and will sue them if they continue to report this on my CR or sell this worthless paper to another debt agency.

I have heard to NEVER, NEVER call AFNI, Inc., as they will capture your phone number and start calling and harassing you; AND NEVER give them your Information as they will use anything against you.

I am contacting the media to add my story to hundreds of others that AFNI, Inc. is trying to scam.

For More Information on the AFNI, Inc. scam check BudHibbs.com or simply type in consumer complaints AFNI, Inc. into your search the web box. There are hundreds of complaints against these scam artists.


Diana

Anonymous said...

Nothing requires that they notify you before placing even bogus negative information on your credit reports. In fact, they have little liability for even erroneously reported information until you catch it, dispute it thru the credit reporting agencies, and they "verify", failing to correct or remove.

That is the problem with current law, and AFNI in particular is taking advantage of it, "shotgun" billing anyone they might remotely connect to some old account, being sloppy about reporting, deceiving consumers who call, evading dispute and validation requests, and their other legal obligations, and intentionally shifting the burden to clean up their mess onto consumers who owe them nothing, to minimize their costs and increase their profits. They have 5 million of these alleged Verizon "accounts", so it's just a numbers game.

Send a letter disputing the alleged debt, and requesting validation from the original creditor, mailed certified return receipt requested. On confirming their receipt, dispute their bogus reporting thru the credit reporting agencies, again via mail, certified return receipt requested. If they "verify", as they likely will, file complaints with FTC, IL AG, your state AG, and BBB.

Odds are, only IL AG will produce any positive result, so start searching for an attorney with expertise in FDCPA and FCRA litigation to sue them. Both FDCPA and FCRA allow awarding of reasonable attorneys fees if you win. The right attorney will have already sued or settled with them on other cases, and be willing to take your case on contingency.

Also check your FICO scores, and request an Adverse Action Notice from any creditors who jack your interest rates up. This should identify what credit report a creditor used in making its decision, and you can then check to see if AFNI's disputed bogus information is on that report to help show damages and confirm that AFNI's negligence in reporting is the cause.

Lest you think that paying them this "tribute" will fix your credit problems, it is more likely you will get stuck with this re-aged bogus negative "account" for the next 7 years. In fact, if you sued them after first paying, they would probably blame YOU for failing to dispute and being the cause of your own credit damage, or claim that your payment was an admission that the debt was really yours. They are proud of their training and "compliance" record.

Anonymous said...

A picture of why Verizon and AFNI have problems with billing "mistakes".

http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=338761

"SlackmasterK
I write my OWN blogging engines Sat, Sep 8 2007 11:45 PM

Cybermagellan wrote:
---------------
Ah, spoken like a true Verizon employee....

Sorry I worked for AFNI (A Verizon outsourcer) for two weeks (long enough to finish training). "Not Outsourcing, Upsourcing!" Bullcrap...

Anyways I did support for their VZW.com site and it was horrible, imagine 100+ employees using one login and password for the billing system....

"Verizon wont give us anymore"

Imagine 4 billing systems merging into one billing system, but adding customers to all 4 of those systems, knowing that they drop billing records...

"Verizon manages that, we just field phone calls"

Everything was "Verizon fails, or Verizon doesn't allow, or Verizon makes it that way"....there was a girl there that had just left the AOL Retention Department that we had here in Tucson....thank god she pointed me over here...
--------------

Actually, I'm a contractor. I could dive into attacks over AOL's quality of service and the stupifying effect they're having on the American people, but I'll take the high road unlike some people I could mention (I hate to point fingers, but you)

I actually work in Verizon Business on a large contract that's not connected in anyway to FIOS or Wireless. Having seen some of our websites, I'll agree they need more people like me. Too bad I don't have the bandwidth to work on all of them.

Imagine 55 billing systems being merged into 5 billing systems, which are to be merged into one billing system with a universal front- and back-end structure. Imagine not dropping records in the process.

Now, imagine being able to look at the big picture and lead the process with a watchful eye, as business paradigms are redefined.

This is what we do.
"

Anonymous said...

Note parallels with AFNI's misrepresentations regarding validation of old debts, and in particular, the attempts to claim "it's too late to dispute, unless you can prove fraud".

Velderman v Midland Credit Management
www.michbar.org/opinions/
district/2005/092905/28863.pdf
"...
Before the court is plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability with respect to the FDCPA claim asserted in Count I (docket no. 22).
...
II. Plaintiff’s claim
Plaintiff contends that defendant’s collector, “Melissa”, made false, deceptive or misleading statements during a telephone conversation with plaintiff on October 29, 2003. Specifically, plaintiff contends that defendant violated the FDCPA when Melissa told him that “because he had not previously disputed the debt to [defendant] in writing, he had waived his right to dispute owing the debt (other than for a dispute based on fraud) and had conceded liability for the debt.” Plaintiff’s Brief at 9. Plaintiff relies on 15 USC §§ 1692e(2)(A) and (10), which provide in
pertinent part:
A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section: . .
. .
(2) The false representation of ---(
A) the character, amount, or legal status of any debt. . . .
(10) The use of any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt . . .
15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2)(A) and (10).
“Congress enacted the FDCPA in 1977 ‘to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors’ and to insure that debt collectors who refrain from abusive practices are not competitively disadvantaged.” McCabe v. Crawford & Co., 272 F. Supp. 2d 736, 741 (N.D. Ill.
2003); 15 U.S.C. § 1692(e).
...
One does not become legally responsible for a debt just because he does not respond to a dunning letter. See, §1692(g)(c). Plaintiff may or may not have incurred a debt, but it was not the failure to respond to the validation letter that created the liability. Neither does the amount of time that has expired since a creditor first claimed a debt was owed create a liability.

A person’s failure to respond to a debt validation letter does not even give rise to a presumption under the law that he is liable on the debt. And if there is no presumption of a debt owed, there can be no requirement that the punitive debtor overcome the presumption by showing fraudulent activity on the part of the creditor.

In short, if the debt collector were to take this matter to court, it would bear the responsibility of proving the debt.

As discussed above, Melissa was incorrectly representing that the protection afforded a debt collector to assume a debt is valid was a statement of what the law is concerning the enforceability of a debt in court. These statements, on their face, would have appeared to many consumers, and certainly to the “least sophisticated consumer,” to be a representation of the legal status of his debt which he would face henceforth, and certainly if he were taken to court. This point was driven home by Melissa’s continual representations that the debt was an old one and that since a considerable amount of time had gone by, the debt was now established. Faced with all these representations by a person in the business of debt collecting who presumably knows what she is talking about, the least sophisticated consumer could not be expected to guess that his legal status would become any less onerous if the case progressed to the next level, which, in this litigious society, virtually any consumer would assume to be a lawsuit.

After viewing the factual evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, the court concludes that there is no genuine issue of material fact that the statements of defendant’s collector (Melissa) violated § 1692e(2)(A) and (10). Given the litigious nature of our society, it would be neither bizarre nor idiosyncratic for the least sophisticated consumer to believe after listening to Melissa (1) that his failure to dispute the debt within thirty days of receiving the debt validation letter made him legally responsible for the debt and (2) that at this late stage only by proving fraudulent activity on the part of the bank could he show his “dispute was valid.”

V. Conclusion
For the reasons set forth above, plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment (docket no. 22) will be GRANTED.

Anonymous said...

Note the reference by Debra Ciskey to neurolinguistics.

Note that Ms. Ciskey moved into her position as Compliance Director at AFNI from a prior position in training.

Also note from consumer reports AFNI's use of suggestion ("maybe it was id theft", "it looks like your relative stole your identity" etc.), leading ("you probably forgot, but we can take care of this right now before it affects your credit"), maintaining control (standard hard-sell sales tactic), and use of deception, while evading validation. The consistency of such reports indicates employee training in the techniques employed.

(As an aside, one of the reasons for employing ACH, and ACH-CD in intelligence analysis is to prevent cognitive biases from getting one stuck on an erroneous path, particularly when your adversary is intentionally trying to do just that.)

http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0198-373708/Finding-the-Right-Words-Language.html#abstract

"Industry & Market Reports
Publication Date: 01-DEC-06

Finding the Right Words: Language is the key tool of collectors. Using it properly can spell the difference between getting paid or going home empty handed.

Publication: Collections & Credit Risk
Publication Date: 01-DEC-06
Format: HTML
Delivery: Immediate Online Access
Author:
..."

From the Report Description:
"...
In short, "to be a good collector you must have and develop very good communication skills," says Ron Brown, president of CSI Group, an Oklahoma City collection agency.

Brown has spent more than 30 years applying the principles of neurolinguistics -- the study of how the brain comprehends and produces language -- to the world of collections in an effort to improve the communications skills of his collectors and of the business as a whole through classes he teaches on the subject.

Others have used decades of collection experience to hone scripts with words and questions they know have proven effective in collection calling. "They may be using [neurolinguistics] and don't realize it," notes Debra Ciskey, director of the performance development group with Bloomington,..."

Anonymous said...

Here are some comments directly from Ron Brown on using Neurolinguistics to bias consumers into paying debt collectors. It appears that Ron Brown has taught training seminars for ACA, as has Ms. Ciskey.

In this methodology, debt collectors are trained to treat consumers as "children". Children do not know their legal rights, and are not encouraged to exercise them. The debt collector is the expert. In fact, why even mention that they have any legitimate reason to do anything other than just turn over their account number?

This form of manipulation might lead the debt collector directly into FDCPA violation territory, as it is targetted directly at unsophisticated consumers. As observed by Judge Brenneman, in Velderman v Midland Credit Management, misrepresentations made by a debt collector must be weighed as to their likelyhood of deceiving the least sophisticated consumer.

"Faced with all these representations by a person in the business of debt collecting who presumably knows what she is talking about, the least sophisticated consumer could not be expected to guess that his legal status would become any less onerous if the case progressed to the next level ..."

Failure of a deception to extract payment does not undo the violation, nor does it absolve the perpetrator. The deceived get taken, probably without realizing it, leaving those who catch the deception to do the suing. That was Congress's intent.

http://www.acainternational.org/
collections.aspx?cid=9158

"Listen Up
Neurolinguistics can help consumers say “yes”
By Ron Brown, IFCCE
Sep 28, 2006
Neurolinguistics can help consumers say “yes”

Neurolinguistics, a science taught and used by various interrogators to gain information, is concerned with how human beings process, store, retrieve and respond to sensory input. Understanding neurolinguistics requires understanding how the brain responds to certain stimuli, and can help collection professionals and skiptracers better perform their jobs.

Collection professionals can begin by applying neurolinguistics to the first step of a collection call: Identify the consumer.

Ask for someone by first name, such as “Bob?” The natural reaction of most people will be to say, “Yes.” This “yes” comes from the part of the brain that has an automatic reflex and loves the word “yes” and hates the word “no.”

With this knowledge, we can make a collection call knowing that if we use no salutation and just ask for the person by first name (“Bob?”), we have a good chance of getting a “yes.” If we then follow up with first name and last name (“Bob Jones?”), 90 percent of the time we will get another “yes” and have properly identified the consumer without any problems. It’s just the way the mind works.

Neurolinguistics can also be applied to the second step of a collection call: Identify yourself.

The way you identify yourself creates a word picture in the consumer’s brain of who you are and even what you look like. Collectors should use Mr. or Ms. before their name, as it lets the consumer know the call is for a business purpose. For instance: “Ms. Jones, this is Mr. Brown with …”

In the skiptracing process, the skiptracer can get a much better response by using a name that ends in “y” or “ie.” For example, consumers will be more open with “Ronnie” than they would with “Mr. Brown” or even “Ron.” Names ending in “ie” send a message that the person is possibly young, small and inexperienced. We are all taught from an early age to “help” this type of person. Therefore, names like Judy, Bobby, Billie and Mary are great names for skiptracers.

It is equally important that collectors and skiptracers know the power of three words dominant in neurolinguistic studies: “no,” “why” and “because.”

“No” is the first word we hear as small children that has meaning. Our parents may have screamed it at us: “No, no, no!” We come to dislike the word—we don’t want to hear it and we don’t want to say it. Many times, we hesitate to make a call or ask a question because we do not want to risk hearing “no.” Professional collectors and skiptracers must overcome their fear of this word before they can be successful in this industry.

The second powerful word for collectors is “why.” “Why” is a word that helps us get to the root of a problem. Anytime someone answers in the negative, the natural response should be “Why?” or “Why not?” After asking “Why?”, we need to stop and listen intently for the response. For example:

Collector: “What time today can you have the balance in our office?”

Consumer: “I can’t.”

Collector: “Why?”

Now listen to what the consumer says and respond appropriately. The reason may be as simple as, “I don’t get paid until Friday.”

The third word collectors need to consider is “because.” By itself, “because” has no meaning—it is not a reason. The next time someone says “because,” go beyond the word and find the real reason for not paying the debt. You can also use this word to your advantage as it sends a subconscious message to the brain that “what is coming is a good and valid reason.”

Thank your parents for that neurolinguistic conditioning! How many times were we told, “Because I said so and that’s the only reason you need!” when we were children?

Neurolinguists believe you stand more than a 30 percent chance of getting someone to do what you ask if you preface the request with the word “because.” For instance: “Because I know you want to get this matter cleared up, we must have the balance in our office today.”

By applying neurolinguistics to collection practices and paying close attention to the language consumers use, collection professionals can improve both their collection and skiptracing skills.

Ron Brown, IFCCE, is an ACA International Certified Instructor and president and CEO of CSI Group in Oklahoma City. He is a member of ACA’s Education Council."

Anonymous said...

Background:
http://www.pantagraph.com/articles/2006/07/28/
business/doc44c946e94b2d8986554285.txt

Anonymous said...

Example of neurolinguistics applied to high pressure sales of alarm systems. Note that each consumer response is guided thru controlled emotional manipulation.

http://consumerist.com/369490/
the-10-lies-a-door+to+door-alarm-salesman-tells

Anonymous said...

Articles on "car title loans", with similar interest rates to payday loans. Now you can dig yourself in a hole, and lose your car at the same time!

Who owns LoanMax? AFNI.

http://www.pantagraph.com/articles/
2008/03/03/news/
doc47cc173864bab601753655.txt

http://wbztv.com/consumer/
Car.Title.Loans.2.579364.html

Anonymous said...

Three views of AFNI, thru employees:
http://www.jobvent.com/
companyBrowse.php?CompanyID=5546

Anonymous said...

In Bob Sullivan's story on Chris Hoofnagle's report on FTC consumer id theft complaints from 2006, Chris notes that AFNI had more FTC id theft complaints than PayPal and EBay, but assumes these are actual fraudulently opened accounts. He naively notes that "collection agencies could act as an early warning sign for identity theft."

That would require honesty beyond their own self-interest.

The consumer internet forums caught the "early warning sign", way back in January 2007, recognizing that AFNI was sending bills to the wrong people. Earlier forum discussions prior to 2007 had already converged on this pattern in AFNI's practices, even before the 2007 surge. BBB still hasn't admitted this, maintaining that AFNI is a member in good standing.

http://redtape.msnbc.com/
2008/02/which-banks-hav.html

"Which firms have the most ID theft victims?
Posted: Friday, February 29 at 05:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan
...
• Many consumers blame collection agencies for their bouts with ID theft, probably because often their first indication of the crime is a call from an agency. The AFNI Inc. collection agency cracked the top 20 companies in the FTC data, receiving more complaints than eBay or PayPal. To Hoofnagle, that represents an opportunity. "The collection agencies could act as an early warning sign for identity theft," he said.
"

Anonymous said...

Classic AFNI skip-trace/"id theft" pattern. Old "debt", past SOL, not reportable. Wrong person, never even lived in city, yet they spout SSN and DOB as "proof".

They also spout various other names, which indicate they "skip-traced" (possibly even traced based on numbers called), even if erroneously, and that they are fishing for "you gave them permission", or "id theft, you don't turn them in, you have to pay us", on an out of statute, non-reportable alleged debt.

To collect these old questionable "debts", they have to maintain some credible threat to have a chance to collect, maintaining "control" when the consumer could just say "never contact me again" if they became aware of their rights.

May actually involve 3 "errors" by AFNI: 1) Alleging the "debt" is owed by some person traced to the account address not on the original account; 2) That person is then confused with this consumer, probably by similar name match; 3) They pull SSN and DOB from credit reports on the specific people they actually send letters to.

All of the "errors" center on AFNI's own collection procedures. This scenario appears far more likely in the many similar cases reported than that some stranger at the alleged address actually stole this consumer's full identity.

Consumer didn't buy it, so they were told to send in dispute forms. Looks like AFNI decided not to push this one, since they notified consumer the account was closed.

Assuming SSN and DOB came from pulling a credit report, then AFNI had NO legitimate permissible purpose at the time they pulled it.

Just another example of when AFNI has SSN and DOB, it is NOT evidence of anything but their own illegal activities.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/320/RipOff0320141.htm

"In January 2008 I received a settlement offer on a 95-96 Verizon North cell phone bill for an account I never opened. I have never lived in Metropolis, IL and didn't have my first cell phone until 1998. The total bill was $4,169.07 and the offer was to pay half or $2,084.54.

I explained that it wasn't my bill and they stated the person opening the account had my social security number and date of birth. The Afni rep spouted off my ss# and date of birth so I was concerned that Verizon would share this information with another company. Afni provided a list of people's last names related to the bill. I didn't recognize them. I was told to send dispute forms to them. Before I sent any documentation to them, I received a letter from them stating that the account was closed.

The account has never been reported to any of the three reporting agencies.

Peebels
Crystal Lake, Illinois
U.S.A.
"

Anonymous said...

It sounds like common sense, but even debt collectors recognize that it takes more than some name match to correctly identify a person.

AFNI's "skip-tracing" is NOT "prudent" identification, hence their collection letters, and credit pulls, based on it are NOT excusable (not bona fide error) when "erroneous". Might be worth looking into "skip-tracing" training, and what is considered "industry practice".

If, say, ACA, or Lexis-Nexis, had a training course in "skip-tracing", and it addressed industry responsibility for avoiding damage to consumers thru misidentification, then AFNI's failure to follow such industry norms might undermine any defense based on bona fide error.

http://www.insidearm.com/forum/
messageview.cfm?
catid=9&threadid=7205&enterthread=y

"SBT - what you just described IS skiptracing, so of course any prudent skiptracer would "verify" whatever information they find on those social networks.

After all, if you're looking for "Steve Taylor", chances are you'll need several additional identifiers to narrow down your search. "

Anonymous said...

It appears that in 2005 Accurint (owned by Lexis Nexis) restricted disclosure of complete SSNs and DLs to some customers, still making them available to classes of customers including debt collectors, while requiring them to "certify implementation of enhanced security procedures" to maintain access to full SSNs and DLs.

1) If AFNI obtained SSNs from Accurint, and routinely disclosed them to consumers calling in to question alleged debts, would this meet "enhanced security procedures"?

2) If AFNI met such "enhanced security procedures", is it likely that Accurint would require full tracability of the specific individual requesting Accurint data that included full SSNs, and that such identification would be obtainable from Accurint by subpoena?

http://www.faq.accurint.com/

Anonymous said...

Recent report that consumer contacted the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Illinois Attorney General regarding 2 "faulty claims" from AFNI, and was referred to Lisa Anderson's direct phone number.

CPD claimed they were not investigating AFNI, only "had a meeting with them", but on calling Ms. Anderson and indicating they were referred from CPD, the account was immediately closed.

There appears to be an "understanding" between AFNI and IL AG.

http://www.complaintsboard.com/search/AFNI/page/61

"Afni, Inc.
Posted: 2008-02-26 by alexandra mills
Fraudulent 11 year old verizon bill!

Hi, I was just able to successfully dismiss 2 faulty claims brought on by Afne collection services. Here are the things you can do.
1. I contacted someone at the consumer protection agency directly because I was under the impression that AFNI was getting investigated for misconduct, he told me that they weren't but that he has had a meeting with them and gave me a direct number for a person at AFNI to contact. When I called this person I told her that Consumer services gave me her phone number and that the claim against me was false, she immediately removed the claim against me and sent me a letter confirming so. if you want to try contacting her about your bill here is her information: Lisa Anderson AFNI 800-767-2364 (ext.3066)
2.if you receive a letter from Afne with a claim that is not valid them don't wait, you have to dispute the claim within 30 days, respond to them during that time VIA REGISTERED MAIL letting them know that you are disputing the validity of this debt. Check your records to see if you have any documentation confirming your claim, but if you don't it's ok.
3. immediately contact the office of the Attorney General, consumer protection division. Write them a letter stating your AFNI account number and describing the situation.
Consumer Protection Division
Office of the Attorney General
500 Second Street, Springfield, IL 62706."

Anonymous said...

Consumer report of AFNI employee threatening arrest, a clear FDCPA violation.

http://creditboards.com/forums/
index.php?showtopic=323715

"...
The sad thing is, it's for a collection that is under $400 and legitimately is not mine. (It's for a sprint PCS phone, in a state I've never even visited judging by the area code) I've been fighting it for a minimum of 5 years, long before I've ever heard of CB.. and I have a papertrail of every dispute with the CRA's and of every communication with AFNI.

I have a tape recording of a phone call where as soon as the person on the phone mentioned a bill due, I notified them that the call is being recorded. (in florida, all parties involved must be notified of the recording) He said "thats fine" as acknowledgement and the call proceeded. I have him ON TAPE saying he was going to send the sherrif out and have me arrested, and that he was going to put a lein on my house (I don't even own a house.)
..."

Anonymous said...

FTC consent agreement with Reed Elsevier (Lexis Nexis, Seisint, Accurint), over security breaches that allowed id thieves access to data that included SSNs and DLs.

Note that the sloppy security practices (shared login ids and passwords) are similar to those reported by the ex-AFNI employee for access to Verizon's system.

http://www.ftc.gov/opa/
2008/03/datasec.shtm

"...
In the FTC’s action against data brokers Reed Elsevier (REI) and Seisint, the complaint alleges that REI - through its LexisNexis data broker business - and Seisint collect and store in databases information about millions of consumers, including names, current and prior addresses, dates of birth, drivers license numbers and Social Security numbers. They obtain information about consumers from credit reporting agencies and other sources, and sell products customers use online to find and retrieve the information from their databases. The companies relied on user IDs and passwords (or “user credentials”) to control customer access to consumer information in their databases.

The complaint alleges that, among other security failures, they allowed customers to use easy-to-guess passwords to access Seisint’s “Accurint” databases. The databases contained sensitive consumer information, including drivers license numbers and Social Security numbers. Identity thieves exploited these security failures, and through multiple breaches obtained access to sensitive information about at least 316,000 consumers from Accurint databases. The identity thieves used the information to activate credit cards and open new accounts, and made fraudulent purchases on the cards and new accounts. REI acquired Seisint in late 2004, and the breaches continued for at least nine months afterward, during which time REI controlled Seisint’s practices.
,,,"

Anonymous said...

Note that in the Accurint security policies noted above, although "pre-qualified" "collection companies acting on their own behalf" were one category with access to complete SSN and DL numbers, that other customers have access to the first 5 digits of SSNs, and can search on whole SSNs.

Thus, even if AFNI did NOT have full SSN access thru Accurint, they would have first 5 digits, and they have been reported to require entry of the last 4 digits when consumers are directed to their website to dispute a bogus debt. Bingo! They now have all 9, and can verify it by searching Accurint using all 9.

Of course, if the 5 digits used to set up the on-line AFNI "account" were themselves obtained from using Accurint for skip-tracing, they are no more proof of the identity of the original person on the account than the accuracy of the skip-trace, and we have seen how inaccurate that can be. It is still NOT SSN data from Verizon account information, even if AFNI represents it to be.

http://www.faq.accurint.com/

Anonymous said...

AFNI is still fabricating "verification" in response to validation request letters.

http://www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/3894/page/17

"...
So I mailed them the letter requesting verification etc.

In late Feb. 08 they received a reply stating they had verified the debt. and attached a printout which only had their phone number and the amount of the debt ...that's it no official Verizon letterhead, no bill, nothing.

So I called them asking them what this printout was. They said it was verification -- I asked them what the charge was for because it did not list it. They said verizon -- at that point I explained that I could see it was Verizon but I wanted to know what service? I.E. Local Phone Service, Long Distance etc.

He said he did not know but since the debt had been verified I had to pay. So then I asked if I could get an itemized bill or some sort of bill from Verizon showing the missed payment or showing what the service was. He said cause the debt was so old they did not have anything else. But that the debt was verified and it was a long legal process to do that.

He said I had to provide proof that I did not owe the money. I kept explain how do you I prove something if you cannot tell me what service I need to prove I didn't have.
..."

Anonymous said...

Perfect example of AFNI "skip-tracing" and billing based on address only.

Owners of chains of payphones don't "live" at the addresses where the phones are sited, nor are payphone bills normally sent to the address of the phone location (that's just in the records to handle maintenance), so to then bill someone who DOES live there indicates AFNI is billing a person they MUST KNOW is not on the account.

AFNI's claim is actually rather laughable.

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/
debt/afni.html

"Herman of Seffner FL (09/11/07)
I manage a mh park and in front of my office there was a pay phone that I had nothing to do with the company that had the phone removed for what I have no clue ,this pay phone company had to be paying verizon because it was there for over 8 years now this collection company is harassing me and threating to destroy my credit and I have nothing with this phone company just because the phone was in front of the property that i worked we have never recieved a bill from verizon now only these threats from this from this collection company. I think the phone company name was pay phones of florida but for sure verizon knows there name because they have recieved payments from this company for years thank you

they are harassing over the phone and threating destroy my credit when I have a account with verizon wireless for many years in good standing "

Anonymous said...

A common "optimization problem" in either scams or illegal debt collection tactics, is how far to push across the line of the law. Optimally, the scammer would maximize return while minimizing potential damage from getting caught, especially avoiding a "knockout punch" as happened to CAMCO.

In this game, the scammer has an advantage over the unsophisticated consumer in knowing what actions may trigger regulatory action or result in legal action, whereas the consumer typically knows little about what scammer threats are real or bluff, or at what point legal action against the scammer is likely to prevail. If each side plays it's best strategy given this unbalanced knowledge, scammer on one side, ensemble of consumers on the other, the long term play may be regarded as settling out to an "equilibrium", even though on the consumer side each play is by a different consumer, and the play-to-play adaptation or optimization is all one-sided.

This "Nash Equilibrium", if guided only by the goal of profit maximization but not legal compliance, may result in an optimal strategy including continued systematic violations of law, but where proving those violations is either too difficult, too expensive, or too uncertain compared to the probable penalties, to justify legal action. The debt collector, regulator, and consumer strategies are all locally optimal, even if the result is on-going illegal actions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Nash_equilibrium

Unlike with CAMCO, where on top of the many complaints of billing consumers for unowed debts, reported violations included threats of legal action or arrest which are illegal on their face, optimal illegal tactics would always include an element of uncertainty, where there might be the possibility that the action could turn out to be legal or excusable even if it seldom really is.

In fact, the expected complaint profile of a company intentionally engaged in illegal activity as a long term business strategy is that the same types of complaints of illegalities occur, unabated, despite repeated inquiries or forwarding of complaints thru various regulatory channels. The adaptation in response to complaints is not, for example, to change employee training to prevent prohibited behavior, but to more effectively handle complaints to reduce their visibility and manage their risk.

Note that "AFNI vs. Consumer" is a repeated game from AFNI's side, but usually a one-off game to the consumer, and hence gives considerable advantage to AFNI due to unequal information (experience on what works and what they can get away with) compared to most of the many consumers.

This inherent knowledge inequality was noted above (by Judge Brenneman in Velderman v Midland Credit Management) in his discussion of the FDCPA prohibition of deception, and the "least sophisticated consumer" standard.

"Repeated AFNI vs. Consumer" should quickly become tit-for-tat, a game AFNI would be wise to avoid, as it gives a particular consumer the opportunity to learn and respond more effectively. Another type of action to be avoided that shifts the Nash Equilibrium, would be news reports or regulatory agency press releases, which undermine the effectiveness of deception and bluff. Image matters.

Alternatively, since in the absence of good-faith compliance with law, the choice of tactics is driven by optimization of profit vs. risk if caught, increasing the penalty for violations of law will shift the Nash Equilibrium back toward legality.

To be effective as a deterrent, this requires net penalties in excess of net ill-gotten gain, so that the net mathematical expectation of illegal actions is negative even when most illegal acts do not result in a lawsuit.

Although the penalties possible following a consent agreement may be sufficient to discourage illegal acts, barring that, the $1000 per action FDCPA statutory penalty, set several decades ago and not raised since, is not sufficient today to result in adequate policing of debt collection activity, or we would not be seeing such blatant violations.

Anonymous said...

Note that the above equilibrium exists because of the existing uncertainty as seen by either consumers or regulators. It is this information advantage available to the debt collector that allows and encourages illegal activity (bluffing or deceit), and hence continuing the game in the current mode requires limiting information available to the other players. Hence even "close the account" if seriously challenged, but "never validate". Never reveal the degree of bluff.

This is a serious weakness in the existing FDCPA validation requirements, as it channels all validation thru the debt collector, placing no direct legal requirements on the original creditor. Even blatant id theft cases are problematical should the debt collector choose to act in bad faith.

This shifts if either: uncertainty is reduced by access to independently verifiable documentation (perhaps directly from the original creditor under FACTA, or thru discovery or subpoena from both debt collector and original creditor); or if the payoff or risk of penalty shifts due to higher punitive damages, regulatory action, class action suit, etc, sufficient to overcome the advantage due to the one-sided uncertainty.

Anonymous said...

Another snippet of an interview with Hoofnagle regarding his analysis of 2006 FTC id theft reports.

His assumption is that "id theft" should be marked against the original creditor as closer to the root of the original theft, and the point at which id theft should be blocked, not a later debt collector trying to collect on the account. Yet of all debt collectors, AFNI stands out, so he assumes from the FTC categorization of the complaints that this is "misreporting" by consumers.

The on-line forums paint a different picture, where detailed consumer complaints place AFNI itself at the center of suspected "id theft", just as literally reported in the FTC data. To consumers, fabricating false claims of owing a debt IS "id theft", when their identity information is falsely claimed to be associated with the alleged "debt". This is reinforced when they find no delinquent account under their name or SSN thru the original creditor.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?
f=/c/a/2008/02/28/BUC7V9OV6.DTL&
feed=rss.technology

"...
Major retailers - including Target, Sears, Wal-Mart, Dell Computer and Macy's - also were in the top 25. And there was a collections agency, AFNI, which Hoofnagle said shouldn't have been named.

If consumers get a call from a collections agency, he said, "they list it as the entity where the identity was stolen." When you ask them who stole their data, "they write Visa."
..."

Anonymous said...

Whereas "gut feeling" combined with an awareness of possible deceptive tactics may be the best first-line defence for consumers confronted with economic fraud and deception, a more systematic approach to detecting deception is needed by consumer protection and regulatory agencies, especially where companies are engaging in tactics to hide or obfuscate their deceptive activities.

http://www.mitre.org/news/digest/
advanced_research/05_04/
ar_counter_decision.html

"Fooled Again? Developing Counter-deception Decision Support
May 2004
...
Deception—whether by a con artist or an enemy force—is an everyday occurrence. But while deception is commonplace, systematic methods for spotting it are not, partly because common reasoning strategies aid the deceivers. MITRE researchers Frank Stech and Chris Elsaesser, co-principal investigators of a project called "Counter-deception Decision Support," are attempting to automate deception detection, a process that should help analysts and decision-makers decide if deception is afoot.
...
"Deception" is fooling someone for one's own advantage. "Counter-deception" means knowing how to detect deception. People get deceived mainly because they believe they know what's going on and that they're too smart to be tricked. All of us have biases in our modes of thinking that make us overestimate our capabilities to explain and predict behavior. People who automatically consider the possibility of deception usually appear paranoid. Considering the possibility of deception, however, is the first step to detecting it.

Once you become suspicious that you're being fooled, it can be hard to know or describe exactly why. "Having a hunch" isn't an argument that will persuade the powers-that-be to change a major decision. Nevertheless, there are systematic processes for counter-deception. For example, a "theory of spoof unmasking," based on the work of World War II uber-deception analyst R. V. Jones, helps isolate, clarify, and quantify one's suspicions.

"It's the rare individual who does counter-deception thinking intuitively," says Stech. "That's why we believe there should be decision-support theories, process models, and reasoning support tools. There's too much going on in elaborate deceptions to try doing this in your head without some kind of analytic reasoning help. We can all be fooled, at least some of the time, as P.T. Barnum said."
...
The problem with ACH is that the typical human doesn't have the capability to consider the amount of evidence that goes into developing and analyzing different hypotheses. Add a deception hypothesis and the alternatives grow exponentially. People overlook deception because they can't possibly manage all the details.

Furthermore, deception detection depends on two reasoning skills in which humans are particularly weak: reasoning about negative or absent evidence (for example, Sherlock Holmes's dog that did not bark in the night) and false evidence ("this agent has been turned and is working for the enemy").
...
The researchers' goal is to help MITRE sponsors—including those from the military, intelligence community, homeland security, and the IRS—to generate hypotheses and keep track of their theories and evidence. Adversarial Planner is application-independent and can be applied to most domains, from intelligence and military counter-deception work to forensic accounting and fraud detection.

Elsaesser explains, "One of the biggest problems you face is not just uncovering deception, but figuring out what the deceiver is really doing. We want to avoid what's called the '180-degree fallacy'—that is, if they're not doing one thing, they're doing the opposite. Just because an army is not marching south does not mean it's marching north. Just because you can recognize a deception doesn't mean you know what will happen. But it does mean you know what will not happen—the deception, such as the landings at Pas de Calais. Since you've avoided doing what the enemy, terrorist, or con artist wanted, you still come out way ahead."
...
Elsaesser notes, "The key to our tool-building is this: If it's a deception, it's not the adversary's true course of action, so through some logical means we should be able to uncover it. We just hope to be able to uncover it before it becomes obvious and bad things happen."
..."

Anonymous said...

Despite detecting an "anomaly", why do FTC, IL AG, Peoria BBB, and Chris Hoofnagle, not "get it"?

https://analysis.mitre.org/
proceedings/Final_Papers_Files/
94_Camera_Ready_Paper.pdf

"Deception Detection by Analysis of Competing Hypotheses
Frank J. Stech & Christopher Elsaesser

The MITRE Corporation
7515 Colshire Drive
McLean, Virginia 22102-7508

...
2 WHY DECEPTION WORKS

Put simply, people are deceived because they do not systematically consider alternative explanations for the evidence they observe (Johnson, et al 2001, Heuer 1981,
Johnson et al. (2001) note that human evidential reasoning is mainly adequate for frequently experienced events. Reasoning heuristics, evolved to be cognitively efficient and effective in our high-base rate world, often result in biased reasoning – grossly over or underestimating probabilities – when faced with low-base rate events such as deception (Gigerenzer et al 1999). Deception is relatively rare, so it is unsurprising that
people are poor at counter-deception. Heuristics can result in the following analytic errors that hinder effective counter-deception:

Poor anomaly detection: Analysts miss environmental cues of anomalies, or prematurely dismiss anomalies as irrelevant or inconsistent with other intelligence;

Misattribution: inconsistent or anomalous events are often attributed to collection gaps or processing errors, rather than to deception tactics;

Failure to link denial and deception tactics to deception hypotheses: When they do notice anomalies, analysts often fail to recognize anomalous evidence as indicators of denial and deception tactics, possibly suggesting
strategic deception objectives;

Inadequate support for deception hypotheses: Analysts fail to link their assessment of an adversary’s deception tactics to the adversary’s strategic goals; i.e., analysts fail to test denial or deception courses of action (COAs) against all the available evidence.

3 RELATED WORK

Johnson et al. (Johnson 2001) observed forensic accountants examining questionable business records. Protocol analysis indicated accountants who were best able to detect fraudulent information in financial statements used four processes:

Activation: detect inconsistencies between expectations and observations of the environment.

Detection: produce hypotheses about possible deceptive manipulations of the environment and adjust the assessments of evidence to reflect possible deception tactics.

Editing: edit the initial hypotheses based on the deceptive manipulations and re-assess observations.

Reevaluation: decide on appropriate actions to test the deception hypotheses.
..."

Anonymous said...

http://webuser.bus.umich.edu/
wayneb/DiffusionOfFraud.pdf

"DIFFUSION OF FRAUD: INTERMEDIATE
ECONOMIC CRIME AND INVESTOR DYNAMICS

WAYNE E. BAKER
University of Michigan
ROBERT R. FAULKNER
University of Massachusetts

Criminologists have studied the spread of fraudulent practices and techniques among perpetrators. This article attempts to contribute to the field by looking at the other side of diffusion, examining the spread of fraud among investors in a case of “intermediate fraud.” Intermediate fraud occurs when fraudulent acts are committed in or by a legitimate business. Using comprehensive archival, interview, and survey data, we analyze a business that exhibited a two-stage pattern of intermediate fraud: It was created and operated as a legitimate business in the first stage, and then economic crimes were increasingly committed in the second stage. We use diffusion theory to guide our analysis, investigating the ways in which five factors—product attributes, buyer attributes and behavior, seller attributes and behavior, structure of the social network, and method of propagation—influence the adoption and diffusion of investments in oil and gas wells among a population of investors. The case of intermediate fraud is interesting because the factors that contributed to the success of the business in its legitimate stage are the same factors that contributed to the success of the fraud in its illegitimate stage.
..."

Anonymous said...

From the above cited paper:
http://webuser.bus.umich.edu/
wayneb/DiffusionOfFraud.pdf

Note that the mixing of legitimate business with fraudulent activity can make it more difficult to determine that fraud is occurring, a factor that can affect effective regulatory oversight, and that this confusion also operates within the company itself, since most employees may actually believe what they are doing is legitimate when most of it is.

Definition of fraud:
"...
Fraud is a type of “deliberately created ignorance” (Erickson, 1996:33). The legal definition of fraud (e.g., Lusk et al., 1970:139) is the intentional (as opposed to innocent) misrepresentation of a past or existing material fact (see, also, Edelhertz, 1970:12). The misrepresentation must create a mistaken belief in the mind of another person about the material fact. The person must justifiably rely on this mistaken belief (i.e., a reasonably prudent person could not investigate the truth or falsity of the statement of fact). The person must act on the untrue representation and do something he or she would not do otherwise. And the person must suffer the loss of something of value or surrender a legal right.
..."

Definition of "intermediate fraud":
"...
These cases appear in two forms. First, some cases of intermediate fraud exhibit a two-stage pattern: An enterprise is created and oper-ated as a legitimate business in the first stage, and then economic crimes are increasingly committed in the second phase. ... Enron started out as legitimate energy business, but then began falsifying financial reports and corporate filings. ... Second, other cases of intermediate fraud involve a subset of individuals inside a legitimate business who commit economic crimes on behalf of the organization.
..."

The problem created by intermediate fraud:
"...
Perpetrators of an “intermediate fraud” (such as our case) are especially able to manipulate
appearances because some of their operations are legitimate and legal, and it is often impossible for a seller to discriminate between legitimate and illegitimate offerings.
..."

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/03/
business/03lender.html?
_r=1&ref=business&oref=slogin

"Court Approves Review of Countrywide Practices

By DOW JONES/AP
Published: April 3, 2008

PHILADELPHIA (Dow Jones/AP) — A federal judge has authorized an examination of the mortgage processing systems of the lending giant Countrywide Financial by bankruptcy investigators seeking evidence that the company systematically abuses borrowers.

Judge Thomas P. Agresti of the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Pittsburgh on Tuesday approved an inquiry into “the impact of Countrywide’s bankruptcy procedures on the integrity of the bankruptcy process” by the Office of the United States Trustee, a Justice Department arm that polices bankruptcy filings.

Judge Agresti dismissed Countrywide’s protests that authorizing an investigation by the trustee’s office could have “staggering implications” for other big mortgage lenders by starting an investigatory “free for all.”

He said an investigation was warranted because the trustee’s office had demonstrated “a common thread of potential wrongdoing” in several bankruptcy filings involving Countrywide.

The trustee’s office has asserted that it needed to look into accusations that Countrywide had chronically mishandled mortgage payments, pumped up bills with improper fees and charges and ignored court orders while pursuing troubled consumers.

Countrywide has acknowledged some errors. But it denies that mistreatment of homeowners is a feature of its mortgage processing backroom systems.

Judge Agresti is presiding over 293 bankruptcy cases that involve accusations of misconduct by Countrywide. The accusations include claims that the lender slapped improper fees on bankrupt homeowners.
"

Anonymous said...

In reviewing the many on-line complaints against AFNI's collection activities, I don't believe I have come across another case where AFNI used another collection agency to contact and attempt to collect from the consumer.

Since it is likely that if AFNI were using another collection agency, they would use it for a batch of accounts and not just single out one, this may be an indication of a change in tactics.

The usual AFNI characteristics are present: Not this consumer's account (Cingular in this case, never had a cell phone, let alone a Cingular account), on calling Riddle (collection agency representing AFNI), they immediately claimed it must be "id theft" but also pushed for payment, not doing a fraud dispute. "Yelling" constitutes abuse under FDCPA, but would be difficult to prove without recording. Riddle is assuming consumer is unsophisticated, and targeting their tactics to that assumption.

Compared to AFNI's level of finesse at pulling this scam, they come across as thugs engaged in extortion, with little defence: 'your identity must have been stole then, pay the amount and we'll leave you alone'.

Still, use of the same tactics implies that AFNI has passed along with the accounts what it has found to work. Riddle is already expecting consumers to deny any connection with AFNI "debts".

Possible hypotheses:
1) AFNI is overloaded in attempting to collect on the massive levels of old Verizon debt.
2) AFNI is under regulatory scrutiny, and by subcontracting can shift complaints away from itself to other collection agencies.
3) AFNI is beginning to respond to the risks presented by the new Illinois Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (P.A. 95-0437), which requires that debt collectors covered by it properly handle identity theft disputes.
4) Riddle may be operating from states with less state AG regulatory oversight.

(2) and (3) would primarily indicate concerns of enforcement thru IL AG, but AFNI may believe they can sidestep liability thru using out of state collection agencies. Riddle's response here clearly does NOT comply with IL law, but if Riddle is in Utah, and the consumer is in Alabama, both Riddle and AFNI may be off the hook.

To be effective, that would require that AFNI sort out the "skip-traced" accounts at highest risk for problems, which would indicate that they do, in fact, know their "skip-trace" based billing is a legal compliance problem.

We will have to see if this is a trend.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports
/0/322/RipOff0322865.htm

'...
On April 1, 2008 My mother received a letter in the mail from Riddle and Associates stating that they are writing for Afni Collection Agency. They state that she needs to send payment of $439 asap. The supposive $439 my mother owes is from Cingular back in 2000, funny thing is..she's never had a cingular phone, any cell phone for that matter..

I have run into a simular scam a month ago, and since I am schooling to be a Private Investigator i decided to put my skills to use.

When my mother called me, she was very upset because when she called the number Riddle and Associates told her to contact them at, she argued with them that there was absolutely no way this could be true, the lady then started yelling at her telling her 'your identity must have been stole then, pay the amount and we'll leave you alone'.
..."

Anonymous said...

Failing to cancel a phone on moving does not appear credible here, as they did not have a land line. Either land line account was fraudulently opened without verifying identity, or AFNI appears to have altered bills later tied to an address to be in the names of people they "skiptraced" to that address. Their bad luck that one of them was already dead, and the other had already moved out. Didn't work this time.

http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/3894/page/17

"1 days ago by Tripj
I received a "second" letter from Afni claiming that I had not responded to their first attempt to collect a debt. Probably because I never received a "first" letter. I sent a letter to Afni, to both IL and WA state Attorney General as well. Afni responded to complaint I filed in WA saying that it is their desire to work with consumers to assist them in resolving the questions and concerns sbout their account. They went on to say that the consumer, (me) is welcome to contact them or can manage their account online. They also enclosed a copy of the supposed bill. The bill is in mine and my late husbands name, which right away tells me it is a fake. Everythign was in my name, and the date on the original bill is the date he died, yet they show phone calls being made over the next 2 months after he passed away. Not to mention the fact that I no longer lived at that address, and we did not have a land line in the house. A roommate that we had at the time also recently received a collection notice, for the same address and approximate time poeriod, but is shows a different phone number. So what, we had 2 phones in the house? I don't think so! I find it hard to believe that if I were the one making the calls, that there were no calls to my husband's family, none to mine, and none to my place of employment. This whole thing is a scam, they are buying old bills, and trying to attach them to someone, ot they are bogus all together. Whatever the case, don't pay them anything! "

Mary said...

Well add me to the list here. I just got a Settlement offer from Afni,INC. They claim I owe SPRINT $716.72 but are willing to settle for 1/2. That amount is $358.36. My first reaction is to contact Sprint. I have had a Cellphone for 3 years and have $0 balance as of right now. I called them and the client account # 1004078461924431 is too long and not correct and they suggested calling AFNI on 3-way. It is Sunday so I will have to wait until Tomorrow to do so. The other alarming thing is that the date of this bill seems to be 4/8/2008. Wow that is FAST. I also plan on calling using VOIP so I can record there phone call and let them know it is for "Quality Assurance". I did file a Complaint with Washington State Attorney Generals office and I will be looking into a class action lawsuit . Maybe I will have the honor of sending them a settlement offer. I know I do not owe sprint any money. I have recently purchased my house and have everything I could want so A credit hit wouldn't be too bad for me. I am kinda looking forward to this fight. If someone else out there has this same account number please let me know!

Afni, Inc. Account #: 008352450-02
Client Account 3: 1004078461924431

Mclassy@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Before you do your 3-way call, check with Sprint to see if ANY other account is showing under your name or SSN. If Sprint shows nothing, and AFNI claims it is "your account because your SSN is on it" (especially on some alleged very recent debt), you know what they are up to.

Be aware as you talk to anyone at AFNI that there are many reports that they will tell you anything to convince you to pay even debts you clearly don't owe. In particular, they will pressure you to decide to pay immediately, and not to challenge even obviously erroneous bills, perhaps thru offering "half-off deals" that may not be available later, or claiming for various reasons that you can't dispute the "debt", or that "since it is obviously id theft" you have to either prove it or pay it, but they don't have to prove anything. It's all B.S.

Hold your cards close to your vest, act a little dumb and incredulous, and fish for whatever information you can get. Just don't believe anything they tell you, particularly any claims that you are responsible for some debt you have no knowledge of.

Try to find out any information useful in pinning down the "account", such as what name and address the account was billed to, the original Sprint phone number and account number, the date the account was opened, the date of last payment, etc. Ask what "identity information" was used to open the account, and if they provide your SSN and claim it was on the account specifically ask if that SSN was obtained from Sprint with the account information.

Do not trust anything they say, and in fact, you should follow up with a letter disputing the debt and requesting validation, sent certified return receipt requested, regardless of any information they provide, and even if they claim they are closing the "account". That is to protect your rights under FDCPA.

Keep in mind they have access to your credit reports, and therefore your SSN, DOB, recent addresses, and other account information, as well as your past addresses from skip-tracing, and possibly even your relatives and their addresses, or other people who lived at addresses you lived at. They can use this to try to claim you owe someone else's debt, or that the account was opened thru "id theft", even by one of your relatives. Don't believe it.

A key premise of counterdeception is that there is always something wrong that distinguishes deceptive fabrications from the truth. The truth hangs together, even when it is someone else's account, whereas deceptions involve fabrications designed to stear you in a particular direction, but made without full knowledge of what channels you might have to verify or disprove allegations.

AFNI counts on most people not knowing their rights under federal law, and on most people not even conceiving of what they might routinely try to get away with. They would have you believe that any apparent errors are just "id theft", or "mistakes" made by the original creditor or even by you, when they may be indicators of deliberately fabricated lies constructed in an attempt to defraud you.

Use of deception to collect debts is a violation of FDCPA.

Illegally obtaining your SSN and using it in an attempt to defraud you may be a criminal act.

See what you can get them to divulge.

Anonymous said...

Confirmation that the Illinois Attorney General has, in fact, opened an active investigation into AFNI's activities.

The figure of 800 complaints in 8 years probably is in reality near 800 complaints in the last year alone, putting it in line with the BBB complaint levels for the last year.

Note how Verizon's Kula, and AFNI's Ciskey, spin this. Keep in mind Ciskey was involved in "performance enhancement" (training) before becoming "director of compliance". She makes the same excuses her employees make.

"Consumers are confused." (Of course they are confused. They're getting bills they don't owe, for phone numbers they never had, originally billed to addresses they never lived at. The confusion is intentional, since AFNI seldom sends validation.)

"These were dial-up bills" (That's a new one. Even AFNI hasn't been claiming that.)

They are actively in cahoots, supporting each other, as partners. Ciskey's basically just a PR hack, deflecting complaints.

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/
news04/2008/04/afni.html

"...
Both Kula and Deborah Ciskey, Afni's director of compliance, said consumers are probably "confused" because the debts are from a service with an older carrier. Kula said many people who purchased dial-up Internet many years ago from their old phone company may be getting these bills and just forgot that that they did have a delinquent account with MCI, for example.

However, some consumers say there is no mistake and they have no debt with any phone company.

"I received a collection notice from Afni Inc., stating I owe them $280.05 for a disconnected phone service for 718-584-5895," wrote Pamela of Danbury, Conn. "I have never owned that telephone number. Also, on the notice, it states that the original creditor is Bell Atlantic. I never had phone service with Bell Atlantic."

Consumers say that despite their protestations, that Afni posts the debt to credit agencies.
...
Although Kula said the vast majority of the debts are two to three years old, some consumers say they are as old as 13 years, yet the company appears to be persistent no matter how old the debt.
...
The office of the Illinois Attorney General currently has an active investigation into Afni, said office spokeswoman Natalie Bauer. She could give no further details but said the office has received "around 900" complaints over the past eight years.
..."

Anonymous said...

Another complaint that AFNI is sending fabricated or altered "validation".

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/debt/afni.html

"Nicole of Brooklyn NY (04/10/08)

afni keeps sending a bill stating that they are a collection and they are trying to collect on a debt for verizon for $116.53. but when i tell them that they have the wrong address on the acct and nothing really adds up, i want to see proof they they take forever to provide something that looked like a phony bill that was incomplete and put together. i called them and complained again and they told me i had to pay it or go to their web page and file a complaint.

they reported this false debt on my credit report and i cant remove it and nobody (verizon or afni)can provide any real proof "

Anonymous said...

Confirmation that Natalie Bauer is spokesperson for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

http://www.northernstar.info/
article/2920/

Anonymous said...

Attorney General Lisa Madigan campaign website.

Article in "The Courier News" (1-21-08) indicating interest in fraudulent misuse of SSNs disclosed thru public records.
http://www.lisamadigan.org/
release_details.asp?id=17


Article on new Illinois id theft protection law, supported by Lisa Madigan.
http://www.dailyherald.com/
story/?id=41381


http://media.www.dennews.com/
media/storage/paper309/news/
2008/04/10/News/
Identity.Theft.A.big.Big.Problem.In.Illinois-3314043.shtml

"Identity theft a 'Big, Big Problem' in Illinois
Coles County not immune from effects of identity theft
Jordan Crook/Senior City Reporter
Issue date: 4/10/08 Section: News
...
Identity Theft in Illinois

Natalie Bauer, a spokesperson for Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said Illinois has taken an active stand against identity theft.

She said a law was passed that required police officers to take reports of identity theft. The law also made provisions that would make restoring people's lives and credit easier.

Bauer said Illinois was one of the first states in the nation to institute such a law.
...
Tips on preventing identity theft from Attorney General Lisa Madigan:

Protect your mail. Know when your mail gets delivered and pick it up as soon as possible after delivery. If bills are late, contact your creditors. Never let your mail build up when you are out of town.

Keep papers containing your personal information in a safe place, and shred them when they are no longer needed.

Do not give out your Social Security number unless it is absolutely necessary.

Protect your identity when you shop online. Shop only with companies you know and trust. Use a secure browser and keep a record of all transactions.

Identity Theft Hotline
(866) 999-5630
(877) 844-5461
..."

What good is "protecting your identity" when any debt collector that has access to credit reports or skip-trace services can just look it up with impunity, allowing even erroneously identified debts to be "fixed"?

Anonymous said...

Various postings that may be consistent with AFNI's position, probably AFNI employees. Similar postings with similar positions have appeared periodically over the last year on various sites.

Note that when such responses appear, they tend to show up in clusters, possibly indicating they are by the same person. They tend to take the position that "all debt collectors have complaints" so it must be just deadbeat debtors complaining about AFNI, that any AFNI account is "your" debt (that is always how they refer to even disputed accounts; "neurolinguistics"?), that all you have to do is prove it isn't so why are you complaining, and that there is nothing illegal about AFNI sending out all these collection letters.

Note that these responses actually list AFNI's rationalizations for sending out what many regard as bogus or deceptive collection letters, and their defenses against the resulting complaints. This is consistent with these postings being made by AFNI employees, coached in how to deflect consumer accusations, and with an eye toward what defense they must assert to counter regulatory interest.

With regard to complaints against debt collectors, although many debt collectors have complaints against them in various forums, the pattern of such complaints tends to vary from company to company. Some have high levels of complaints for abusive language, for instance, others even for threats of arrest (favorites among debt collectors in the Jacksonville and Buffalo areas). NCO has high levels of reports of re-aging, and reached consent agreements regarding that issue with regulatory agencies. Reports vary as to how different debt collectors respond to disputes.

AFNI is rather unique in that most complaints against it allege collection attempts on debts consumers claim are not theirs, followed by problems in getting debt validation or removal of erroneous negative credit information. Hoofnagle's report shows them with high "id theft" statistics, consistent with many on-line reports by consumers.

Their complaint profile is NOT the same as other debt collectors, nor even the same as other debt collectors with high levels of reported abusive behavior. It is a direct reflection of their practices.

http://www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/verizon-c37062/
page/0.html#c70070

"65 days ago by Jd
Per the collection laws Afni has to follow they can only "disclose" the information to the person whose name its in, or their legal spouse.
Disclosing to the wrong party is illegal and is breaking the law.

So all the spouse would need to do is send a copy of the death certificate to Afni so they can get the account closed. No need to blame Afni for any wrongdoing, especially when they are doing their job, which is collecting on behalf of the client-Verizon.

And another thing... there is nothing threatening about Afni's collection letters. It does not say anything about coming to take your house, or taking legal action, or garnishing your wages.

So relax and let the spouse send in copy of death certificate and all will be done. No need to get upset over it.

Thank you. "

http://www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/verizaon-north-inc-c14343/
page/0.html#c73846
"52 days ago by Jd
There is no scam involved.

Afni is correct when they say show them documentation that the bill was paid.
They are merely doing their job in collecting for Verizon(bell atlantic/Nynex back in 90's)...

And there is nothing illegal Afni is doing...

so just provide proof of the bill or pay the bill (ask about a settlement if one is available)

They will work with you if you work with them "


http://www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/3894/page/17
"6 days ago by Jksmith
It is my guess that the majority of you people who got these bills never even bothered to contact Afni to inquire about the details on your bills. If you had, many of you would have realized that these accounts were, in fact, yours and you just happen to live in a state where the phone company is required to provide you service whether you have an old bill or not. I am appalled by the language and behavior that supposedly "upstanding" members of society display in use of language and attitude when posting these comments and I can only imagine how many of you spoke to the collections reps at the agency. I had an account with Afni that was fruadulent and was told by a representative to simply go to website and fill outa painless fraud affidavit. They investigated my claim and I received a release letter 4 weeks later. I strongly suspect that the ignorant people who are posting these nasty comments do, in fact, owe these bills and are trying to get something for nothing. Either that or they are too self obsessed and indignant to let the Afni staff help them in getting incorrect accounts cleared up. Keep in mind, the people answering phones at this company are just doing their jobs and have to follow the same policy for everyone whether you are a loser who doesn't pay your bills or a ceo of a multimillion dollar company. "


http://www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/3894/page/18

"3 days ago by Heidi
The usual, debtors complaining about having to pay a bill. Look up any collection agency and you will find thousands of complaints. You know why? Debtors like you don't like to pay your bills, instead you complain about them. Then you take comfort in finding the other loser debtors on these boards and feel as if you have been victimized, when really you just owe money! Yes, take comfort in the fact that there are a lot of losers just like you out there, that get on these boards to complain because they are irresponsible just like you!! Enjoy your bad credit and irresponsibility. Complaining won't make it go away. "

Anonymous said...

BBB report on AFNI.

"Industry Tips" section appears to have been replaced with a verbatim copy of an FTC brochure on dealing with debt collectors. Prior erroneous BBB advice regarding notification of a debt collector within 30 days to tell them to cease calling you appears to have been removed.

Report still shows "satisfactory" and that they are a BBB member, but reported complaint statistics are now as follows:

"The BBB processed a total of 1220 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period.Of the total of 1220 complaints closed in 36 months, 722 were closed in the last year."

Note that the apparent complaint levels older than 1 year are rising as we move into 2008 and the complaint surge in early 2007 becomes part of the second year.

http://heartofillinois.bbb.org/
WWWRoot/Report.aspx?
site=109&bbb=0724&firm=9000349

Anonymous said...

There appears to be a podcast of an interview with Debra Ciskey, on WJBC (a station in the Bloomington IL area).

urlhttp://ax.phobos.apple.com.edgesuite.net/
WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?
i=25501199&id=219259176 artistNameWJBC buyParamsproductType=podcast categoryNews & Politics description Debra Ciskey of AFNI talks about identity theft ...

http://www.wjbc.com/wire2/podrossid/
00605_0502DebraCiskey.mp3

Anonymous said...

AFNI statistics update:

Ripoffreport.com shows the following complaint thread counts in 2008:
14 Jan.
27 Feb.
18 March
8 April
1 May

April is less than half of prior month levels, and May shows an even steeper drop.


Complaintsboard.com still shows substantial complaint levels aganst AFNI in May.


BBB update as of 5-30-08:
"The BBB processed a total of 1255 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period.Of the total of 1255 complaints closed in 36 months, 725 were closed in the last year."

Prior report, 4-30-08:
"The BBB processed a total of 1220 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period.Of the total of 1220 complaints closed in 36 months, 722 were closed in the last year."

Based on 36 month complaint difference, and assuming complaint rate 36 months ago was far less than now and relatively constant, we get 1255 - 1220 = 35 in 30 days, or about 1 complaint per day. This is still a substantial level for the month of May, and not consistent with the drop-off seen in the Ripoffreport.com May thread count.

Note that these are "resolved" complaints, probably filed by consumers 30 to 60 days age. Complaints filed in March may still be appearing in BBB "resolved" statistics in May.

If AFNI has actually modified its practices (as may be implied by Ripoffreport.com statistics), then we would expect this to start showing up in BBB statistics in June.


Questions:

1) Is Ripoffreport.com failing to show all AFNI complaints in May?

2) Did AFNI shift its practices due to the Illinois Attorney General's investigation, reported on www.ConsumerAffairs.com on 4-17-08?

3) Are they "lying low", or perhaps shifting collection activities to other collection agencies as hinted at in the earlier report of a letter received 4-01-08 from Riddle collecting on behalf of AFNI?

4) Has AFNI sold a significant chunk of their Verizon debt portfolio, reducing their level of collection activities likely to result in "not mine" or "not owed" complaints?

5) Is there now a consent agreement, in the works or completed, between the Illinois Attorney General and AFNI?

Anonymous said...

5 items show on ripoffreport.com for May, when search on AFNI is expanded to include Anderson Financial. It remains to be seen whether this is a statistically significant decrease.
5-31-08 http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/336/RipOff0336091.htm
5-31-08 http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/336/RipOff0336067.htm
5-20-08 http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/284/RipOff0284585.htm
5-07-08 http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/331/RipOff0331220.htm
5-04-08 http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/330/RipOff0330486.htm

4-27-08 http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/329/RipOff0329170.htm
4-22-08 http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/328/RipOff0328021.htm
4-22-08 http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/328/RipOff0328029.htm
...

Anonymous said...

Off to a brisk start in June with more bills for unowed "debts" sent to the wrong people.
More of the same crap.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/336/RipOff0336503.htm
http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/336/RipOff0336401.htm
http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/336/RipOff0336497.htm

Anonymous said...

AFNI on TV.

http://creditboards.com/forums/
index.php?showtopic=341249&hl=afni

"CreditBoards > Creditboards Main Forums > Credit Forum

I'm watching the news right now lol, Featuring AFNI

LadyElan
Jun 3 2008, 09:43 PM Post #1

The Fox problem solvers are after their butts lol. They were trying to collect a cell phone debt from 2001 that someone else opened in the guys name. They're giving a toll free number to call if people have problems with them.
..."
--------------------------------
http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/myfox/
pages/News/Detail?contentId=6695317&version=1
&locale=EN-
US&layoutCode=TSTY&pageId=3.6.1

"Question Collection Bills Before You Pay Them
One Kansas City couple were on the hook for $230 cell phone bill
Last Edited: Wednesday, 04 Jun 2008, 3:05 PM EDT
Created: Wednesday, 04 Jun 2008, 3:05 PM EDT

Identity theft was the source of one man's cell phone billing problems. (MyFoxKC) MyFox Kansas City Reports

Here's a lesson: if you get a bill in the mail, don't just automatically pay it.

Sometimes it's good to ask a few questions before you fork over the cash. One Kansas City couple always pay their bills on time and they pride themselves on having a good credit rating. That's why they were a little surprised with what came in the mail.

Jason and Katie Van Winkle received a collection notice from Afni Collection saying that they owned $230 for an AT&T Cingular phone bill from 2001 (video: MyFoxKC). There was just one problem, they had never had a account with AT&T or Cingular.

They tried to contact Afni Collections and get the issue resolved, but they could not reach anyone. The Van Winkles then contacted Problem Solvers at Kansas City's FOX 4.

FOX 4 contacted AT&T who track down the issues and found out that the Van Winkles identity was used to open an account. AT&T has said that they will take the account off the Van Winkle's name.
"

Anonymous said...

This job is all damage control after the fact.

Did they lose someone, or are they just having an increasing "compliance" workload?

http://icclaw.blogspot.com/2008/06/
afni-inc-compliance-specialist-full.html

"...
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Afni, Inc. - Compliance Specialist (full-time) Bloomington, IL

There is a position that is currently available within Afni’s compliance department. This candidate will report directly to the compliance manager, speaking with consumers and attorneys regarding accounts, managing incoming litigation, and working closely with outside counsel as well as various regulatory agencies. Competitive salary and benefits. Qualified candidates should have an Associates Degree and completed at least one year within our program. Resumes, and other inquiries, can be forwarded to the email address below.


Lisa A. Anderson, ACP
Manager, Compliance

Afni, Inc. 404 Brock Drive
Bloomington, IL 61701
p. 309.828.5226 ext. 3066
f. 309.820.2614
e. lisaanderson@afni.com
www.afni.com
..."

Anonymous said...

"Advanced Persuasion", as taught by Ciskey.

http://www.amcolsystems.com/
newsletters/Newsletter.htm

"Do Not Miss The Art of Persuasion and Collect More In Tough Economic Times

Rising unemployment rates. Gas above $4.00 per gallon. Plummeting values on homes and grocery store prices rising at a breakneck speed. How do all of these impact collections at registration or during the self-pay collection process? Collecting from your patients has probably become more difficult, but is not impossible. Mastering superior persuasion techniques is now a requirement for success in this industry with the economic uncertainty.

Join ACA International Certified Instructor Debra Ciskey, IFCCE, AFNI, of Bloomington, Illinois, for The Art of Persuasion as she shows your staff how to deliver advanced collection techniques. Building on ACA's Professional Telephone Collectors' Techniques seminar, this seminar takes an even closer look at how collectors can handle the toughest calls using advanced negotiation and persuasion techniques.

Let ACA International help your facility collect as much, or more, even in times of an unsettled economy. Click here for more details on The Art of Persuasion. "

Anonymous said...

Details of Accurint's recent masking of SSNs to some customers.

As noted above, AFNI's practice of requiring last 4 digits of SSN to enter a dispute in their on-line system would provide them access to the whole SSN if they didn't already have it, since they could "ping" the 4 combined with the Accurint-provided first 5 digits, and Accurint would verify the accuracy of all 9.

http://www.insidearm.com/forum/
messageview.cfm?
catid=9&threadid=7408&enterthread=y

"You will be hard pressed to find a company that will give them to you. GLB basically requires that they do. Your best bet might be one of the 3 Credit reporting agencies, pulling a good old fashioned credit report might get you what you need. "
...
"Accurint masks the SSN #'s if they haven't been able to complete the verification process on your company (regardless of how long you've had your account, they need to do a site visit. They will also need a new application on file), or if you do not have a static IP address (even if you do, it still needs to be registered with them).

You need to have whoever handles your account contact your sales rep to get those items done. Then, as long as you have permissible purpose, you will regain access to full SSN's. "
...
"It appears that way. We have been an accurint and lexis-nexis subscriber for years and years and years. We were masked 3 weeks ago and my boss, the owner of the firm has been going around and around with their legal dept etc . Was told doesn't matter how long we have been with them etc, we just have no permissible purpose in their criteria. "

Anonymous said...

Ripoffreport.com shows 21 complaint threads against AFNI for the month of June.

Low counts in April and May appear to be an anomaly.

They may have shifted their mailings to maximize payments based on tax refunds or the Federal stimulus checks. It is common for debt collectors to send out "special deal" letters around tax refund time.

Ripoffreport.com shows the following complaint thread counts in 2008:
14 Jan.
27 Feb.
18 March
8 April
5 May
21 June

http://www.ripoffreport.com/searchresults.asp?
q1=ALL&q4=&q6=&q3=&q2=&q7=
&searchtype=0&submit2=Search%21&q5=AFNI

Anonymous said...

History of changes in government policy and law affecting SSN security.

http://www.ssa.gov/history/
ssn/ssnchron.html

Anonymous said...

Replies to recent complaints from "Anonymous, West Frankfort, Illinois", who is probably an AFNI employee, since they know too much about AFNI's standard operating procedures.

Note the tilt toward the AFNI "party line":
1) Being a member of BBB, they can't be fraudulent.
2) If it's not your bill, someone must have stolen your identity.
3) They are guessing at who the original bill was with, and expect to have to guess.
4) Maybe a relative stole your identity.
5) Don't bother requesting validation.

As in most AFNI contacts, claiming "someone stole your identity" is preferred over "send a validation request to preserve your FDCPA rights", and there is no mention that they might possibly be billing the wrong person by their own error, or that it is AFNI's obligation to prove the debt is owed, not the consumer's to prove it isn't.

"Maybe this, or maybe that", but always keep control and never admit error. The deception is in what is NOT said.

Neurolinquistics: Use your language to shape the target's perception.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports
/0/343/RipOff0343643.htm
http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports
/0/343/RipOff0343605.htm
http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports
/0/304/RipOff0304702.htm
http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports
/0/347/RipOff0347386.htm

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports
/0/344/RipOff0344200.htm
"Anonymous
West Frankfort, Illinois
U.S.A.

fraud
If it wasn't you that did it, and your information was used, then it sounds like some one stole ur information to open an mci account. Then it sounds like MCI couldn't collect on the account because the person who stole your id obviously wasn't going to pay. Seems that MCI sold the acct to AFNI to get something for it. AFNI probably found you through public records and now, you know about the bill. That is how most people find out that their id has been stolen. I think that you should file fraud with afni, prove that you didn't live there(at the time the service was running to), if you have a bill from afni, use that to get a id theft police report and file fraud with them (you said that it was on your credit file? get a copy of the credit file and use that to get id theft report to give to afni). It sounds like the person used your name for the AT&T bill, got shut off, then went to MCI."

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports
/0/343/RipOff0343090.htm
"Anonymous
West Frankfort, Illinois
U.S.A.

Better Business Bureau
They are certified with the BBB's. How could they be fraudlent. If you didn't have the bill, then someone stole ur id, ran up the service, didn't pay and now you're just hearing about it. That is how most people find out about id theft. It is an increasing crime, obviously. The other option: it maybe the provider you used was bought out by mci or sprint. If it is older than 7 years they're not going to take you to court about it or put it on your credit file."

Anonymous said...

Updated version of "Measuring Identity Theft (Version 2.0) June 26, 2008 By Chris Jay Hoofnagle", is available here:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/
papers.cfm?abstract_id=1152082

This version has been updated to include statistics on FTC reports of identity theft for both 2006 and 2007.

Note that Verizon and AFNI, come in as the #1 and #2 companies associated with alleged "id theft" events. The graph on page 19 shows Verizon leaping from 310 to 908 events per month, and AFNI leaping from 131 to 716 events per month (5.4X), from 2006 to 2007. No other companies show this bizarre leap in supposed "id theft" reports in 2007.

This is consistent with the massive amounts of AFNI-driven misidentification/"id theft" complaints tied to old Verizon "debts" reported on the Internet.

If these had really been recent 2007 fraudulent Verizon accounts, Verizon would have had such an increase in fraud they would have had to tighten up their risk and fraud procedures. Furthermore, if this were a real recent increase in telecom fraud, we would have expected similar increases hitting other telecom companies. No such indication is visible in the statistics for other telecoms in 2007.

Hence this points to the Verizon "id theft" complaints being tied to the same source as the AFNI "id theft" complaints, i.e. AFNI's practice of "erroneously" billing the wrong people for old Verizon "debts", and evading validation by diverting consumers toward having to prove "id theft".

Hoofnagle attempts to break down the nature of the Verizon and AFNI "id theft" cases on page 22, but most are just classified as "data not available". On page 24, he attributes AFNI's high rate of id theft complaints to their high level of telecom collection, but that does not account for the simultaneous 2007 increase in Verizon complaints. He appears unaware of AFNI's recent purchase and collection of old Verizon debt, or of the many complaints by consumers that AFNI demands proof of id theft whenever they dispute bills for accounts they never opened.

Based on his chart on page 21, Verizon and AFNI together account for 10% of FTC id theft complaints in 2007. (Some FTC complaints may name both, resulting in overcounting, but this massive increase from 2006 is still absurd.)

As predicted earlier, AFNI not only made it into the Top Ten, but they made Number 2! Even Number 1, Verizon, is probably mostly dual complaints tied to AFNI collection of Verizon "accounts".

From the Abstract:
"In 2007, fraud events where the victim could identify the institution associated with the incident, were concentrated among a relatively small number of companies. Just ten companies accounted for 30% of events. Verizon was identified by victims more than any other company as being targeted by impostors to commit fraud. AFNI, a collections agency, was next in total number
of events. Bank of America improved dramatically over its 2006 numbers, while ING Bank and American Express remained top performers among large institutions."

Anonymous said...

High levels of "Data Not Available" for both Verizon and AFNI may be an indicator that the tallied complaints named 2 companies, resulting in dropping of the subtype due to the counting methodology. This would be consistent with most of the Verizon and AFNI "Data Not Available" complaints actually being dual Verizon/AFNI complaints.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/
papers.cfm?abstract_id=1152082

Page 23:
"...
The FTC’s information collection
and analysis system does not maintain the link between the institution named and the subtype. Therefore, if a consumer reports new account fraud at institution A and existing account fraud at institution B, it is recorded in such a fashion that one cannot tell later which subtype was assigned to which institution.
As a result, complaints that identified more than one institution were stripped of subtypes, and are recorded here as “data not available.” The remaining subtype data is
reported here. ..."

Anonymous said...

It is also interesting to note that Verizon and AFNI both show massive INCREASES in FTC "id theft" complaints from 2006 to 2007.

In contrast, other major telecom companies, AT&T/AT&T WIRELESS/CINGULAR; SPRINT/NEXTEL; TMOBILE WIRELESS; COMCAST; all show a moderate DECREASE in complaints from 2006 to 2007.

This is consistent with the "Verizon" 2007 increase being a result of AFNI collection activity, not an overall increase in 2007 telecom fraud.

Only DIRECTV shows a moderate increase, and there are consumer Internet complaints linking AFNI to DirectTV collections. In fact, the earlier 2006 report contained a chart showing both AFNI and DirectTV with far larger month to month variation in complaints, different from all other reported companies.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/
papers.cfm?abstract_id=1152082

Page 19

Anonymous said...

Confirmation that "Anonymous, West Frankfort, Illinois" is an AFNI employee:

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/291/RipOff0291877.htm

Anonymous said...

Verizon's monthly complaint rate of 908 id theft complaints per month would extrapolate to about 10,900 id theft complaints in 2007.

Similarly, AFNI's complaint rate of 716 per month would extrapolate to about 8,600 id theft complaints in 2007.

These far exceed (by an order of magnitude) the reported Illinois Attorney General and BBB complaint levels against AFNI for 2007, probably running around 700 to 800.

If AFNI is erroneously billing consumers, it would appear that in most cases, consumers are following AFNI's "suggestion" to treat such "misidentification errors" as "id theft", resulting in a gross warping of "id theft" complaint statistics.

Anonymous said...

As noted earlier, the graph on page 19 shows Verizon leaping from 310 to 908 events per month, and AFNI leaping from 131 to 716 events per month (5.4X), from 2006 to 2007.

Subtracting the 2006 levels from the 2007 levels we get a year to year increase of 598 per month for Verizon, and 585 per month for AFNI.

The FTC id theft complaints for AFNI and Verizon have increased by about the same count, within a few percent, again consistent with these being mostly dual Verizon/AFNI complaints.

Anonymous said...

This illustrates how much "care" AFNI is taking in locating alleged debtors and sending out their collection notices. In this case they sent their letter based ONLY on a name match, to a DOG on the West Coast (with a "family member" Amex Card), instead of a person on the East Coast.

NO ID THEFT POSSIBLE,
NO OTHER IDENTITY VERIFICATION DONE,
JUST SEND OUT LETTERS TO ANYONE YOU CAN FIND ANYWHERE WITH A SIMILAR NAME,
no matter how much it costs the public.

That is their "business model", laid bare.

But they claim to be "diligent about debt verification", even as they routinely evade consumer demands for verification.

http://consumerist.com/tag/debt-collectors/?i=5023962&
t=debt-collector-sends-verizon-
collection-notice-to-a-fluffy-
white-dog

http://www.kcra.com/station/
16839043/detail.html#

"$142 Collection Bill Sent To Couple's Dog
70,000 Consumers Complained About Debt Collectors In '07

POSTED: 9:23 pm PDT July 9, 2008
UPDATED: 8:43 pm PDT July 10, 2008


SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- More than 70,000 consumers complained about third-party debt collectors in 2007, but one Sacramento couple said they have good reason to bark about the bill they received.

Steve Fanelli received a bill from AFNI collections claiming an Andy Fanelli owes Verizon Online $142.34.

And although Steve Fanelli does indeed live with an Andy Fanelli, there is a small, furry problem with the bill.

Andy Fanelli is Steve Fanelli's dog.

"The point is that Andy has never had a Verizon account. We were just curious why this showed up," Steve Fanelli said.

After some "dogged" detective work by Call 3 Problem Solvers, Verizon said the debt is owed by a guy on the East Coast named Andy Fanelli.

"Just because there's an Andy Fanelli back east doesn't mean you send a letter to an Andy Fanelli in California," dog owner Shawn Donovan said. "There has to be something else to connect it."

Andy Fanelli, who is Steve Fanelli's and Donovan's Lhasa Apso, has its own American Express card that Donovan got when it was offered for "family members."
...
AFNI told Problem Solvers that it is a large company and diligent about debt verification.
..."

Anonymous said...

Value of strategic deception:

Instead of swamping regulatory agencies with complaints of deceptive collection, you use deception to lead those consumers who choose to complain to instead file innocent appearing "id theft" complaints. This tactic fits statements made by several AFNI employees who have responded to on-line complaints. It appears to be working.

I've wondered why only about a thousand IL AG, BBB, and on-line complaints show up, on several million supposed Verizon accounts, while the nature of those visible complaints indicates widespread systematic "mis-billing" which should be producing far higher levels of errors.

As noted, AFNI's complaint rate of 716 per month would extrapolate to about 8,600 id theft complaints in 2007. Despite this massive level of complaints mentioning AFNI, FTC has taken NO action against AFNI.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/349/RipOff0349606.htm

"reported them to the FTC. In which they took down the information and said they would not do anything until they recieved a large number of calls."

FTC HAS received a large number of reports, only they are showing up as "id theft" complaints. They are being played for fools.

Anonymous said...

Similar to many other reports of AFNI's response to a consumer disputing a debt that is not theirs.

Note "final collections" talk-off, sounding authoritative and threatening to control the conversation (applied neurolinguistics), combined with evasion of validation request by claiming consumer had the burden of proof to prove it was not their debt. Deceptive collection, overshadowing required FDCPA dispute and validation notification.

"SOL" talk-off response is "SOL did not apply" and "it's still your debt". Deceptive collection.

Yelling in response to consumer's refusal to pay a debt they don't owe. Abusive collection.

This AFNI employee is clearly ready, and trained, to deal with consumers who call believing they don't owe a debt. Tactics are aimed at creating doubt and uncertainty in consumers' belief in their rights to dispute invalid debts, breaking down resistance to paying unowed "debts", and deflecting disputes and requests for validation.

The above tactics indicate they are intentionally attempting to collect payment from people they know are likely to not owe them.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/351/RipOff0351219.htm

"AFNI, Inc. - Cincular Billing me for an account I never had. Bloomington Illinois
...
They are claiming I owe Cingular $1102.79, but they will take a settlement of $551.40. I spoke with a Julie @ 5:42pm today @ 866-265-6111. I told her I had never in my life had Cingular as a phone provider. She was insistent that the debt was mine. When I asked her to provide me with proof that the debt was mine, she told me that they were 'final collections' and they did not have that information and could not/would not provide it. She also stated that it was my burden of proof to show the bill was not mine, she didn't have to prove it was. She also stated that the account was from 2000. I told her that the debt was past the SOL and she stated that the SOL did not apply as I still owed the debt.

I informed her that if she could not provide anything in writing that I would convince me that this was my debt, as I was sure it was not, I would not be paying the debt. At this point she began raising her voice and yelling at me. I told her not to talk to me in that tone, but yet she persisted. Her attitude prompted me to hang up on her.
..."

Anonymous said...

www.acainternational.org/images/12504/082008_fdcpa_onlinefaxpromo2.pdf
"FDCPA: Facts, Fiction, Reality Seminar
Session A: August 20, 2008, 11:00am -12:30pm (Central) & Session B: August 21, 2008, 11:00am -12:30pm (Central)
Instructors: Debra Ciskey, Bloomington, IL"

Anonymous said...

Article on phone and collections ettiquete by Debra Ciskey. Note influence of neurolinquistics. Also note the contrast with actual consumer reports of the responses they got on calling AFNI to dispute alleged debts.

www.adraonline.co.za/new/publications/
Adra%20Link%20Summer%202008.pdf

"Don’t interrupt the consumer. Interrupting people just makes them angry.Even if you ’ve heard it all before, let consumers have their say."

Anonymous said...

http://www.ag.state.mn.us/Consumer/
PressRelease/080715AfniInc.asp

"July 15, 2008
MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL LORI SWANSON FILES SUIT AGAINST AFNI INC., AN ILLINOIS DEBT COLLECTION AGENCY

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson today filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court against AFNI, Inc., an Illinois debt collection agency, for attempting to collect debts from Minnesota citizens who stated they did not actually owe the debts and for failing to substantiate debt that consumers stated they did not owe.

The lawsuit alleges that AFNI used unfair collection techniques to attempt to collect debts that Minnesota consumers stated they did not believe they owe, and that AFNI did not adequately verify the validity of debts to ensure it was collecting the debt from the right people. As a result, AFNI repeatedly contacted Minnesota consumers in an attempt to collect debts, some up to ten years old, that in some cases were not actually owed by the citizens.

“In this troubled economy, many people are struggling to pay their bills. Debt collectors are entitled to pursue payment of legitimate debts, but they must do so fairly and in compliance with the law,” Swanson said.

The lawsuit alleges that AFNI continued collection efforts, rather than verify the legitimacy of the debt, after citizens informed AFNI that it was attempting to collect the debt from the wrong person. In response to AFNI’s requests, Minnesota consumers sometimes provided private information, including social security numbers and police reports of identity theft, to prove that AFNI was collecting the debt from the wrong person, but that even after being provided with this requested information, AFNI sometimes continued its collection efforts.

AFNI also sometimes reported invalid “debts” to credit bureaus without verifying that the debts were actually owed by the citizen and did not take the action necessary to remove the debts from consumers’ credit reports.

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has published a Debt Collection Fact Sheet which offers tips for consumers who are contacted by collection agencies. The Attorney General’s Office provides the following tips in dealing with debt collectors:

Consumers have the right to dispute all or part of a debt if they believe that it is not owed. Once the debt is disputed, collectors must stop trying to collect the debt until the debt collector provides proof of the debt;
Collectors must inform consumers of their right to request verification of a given debt in writing within 30 days;
If a consumer tells a collector it has the wrong person and he/she does not owe the debt, the burden of proof shifts back on the collector to verify the debt; and
Collectors may not use false, deceptive, or misleading statements to collect a debt;
AFNI, Inc. is a private debt collector headquartered in Illinois that has operations throughout the country and is engaged in the business of debt collection.

Consumers who believe that they were taken advantage of by AFNI, or another debt collector, may file a complaint with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-800-657-3787 or 651-296-3353. Consumers may also download a Consumer Complaint Form by clicking here and returning the completed form to the Attorney General’s Office at: 1400 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2131.
"

Anonymous said...

Now that the "secret" is out, or at least now open for discussion among regulators, it will be interesting to see how fast other state AG's or FTC pile on.

If the Minnesota AG had enough complaints to reach a conclusion about AFNI's activities, then so would states with larger populations, particularly NY, IL, and FL. In addition, Hoofnagle's update of FTC id theft complaint statistics for 2007 flag AFNI as abnormal, whether he has realized it or not.

As discussed earlier, competition may come into play once the news is out. How long before this affects their "Satisfactory" BBB rating?

Anonymous said...

Their BBB report has been pulled in order to update it. They are now shown as "No Rating".

http://heartofillinois.bbb.org/
WWWRoot/Report.aspx?
site=109&bbb=0724&firm=9000349

"BBB Reliability Report for
Afni, Inc.

BBB Rating
No Rating

BBB issues Reliability Reports on all businesses, whether or not they are BBB accredited. If a business is a BBB Accredited Business, it is stated in this report.

The BBB's information on this company is being updated, and no report is available at this time.
..."

Anonymous said...

http://www.kare11.com/news/
news_article.aspx?
storyid=518796&catid=2

"Debt collector targeted by Attorney General
Updated: 7/16/2008 2:23:30 AM

Attorney General Lori Swanson says debt collectors are welcome to do business in Minnesota, as long as they work within the law.

Those who cross the line will be sued, which is what Swanson did Tuesday to the Illinois based collection agency known as AFNI Inc.

"These poor citizens were coming forward saying 'I don't owe the money, you've got the wrong person' but the debt collector wasn't backing off," Swanson told KARE 11.

"They kept pursuing them, in some cases reporting them to credit bureaus thereby ruining their credit."

The suit cites several complaints her staff received from consumers about AFNI's collectors. The pattern Swanson's staff found was that the company continued to hound consumers even after being told the debt had been paid, was the result of documented identity theft or that they simply were trying to collect from the wrong person.
...
By John Croman, KARE 11 News
..."

Anonymous said...

http://www.startribune.com/local/
25489134.html?
location_refer=Business:highlightModules:7

"Lawsuit accuses collector of harassment over invalid debts
After getting dozens of complaints, Minnesota's attorney general sued an Illinois company whose tactics "crossed the line."

By KARA McGUIRE, Star Tribune

Last update: July 15, 2008 - 10:45 PM

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson Monday sued an Illinois debt-collection agency for attempting to collect invalid debts from Minnesotans.
...
Megan Simonson of Minneapolis had difficulty buying a home because of a blemished credit report due to a debt she did not owe, according to a sworn affidavit. A victim of identity theft, she tried countless times to resolve the matter with AFNI and failed. At one point she resigned herself to paying half of the debt in order to close on her home purchase, but changed her mind when the company told her payment would be an admission of guilt.

"In addition to having one AFNI agent lie to me and attempt to defraud me, AFNI simply would not act to address my concerns and resolve the problem with the false debt in time for me to close on my house," she stated.
...
Ken Gooden received a letter from AFNI regarding a 10-year-old charge of $6,122 for a phone he never had in a state he never called home. The Plymouth senior is so in tune with his credit that he and his wife have an ongoing contest to see who has the highest credit score. He disputed the charge, but instead of sending him verification, AFNI sought his Social Security number and other private details.

"I thought I was the victim of a phishing expedition," he said.

Gooden said he figures he's spent 100 hours working to resolve the dispute and the "mental hangover" from the incident still lingers.
..."

Anonymous said...

Illinois AG indicated they had received over 900 complaints against AFNI, and they were investigating.

According to the Minnesota AG, who just sued, there were 50 complaints against AFNI, and they could distinguish the same pattern of activity visible in the hundreds of on-line consumer reports.

FTC has probably received over 8000 AFNI "id theft" complaints in 2007 alone, and an unknown number of other complaints. Not a peep.

Anonymous said...

Here is one response from someone AFNI was repeatedly pestering with phone calls about another person's debt:

http://sparklelounge.blogspot.com/
2008/07/afni-take-two.html

Anonymous said...

Their BBB report is now back up, rated "Satisfactory". There is NO mention of being sued by the Minnesota AG.

http://heartofillinois.bbb.org/
WWWRoot/Report.aspx?site=109&bbb=0724&firm=9000349

Anonymous said...

Glimpse at AFNI's integration of their website with their call center.

Hypothesis 1: AFNI has account SSN (or maybe just last 4) from original creditor in their system and used it to identify "correct" debtor from among many letters sent out. If so, why would they not just pull CR and get correct address from there?

Hypothesis 2: AFNI did NOT originally have SSN, but just obtained THIS consumer's SSN, via their website.

Hypothesis 3: AFNI just deflected consumer from requesting timely validation by verbally telling them the account was closed.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/359/RipOff0359142.htm

"...
I received a collection notice from afni -P.O. Box 3472 in Bloomington, Il. 61702 -stating that I owed them $144.34 on the behalf of QWEST. I called the (866) 684 3221 contact # on the letter and after waiting on hold, a young man who talked like he was a 'Home Boy' answered ' hello'. I asked him about the collection notice and he put me on hold again. He then came on line and asked if I had just been to the afni web site to mange my account? I told him that I had tried but that the site would not let me in with the required acct.# and last four of my ss#. He then confirmed the last four of my ss# and told me that the QWEST acct had been closed. I told him that I did not have an account with QWEST so what was he talking about. He said 'let me make this clear, throw the collection notice away and forget about it.' I asked him if this bill was on my credit report -he said no. I hung up.

It made me feel weird that he knew that I was just on the www.AfniCollections.com site for the first time -and that he knew the last four of my ss# even though I did not successfully log in to the site.
..."

Anonymous said...

Detailed report from a self-described ex-AFNI employee. Pretty much confirms the range of shady or deceptive tactics reported by the hundreds of consumer complaints.

Includes filling in missing account information by adding any responding consumer's actual information, including "fixing" SSNs, and trying to tie consumers to an account only by searching databases for matching addresses.

It also illustrates the nature of AFNI training ("AIM"), and its targetting toward deceiving unsophisticated consumers, as well as their belief that they can get away with sending "validation" they print out themselves, that proves nothing.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/353/RipOff0353689.htm

"Exafniemployee
Bloomington, Illinois
U.S.A.

Ex-Employee's Advice on Afni

First of all I was, indeed, an employee to this insidious 'company'. To get any misconceptions out of the way: Afni is not a scam. It most assuredly seems like one, but it is not technically seen as such by the law. Having personal experience working for such a company, I believe I can give some useful information to those seeking answers. I'd like to do this by first giving my personal opinion about the company, and a few examples I have either seen myself, or heard tell of within the company.

Afni is a Collection Agency. They do report to Credit Bureaus. However, depending on what department your account is with at Afni, it may not be reportable. The marker for whether or not something remains on your credit report after having gone past-due is 7 years. If you pay 'Any Ammount' on this total, within the first 7 years, it will restart your 7 year cycle. For example, if your bill is $152.00 with Sprint from 2007, it will be removed from your Credit Report sometime around 2014 (if it was reported). Let's say you waited until 2013 then paid a single cent on the account. Well, you've just restarted the 7 year countdown because paying something implies you believe you owe it. [sic] So, do not pay anything until you believe you owe the bill.

Getting to my personal opinion about the company I have previously worked for, Afni. I'll start by telling you what I was told: Afni is a company about the bottom line, we (Afni) do not care who gives them the money, so long as they get it. I have seen, from personal experience, some very, very shady collection tactics used by many employees. First, and perhaps least-sinister of these is the con artist tactic. This employs the use of fast-paced talking and methods taught by Afni aimed at 'Acknowledging, Ignoring, and Moving on (to payment)'. I have personal seen this done, quite well sadly, by many employees. This tactic works against most peope as it does not allow you (the consumer) to get a word in edge-wise, and makes Afni appear as if they have all the answers, which they do not.

A second tactic I have seen, is to pander to the consumers morality. A typical question you may hear from an Afni employee when they have nothing else to say is: 'Well, you seem to me like a pretty honest person (name). I want to help you get this taken care of today with a check by phone or credit card'.

The third and most disturbing tactic I have personally seen is for the employee to simply lie to the consumer, add incorrect information, or to twist the truth in any fashion. The most heinous thing I have ever seen the after-effects of by a collector is adding false information or unverifiable information. Afni 'skip-traces' debtors. They do this using public record databases, which often times have addresses, phone numbers, and social security #'s of the consumer (you). I have personally seen social security numbers added to accounts that previously had no social security #. This is not allowed even by the company, however when notifying my supervisor, he did nothing to change it. I have also seen accounts where the collector was asking information from the consumer, such as social security #, address, phone number etc, and attaching that information to an account that was almost barren of any kind of information. (In effect, a completely different persons bill was just turned into your bill.) Do NOT give them any information. Ask 'them' to verify the last 4 of your social, do not give it to them.

They will often tell you that a certain bill is on your credit report when it is, in fact, not. This is not always done maliciously, as it is sometimes an honest mistake of the employee. However, I have seen it done on purpose, which implies that not all employees have any morals themselves. Reasons to perhaps understand this I believe comes mainly from greed. Afni is one of the better-paying employers in the area. They also offer bonus-incentives, which while helpful to earn some extra money, often causes many employees to throw their morality out the window.

All this rather pales in comparison to the raw and un- interpretable data. Once again, I have worked for this company in the past, much to my dismay. The single most jaw-dropping thing I have seen, personally, is the partial or 'complete' lack of data Afni actually has. Depending on the department, the avaliability of information, or 'proof' that the bill is owed is incredibly scarce. When I, the one who has gone through the interview process, the testing etc etc wonders as an employee if my company is a scam... there is a problem. Once again, they are not technically seen as a scam [their view of themselves], however for all intensive purposes... they are. I have personally seen accounts popup on my screen (which is what happens when a consumer calls in to the call centers) a complete and utter lack of even the simplest information. I would say as a very honest, non-exagerated statistic that 95%+ of accounts that popup on our screens (in certain departments) have some kind of crucial piece of information missing. This is not necessarily Afni's fault, as they buy the accounts from the original creditor: Verizon, Sprint, etc. The original creditor often withholds information for the consumers (your) privacy. However, this obviously brings about a lack of information which is needed to actually collect on the bill. With Afni's computer program used to handle all accounts the information avaliable includes: Name (First, Middle, Last) Social Security # (usually only last 4 digits) Date of birth, billing phone #, billing address, service address, summary of your credit report, and any bill copies/letters sent.

Well, that is what the account is 'supposed' to have, anyway. In reality the account will usually only have a partial name. By 'partial name' I mean often times 'very' partial. John Andrew Smith becomes J Smith on the account. Or perhaps John A. Or even the old 'J'. Yes folks, that is right, and I have personally seen this a multitude of times. The account can even have no name at all. Rather heartwarming, isn't it? When asking my supervisor what to do when I encountered this, I was given the answer: '*pause*.... yeah, why not, I mean...*shrug*' Yes, that is a literal and accurate quote of the body language and words issued from my supervisor. I can glady say that, no, I did not collect on the account in question. In fact, I can very gladly say I did nothing seedy for that company. I suppose I just have a certain sense of... morality. However, continuing on: most accounts will not have a social security number for verification. In fact, most accounts have very little information at all. They usually do not have the billing phone #. They may not (50% of time) have the service address. They will almost always have the billing address, seeing as how that's where we sent the bill. Oh, and before I forget, they will almost never (1% of time) have any kind of bill copies or actual 'proof' you owe the bill. This is mostly dependent on what department your account is in once again, and how old the bill is.

Overall Afni is a very poor company in respect to their practices and teachings, which I found most ironic, as their entire philosophy (as they claim) is based on a higher level of service than other Collection Agencies. My 'advice' to those of you having issues with this company is to first gather some information about the account(s) you may have with them. Here are some steps to do this effectively, otherwise they will suck you into trying to pay it off (they are paid to get you to pay, not talk about the bill's validity... because in all honesty they don't even really know if it's valid)

1.) Call in to their call center. (You can google 'Afni' to find their website and contact info)
2.) A collector will answer saying something to the effect of: 'Thank you for calling Afni, how can I help you today?'
3.) Give that collector your Afni Account # (it's located on all those pesky letters they send you)
4.) They are required to then confirm your identity by simply asking you your name. (Yes, that's right. Afni has a 'take them at their word' policy.)
5.) They will then have to recite a little disclaimer to you along the lines of: 'Afni is a collection agency. We're handling your outstanding debt with (client) for ($ammount) and payment is due'.
6.) After they say this, my advice is to cut them off, otherwise they will start in on you. Try this, do as they do: Ask the questions to gain power in the conversation, try not to answer any questions, keep the conversation focused on what you want (don't get side-tracked). Yes, this is what they teach employees.
7.) Ask for information such as verifying last 4 digits of social (it may not even be the right John Smith). Ask for the dates of service. Ask for service/billing addresses.
8.) Keep in mind you can always tell them to cease communication. For accounts less than 7 years old, this will not take the debt off your credit report, but they are required by law to never contact you by writing or telecommunications. (Make sure you tell them to cease both mail AND phone communication). If the account is over 7 years old, asking for cease communication will effectively make it disappear, as it cannot be on your credit report, and they cannot contact you which only leaves them one option: Deleting the account.

A few other 'things to know' is that Afni sends out a ridiculous ammont of 50% off letters to settle debt. If settled for 50% it will not simply disappear off your credit report if it's within 7 years, it will say 'Settled in full' versus 'Paid in full'.

Another important thing to know is that ignoring their phone calls or letters is ultimately not going to help you, as they have access to public record databases to find new addresses / phone numbers based on your social security # (which they may or may not have). The best is advice is to call in, get info and cease communication and take advice from an attorney. It is not advisable to take Afni employees' advice on how to handle your dept, as even a college degree is not required to get the job. (Most people who call you on the phone are 18-24 years of age who have never had education higher than senior year in highschool.) So don't be intimidated by them, and don't take advice from them; seek your own.

Ultimately everyone, collection agencies such as Afni are not innately bad companies. However, like most things in life, they start out with good intentions but ultimately greed takes over. So, in essence, don't hate the company, as people who wrack up bills and don't pay are the problem. Yet, so are the immoral employees who use the same scumbag tactics to try and get someone, anyone, to pay the debt.. all so they can get their little bonus.

Lastly everyone: Don't immediately assume the person on the other line is trying to ruin your day. I worked there for a period of time, and in all honesty, I helped people get things figured out rather than got them to take out their pocket books. My goal was to find out what 'really' happened. There may be other employees of the same mind frame, so don't go into the conversation assuming the worst. If you're nice, and the collector seems like he/she is more interested in helping you than getting you to pay, then let them help you out. I would still advise caution, however, as many collectors give you a false sense of help. A classic example is when they ask you to hold, or if they say they're pulling up information, they are likely doing what they're taught to do: running your name / social security # through databases to find out if you were living at certain addresses at certain times to link you to the account and then ask you to pay. Around 5 minutes into the conversation you can tell the moral fiber of the collector on the other line.

One of the most, and last, piece of vital information to give to all of you is: the magic word 'dispute'. You 'always' have the right to dispute the validity of the debt. Afni is required to then investigate the account with the original creditor (if the bill was from Verizon, Afni goes and talks to Verizon). Afni 'may' send you information they obtained such as bill copies (if avaliable, usually not) or other kinds of proof that you did, in fact owe the bill. Ultimately, however, they are not required to send you more than a piece of paper saying 'We validated your account, you owe the bill. Pay immediately please.' This, of course, is not proof, so continue to hound them or cease communications. Usually when you don't recieve bill copies, it's because they no longer exist.

That's about all the information I have to help out those who have been mis-treated by this company. Remember not to be intimidated, ask the questions, don't answer. Try your best not to give them information, see what they have first... you will likely be surprised at their 'lack' of information. Remember always the magic word 'dispute'. You cannot dispute it forever, but if you honestly believe it's not your debt, this process may obsolve you of the responsibility.
..."

Anonymous said...

Note the reply from the self-described current AFNI employee, attempting to rebut the ex-employee.

Despite the fact that most forum complaints against AFNI are from consumers who believe they are being billed erroneously, it is interesting to see the "party line" for why it is acceptable to deflect consumer disputes. Never the less, in most news articles on AFNI problems, consumer reporters were able to get admissions from AFNI or Verizon that collection bills were in error.

If you respond to one of their bills, even if they sent it to you by mistake, they can assume you are the correct debtor because only the person they mailed it to can legally opening their mailed bill and call them??? Or is this just a sick "joke", that they laugh about at break?

Note that if they fail to notify the caller that the call is being recorded, then they are in violation of some states' recording laws, as many states are "two party notification" states. This would apply to consumers calling from California, as well as their home state of ILLINOIS.

Supposedly, their estimate of "fraudulent" accounts is 2.5%. On 1 million old Verizon accounts, that would be 25,000, possibly higher if the number of purchased accounts was higher. This would be in line with estimated FTC 2007 reports of 8000 to 10000 Verizon/AFNI "id theft" complaints, with some factor thrown in for under-reporting.

That does NOT mean, however that these are, in fact, actually "id theft", or "fraud", as AFNI is widely reported to steer misidentified consumers toward the hassles of filing "id theft" complaints, even when it appears the "mistake" was purely AFNI's.

No admission that a significant portion of AFNI complaints could possibly be due to AFNI errors in skip-tracing, or to deception on the part of AFNI employees. They are almost always right, with a few "id theft", and little else. If you don't sue your relatives, you have to pay them. They talk over consumers calling to dispute their errors, are trained to do so, and call it "AIM". Perhaps AIM is how Ciskey trained them to "listen" in order to develop "empathy" with pissed consumers and extract payment.

This is their official party line, same as all other "employee" responses have parrotted, and they may have to maintain this position or risk possible mail fraud or FCRA violation charges.

Note that it is no consequence to them if their actions result in damaged credit. All damages are apparently the consumer's fault, for one reason or another. Their brazen arrogance and irresponsibility is what ticks off most complainants.

As for employee names, Ciskey has already discussed that they routinely use aliases anyway. "Names" identify no one short of an actual lawsuit with discovery, but they empower their employees to push over the line while safely hiding behind their anonymity.

The supposed high levels of account accuracy claimed by the employee conflict with the ex-employee's claim of high levels of garbled and missing account information, on which they still attempt to collect anyway. The key characteristics of AFNI consumer complaints, different from other debt collector complaints, are the high levels of erroneous billing, consistent with the ex-employee claims.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/353/RipOff0353689.htm

"Knowledge_for_dumb_debtors
Des Peres, Missouri
U.S.A.

Current Employee with 'Debt for Dummies' Info.
First and foremost, I am a current employee and I enjoy my job.
...
A lot of you don't realize that calling in and saying 'I dispute this! (*hmph!*)' does nothing for you but give us something to laugh about when you hang up. It doesn't make us mad, nor does it irritate us when you get an attitude. We make jokes at your expense later...oh, and your bill remains in active collections until you decide to pay it.

Unlike the previous 'ex-employee' response, I am here to say that we DO have a lot of proof as to who bills belong to. Thing is, a lot of consumers call in and arent patient (or sane/calm/poise) enough to sit and listen to us work it out. Of course, we will assume you owe the bill if you call in. ITS ILLEGAL TO OPEN SOMEONE ELSES MAIL, WHY WOULD YOU COMMIT A FEDERAL CRIME?! Haha, another one of our jokes. So, bare with us.
...
1) We DO NOT add socials or change them on accounts. We do not have the soft ware to do so. We only ask you to verify your last 4 of your social because WE passed the background check....we don't know what your criminal record is like...
...
2) Paying a bill in any way shape or form does NOT restart your 7 year reporting period. It is based of the ORIGINAL date of delinquency. Example: you stopped paying your phone bill in 2006 (so it should come off your credit report sometime in 2013) and you pay the settlement amount in 2008....it still comes off in 2013.
[legally correct, but there still are consumer reports of obsolete debts showing up on credit reports anyway.]

3) There is no 'con artist' method, or whatever it was called. Yes, there is an AIM method, but honestly, 80% of the calls we receive are idiots trying to tell us the bill is fraud when clearly it is not, or when people just simply feel they dont owe the bill, therefore, they think 'disputing' will make it go away. So, we adapted to this trend by finding quick ways to solve the average debtors lack of desire to face the music and pay the dues. If you say you are poor or dying or unemployed (when obviously you are not..you are talking on a home phone, some how you are paying your bills...), we will give you options -- don't take them offensively! Gee, we are trying to help you in the midst of your horrid crisis! And the point is not for us to badger you-- you called in for a reason:: you want the bill gone! Right? Well, you are only getting the bill 'gone' in one of two ways. The account has to actually, truly be fraud (which in all honesty, folks, is probably about 2.5% of our accounts...your family member opening it up is a CIVIL matter, you are still responsible unless you take them to civil court...whether you like it or not!).....or, unless you pay! ONLY TWO OPTIONS KIDS! For the not-so-fortunate 97.5% whose accounts are NOT fraud, you either will pay eventually (after your credit is destroyed) or through bankruptcy.

If you call in, expect us to point out your responsibilities, that the bill is yours, and to offer you payment options! Its our job, and we wont do it any other way. If you dont want to be told to pay your bill, then either DO NOT CALL or pay your bills on time, in full, like the responsible adult you ought to be.

Oh, and for the record, asking us our names does not bother us, we know we are being recorded for our protection
..."

Anonymous said...

AFNI's BBB report now shows "No Rating", although it also still indicates it is a "BBB Accredited Business". It now includes notice of the Minnesota Attorney General's lawsuit, under "Government Actions".

http://heartofillinois.bbb.org/
WWWRoot/Report.aspx?
site=109&bbb=0724&firm=9000349

"Government Actions

On July 15 2008 the Minnesota Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Afni, Inc. The suit alleges Afni vilotated Minnesota's debt collection law by using unfair collection techniques to attempt to collect debts that Minnesota consumers stated they did not believe they owe, and that Afni did not adequetly verify the validity of debts to ensure it was collecting the debt from the right people. The lawsuit also alleges that Afni continued collection effots, rather than verify the legitimacy of the debt, after citizens informed Afni that it was attempting to collect the debt from the wrong person. This action is currently pending, no final action has been taken."

Anonymous said...

Psalm 4:2
"O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception?..."

Anonymous said...

Added information from another ex-AFNI employee from Chandler. Pretty much confirms the "training" in bullying and deception visible in many consumer complaints.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/353/RipOff0353689.htm

"...
¤Ex-Employee: In all likelihood the current employee just gave away his/her department. I myself worked in Dept Purchase, which 'is' very shady and has very little in the way of proof. Many of the accounts are in the 4-20 year old bracket. This, of course, means that most records of the incident in question are non existent. The current employee probably works in 1st or 3rd Party Collections, in which case there is a lot of back-up data. Secondly, I think we all know that, in many cases, writing 'Wrong Address' or anything to that effect on a letter does not guarantee your local post office will do anything. I know that I would not want my home address being associated, in any way, with any kind of debt that is not my own. Note: Most issues claiming Afni to be a disreputable company and/or a scam are the result of the Dept Purchase Department.
...
¤Ex-Employee: That is correct, company policy does not want you to add socials on accounts. However, it happens anyway. My recollection is not flawed in that I personally opened an account with added social security information in the 'Alias' field. For added information, let me paint a picture: On the typical account, you have a few 'fields' to enter or check information. The following fields are present on all accounts (whether they're filled with information or not is the problem; usually they are not)

Name (First / Last & Maybe Middle)
Social Security # (Usually do not have that info. Depends on client)
(Client being Verizon / Sprint or whatever)
Alias (John might be known as Johnny. Or to differentiate between Jr. / Sr.)
Phone # (Not always accurate for obvious reasons)
Current Address (Not always accurate for obvious reasons)
Billing Phone # (May not have)
Billing Address
Service Address (Usually non-existent)
A few other non-influential fields for the purpose of this article.

Employees (Collectors) 'Can' modify the following fields:
Alias
Phone #
Current Address

Back to my story. In my situation, I opened an account where the consumer's social security # was entered into the 'Alias' field. This is against company policy, however, like I said before, after reporting this to my supervisor, he did nothing to correct the error.
...
¤Ex-Employee: Alright, perhaps the Current Employee is taking my statements rather literally.... of course they do not tell you to be a con artist. However, that doesn't mean that you aren't one. I personally sat next to an employee who would use the same resolve tactic each time. He would tell the consumer that they lived in what we call a 'minimum pay state'. Now, I would later tell him he was incorrect. There are only around 13 states that are considered minimum pay states, and he was using that 'tactic' on every call, even those which were not minimum pay states. Continuing on, the Current Employee is technically correct again, albeit not actually correct; most consumers 'will' say it's fraud. Perhaps, though, the Current Employee is not taking into consideration the position of the consumer. Imagine with me, for a minute, you have just received Afni's collection letter in the mail. It has your name on it, your address. You open it, and it claims you owe Sprint $3,500. You know you've never had Sprint service. However, what you don't know is that Sprint bought out your phone company from 20 years back. Now it goes under the Sprint logo. Obviously most people would be confused at this. This is the point that our Current Employee blows you off and starts ignoring everything you say.

Also, to shed some light on our Current Employee's statistics, 97.5% is not correct. First of all, since the implimentation of Afni's current software system, it is not possible to see a true statistical analysis. Secondly, as my astute colleague says, family fraud (such as your sibling stealing your Social Security # and setting up an account) 'is' technically considered a 'Civil Matter'. That is the nice little phrase Afni uses to justify its doings. In Afni's eyes (and this is what they tell us when we're trained) if you knew the person who defrauded you, it's not fraud. Laughable, isn't it? However, the law sides with Afni in this matter as of now. So, if we were to take this into account, I would throw a guess out there that the 97.5% of accounts not being fraud would likely be reduced to oh, say 20% of accounts being legit non-fraud accounts. Actually, let's change that 20 to 27.5% (So as to sound astute). Side note: I find it rather odd that our friend 'Current Employee' has determined this exact percentage when I inquired into company management on multiple occassions for this information, and even searched extensively for external resources to determine the answer. (We'll just pretend he/she is really good with mental math)
...
*Current Employee: 'If you call in, expect us to point out your responsibilities, that the bill is yours, and to offer you payment options! Its our job, and we wont do it any other way. If you dont want to be told to pay your bill, then either DO NOT CALL or pay your bills on time, in full, like the responsible adult you ought to be.'

¤Ex-Employee: Really, I just find the above statement to be rather funny. The entire paragraph is simply an attempt to demean people with serious issues / concerns as to the legitimacy of Afni's claim of debt. Is this how a representative of Afni collects a debt? By putting people down and attempting to bully you into paying a bill that may not be yours?

*Current Employee: 'Oh, and for the record, asking us our names does not bother us, we know we are being recorded for our protection (so none of you can say we said something illegal, which we are all aware of the laws -- so make sure you ACTUALLY know what you are talking about before you start ranting and raving about California's law of after 13 months if you don't pay your bill, that you never have to again...). Infact, we will speak to you in the same courteous fashion you address us. Be nice, we'll be pleasant also. After all, we are only here to help you find ways to pay your bills!'

¤Ex-Employee: That's nice that it doesn't bother you. As to your second statement in that paragraph, you are knowingly incorrect. Not all calls are recorded as of yet. Due to the sheer memory it would take to keep all calls on file, it has not been implemented. Also, to comment on Afni Employees being 'aware of the laws', that is usually not very true in any sense of the word. If you were to ask the Current Employee how long he/she trained for, they would respond '5 weeks'. Now, while even this answer is a pitiful excuse, the truth of the matter is that 3-5 days are spent on the laws and practices of every state Afni collects in. Is this honestly enough time? No. This would be the reason why Afni recruits right out of High School. In all likelihood, as I said before, you are talking to a 17-26 year old with no education past High School. There is, honestly, no real work experience required to obtain the job title of 'Debt Collector'. This is the truth behind the person talking to you on the phone about your finances. This is the person giving you advice. Dont' know about the rest of you, but that alone should be illegal.

*Current Employee: '**Side note: calling in just to speak to another agent will get you no where, trust me. If we see you just called in early that day, chances are, we wont be thrilled to talk to you if all you do is want to complain about the person you spoke to prior, or double check your account information again.....if you have short term memory, please, have a pen and pad of paper ready before you call in......along with your check book, master card or visa.'

¤Ex-Employee: Besides the sarcasm of this paragraph (obviously meant to be demeaning once again) it is also incorrect. Simple logic dictates talking to another, less-idiotic employee will get your more places than talking to the new guy on the job. This fact in practice: If you called one of the typical Afni con artists one day, then requested another agent and were transferred to me (when I worked there), you would have actually had your questions answered, your problem hopefully resolved, and if not: investigated to determine validity.

My own side note: People, all in all, if you take anything from this little on-going debate between Afni employees, ex-Afni employees, and consumers wronged by Afni, take this: Afni is a Collection Agency. The accounts in question are most often the Dept Purchase accounts. To determine the validity of an account 20 years old... is simply not likely. Afni, being a company determined on meeting the bottom line (money) is not concerned by this. They want their money, they don't care where they get it from. They stock their call centers with children, fresh out of High School because they offer slightly-higher than minimum wage and full time employment. They offer them enticing little bonuses (commission) for collecting 'x' amount of money per month. Most of you (consumers) are likely old enough you have your own kids around 17-20. Think about that... you're talking to your children over the phone. Do they know what they're doing at that age when it comes to life-altering aspects regarding finances? Not likely. They can barely manage to keep their apartment, pay their own debts (or not), and ask you for 1 grand every now and then. These are the people you're talking to. People who can't manage their own lives, and attempt to make their living managing others' lives. Afni is, honestly, the McDonald's of Collection Agencies. You're more likely to hear 'Do you want fries with that?' over actual legitimate answers to your questions.

Good luck to all of you,
..."

Anonymous said...

Other insider reports.

Confirmation that their compliance department is getting swamped with lawsuits, consistent with Lisa Anderson's advertisement for a paralegal.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/365/RipOff0365150.htm

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/243/RipOff0243586.htm

"...
Anonymous
Bloomington, Illinois
U.S.A.

Don't Pay any bills to Afni if they are over 7 years old
Monica -

I would say that you should not pay the bill, but if it's on your credit report, try this...

Call Afni and ask to speak with a program coach. The rep will badger you and try to keep you from getting to their supervisor, but insist on it. Don't give the rep your Afni account number either - wait until you get a coach (supervisor).

When you get the supervisor, threaten to file a complaint with the Attorney General of Michigan, the Attorney General of Illinois, the Better Business Bureau & the Federal Trade Comission. Also threaten legal action. Tell the supervisor that you 'have an appointment with an attorney this afternoon to discuss filing a law suit against Afni'.

Afni is sued hundreds of times every day in various jurisdictions. As a result, Afni's Compliance Manager, Lisa Anderson, has determined that it is cheaper for Afni to close the account and remove it from your credit report than to meet you in court. If the coach gives you a fight, tell him or her that you want to de transferred to Lisa Anderson, Compliance Manager.

Good luck
..."

Anonymous said...

Use of statistical analysis to detect cheating.

http://consumerist.com/5051834/
ultimatebet-poker-site-admits-
players-cheated-but-wont-name-names

Anonymous said...

AFNI's Jim Hess offers their common BS excuse that complaints against them are not due to their negligently billing the wrong person and failing to verify the debt, but due to an increase in "identity theft".

If so, then why aren't other companies seeing a similar jump in such "identity theft"?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/
id/27462361/

"As debt mounts, bill collector complaints surge
Reports to FTC have doubled since 2003 ‘and it is going to get worse’

updated 3:34 p.m. MT, Thurs., Oct. 30, 2008

NEW YORK - After several years in which Americans were buying stuff on credit they couldn't afford, a rapidly increasing number are complaining about getting harassed and abused by bill collectors.

Nearly 71,000 people filed such complaints with the Federal Trade Commission last year, roughly double the number in 2003. In addition, more than 14,000 complained to the Better Business Bureau. Thousands more lodged grievances with state and city officials.

"And it is going to get worse," warned David Polino, a Better Business Bureau expert on collection agencies and president of the BBB chapter in upstate New York. "With the recession, with the horrible credit problems, this is going to be off the charts."
...
Regulators say many of the most serious complaints seem to be aimed at a particular type of debt collection agency: companies that specialize in buying old accounts that have defied all previous attempts at collection. There are hundreds of such companies, compared with as few as a dozen a decade ago.

These companies pay pennies on the dollar to acquire portfolios of "zombie debt" from phone companies, banks, health care providers and stores.

"We've seen people being pursued over debts that are 8, 9 or 10 years old," said Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.

Those attempts to collect on older debts that have changed hands several times can be problematic, said the BBB's Polino. Some of the record-keeping on those accounts is so slipshod, he said, that collectors find themselves hounding the wrong people, or chasing accounts that were paid off long ago.

Swanson sued an Illinois debt-collection agency, AFNI Inc., in July, accusing it of failing to verify that old bills were legitimate before going after debtors. AFNI's vice president Jim Hess defended the company's efforts to verify debts and blamed some of the problems on an increase in identity theft.
..."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the website. I just got an Afni letter today, for an account with T-Mobile. I have never had an account with T-Mobile, so I was immediately suspicious. At first we tried to call them, then I thought - bad idea, they'll have our phone number, so we hung up. I have composed my letter and will send it out tomorrow. I have already complained to our state attorney general (I'm in Washington), and will now file complaints with Illinois and with BBB. God, I love the internet....

Anonymous said...

I've received a collection notice from Afni for a T-Moblie account. I've NEVER had an account with T-Mobile for any service in my life. At first I thought someone opened an account in my name. I checked all the major credit reports and found nothing. I also found it suspicious that the debt was only for $175.60. If someone had opened an account in my name, I'm sure they would have run the charges up much higher than that! I'm so glad to find this website. I've written a letter to Afni disputing the debt using a good bit of the wording suggested on the site. I intend to immediatly file a fraud report with the USPS as well. Thanks for creating the site, I'll update on how this story turns out.

Anonymous said...

Be sure to send your dispute and request for validation letter to AFNI via U.S. Mail, certified return receipt requested, so that you have proof of their receipt.

Keep the letter simple, just say you dispute the alleged debt in its entirety, that you have never had a T-Mobile account, that you request proof that you owe it, and attach a copy of their letter. Keep a copy of what you sent for your files, along with the certified receipt to show when mailed, and the green card to show when they got it.

You want to make sure they receive this letter timely, within 30 days of your receipt of their first letter, to preserve your FDCPA rights.

In particular, if you send this validation request within 30 days, they MUST cease all collection activity until they send you validation (from the original creditor), or they have violated FDCPA.

In addition, contact T-Mobile, and ask them to determine if there is any account number in your name or under your SSN. Unless there was real id theft, there won't be, since most complaints against AFNI are that they are sending out collection letters to anyone their computers approximately match by name, possibly anywhere in the country.

If you have determined through T-Mobile that there is no account tied to you or under your SSN, include that piece of information in your complaints to Washington AG, Illinois AG, and FTC.

Also send a complaint to FTC, and then call FTC directly. Try to find out how they are interpreting other complaints against AFNI, since AFNI has become one of the top two company names associated with consumer FTC id theft complaints. Verizon, who AFNI collects for, was number one.

Anonymous said...

Note that if you pay a debt you don't owe, whether it is someone else's debt or was already paid, if they are putting it erroneously on your credit reports, it will only show as either a paid or settled collection account, which is just as damaging to your credit score as if you never paid it.

Furthermore, paying someone else's debt may make it harder to get it removed from your reports, or to collect damages from them in a lawsuit, since the debt collector will generally claim you "admitted" it was yours.

Anonymous said...

Inside view of AFNI, Bowling Green KY. That site appears to be mainly customer service call centers for various client companies.
http://www.topix.com/forum/
city/bowling-green-ky/
TF2R7VLN4ATPNIN1E

Andy said...

This story is from the Telegraph-Herald Online:
----------------------
Court Rules in Favor of Cell Phone Customers

MADISON, Wis. -- A debt collection company must pay damages to 7,000 Cingular Wireless customers in Wisconsin for illegally charging fees, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

Bloomington, Ill.-based Afni, Inc. charged customers collection fees equaling 15 percent of the money they owed Cingular, which has since been bought by AT&T. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said that fee was not allowed under Wisconsin law or their cell phone contracts and violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The decision upholds a ruling last year by U.S. Magistrate Judge William E. Callahan, Jr. in Milwaukee. Callahan awarded the customers $206,000 in damages, costs and attorneys fees.
-------------------------

One more strike against this crooked outfit.

Anonymous said...

So Appeals Court affirmed the original decision, confirming that the "collection charges" added by AFNI were not allowed.

As of today, their BBB report changed.

http://heartofillinois.bbb.org/WWWRoot/Report.aspx?site=109&bbb=0724&firm=9000349

The Minnesota Attorney General filed suit against AFNI on July 15, 2008. Since then, BBB has shown them as "unrated", presumably pending the outcome of this suit over their collection practices.

Now they show as rated "A+", while the lawsuit is apparently still pending. (Formerly they appeared to be using a "Satisfactory", Unsatisfactory", "Unrated" scale.)

What is Peoria BBB smoking?

Peoria BBB has played a roll in preserving AFNI's appearance of legitimacy from the beginning, allowing a portion of legitimate consumer disputes resulting from their "random" collection process to be resolved before they become visible as regulatory complaints.

The report still shows notice of the Minnesota AG's lawsuit:
"...
Government Actions

On July 15 2008 the Minnesota Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Afni, Inc. The suit alleges Afni vilotated Minnesota's debt collection law by using unfair collection techniques to attempt to collect debts that Minnesota consumers stated they did not believe they owe, and that Afni did not adequetly verify the validity of debts to ensure it was collecting the debt from the right people. The lawsuit also alleges that Afni continued collection effots, rather than verify the legitimacy of the debt, after citizens informed Afni that it was attempting to collect the debt from the wrong person. This action is currently pending, no final action has been taken.
..."

Justin said...

This is what was just published in the Wisconsin Law Journal about the latest lawsuit that Afni lost:

Here, AFNI did not consult a Wisconsin attorney on the [Wisconsin Consumer Act], nor did it ask a government agency whether the collection fees were permitted.

Accordingly, Judge Wood wrote, "In the end, AFNI is not arguing that it relied on an informed, but mistaken, legal opinion. It is saying that its ignorance of the law should be excused because it attempted to keep itself informed about the law through the various trade association communications. This is not enough, in our view, to support the bona fide error defense."

Afni tries to plead "ignorance" not because they got bad legal advice; they're trying to say that if they simply ignore the law that it shouldn't apply to them.

Anonymous said...

It appears to be part of their business model to deliberately avoid knowing that many of their collection demands are illegitimate, officially as a matter of company policy. It looks like that policy tripped them up in this case.

Billing a dog, by name only, indicates they made no attempt to accurately verify identity (i.e. through past address, DOB, or SSN) before sending out a dunning letter.

Similarly, widespread complaints from consumers claiming they are being billed for accounts that are not theirs are consistent with widespread failure to verify identity.

Their defense, to what are apparently intentionally highly erroneous, hence fraudulent, collection demands, appears to be only that they "don't know" they are sending letters to a lot of the wrong people, yet have no obligation to provide any validation, or only do so by sending their own "verification" printouts.

Pretty much just what the Minnesota AG is claiming in her lawsuit.

Over 10000 FTC "id theft" complaints per year represents only the tip of the iceberg of their level of unwarranted consumer harassment.

Their activities are deliberate and systematic, on a massive scale, not occasional bona fide errors. At least this time they got called on it.

Anonymous said...

Another report from an alleged ex-AFNI employee that they routinely cannot (hence will not) validate alleged Verizon debt.

http://thirdpipe.com/2008/07/25
/have-they-defrauded-you-now/

Anonymous said...

AFNI statistics update:

Ripoffreport.com shows the following complaint thread counts in 2008:
14 Jan.
27 Feb.
18 March
8 April
3 May
16 June
21 July
13 Aug.
8 Sept.
8 Oct.
14 Nov.
5 Dec.

BBB report.

http://heartofillinois.bbb.org/WWWRoot/Report.aspx?site=109&bbb=0724&firm=9000349
"...
Rating: A+
...
BBB processed a total of 1569 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period. Of the total of 1569 complaints closed in 36 months, 677 were closed in the last year.

These complaints concerned :
1546 regarding Billing or Collection Issues
439 - Failure to correct billing errors
52 - Failure to provide itemized billing as requested
282 - Failure to substantiate charges
583 - Improper collection practices
186 - None of the Above - Credit, Billing or Collection Complaint Issue
4 - Unauthorized bank debits

2 regarding Contract Issues
1 - Invalid or false contract
1 - None of the Above - Contract Complaint Issue

12 regarding Customer Service Issues
1 - Failure to provide promised assistance or support for products or services
1 - Failure to respond to phone calls or written requests for assistance or support
9 - Inappropriate behavior by customer service personnel
1 - None of the Above - Customer Service Complaint Issue

1 regarding Refund or Exchange Issues
1 - Failure to honor refund, exchange or credit policies

1 regarding Repair Issues
1 - None of the Above - Repair Complaint Issue

1 regarding Sales Practice Issues
1 - Sales presentation used dishonest sales practices

6 regarding Service Issues
6 - None of the Above - Service Complaint Issue


These complaints were closed as:
1217 Resolved
462 - Company addressed the complaint issues. The consumer failed to acknowledge acceptance to BBB.
274 - Company resolved
14 - Company offered a partial (less than 100%) settlement which the consumer accepted.
467 - Company offered a partial (less than 100%) settlement which the consumer failed to acknowledge acceptance to BBB.

352 Administratively Closed
197 - BBB determined that despite the company's reasonable effort to address complaint issues, the consumer remained dissatisfied.
39 - BBB determined the company made a reasonable offer to resolve the issues, but the consumer did not accept the offer.
115 - BBB determined the company provided proper verification that indicated there was no obligation to resolve the issues of the complaint.
1 - BBB determined that while the company addressed the complaint issues, the complainant was dissatisfied and the matter was outside BBB Rules of Arbitration
...
Government Actions

On July 15 2008 the Minnesota Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Afni, Inc. The suit alleges Afni vilotated Minnesota's debt collection law by using unfair collection techniques to attempt to collect debts that Minnesota consumers stated they did not believe they owe, and that Afni did not adequetly verify the validity of debts to ensure it was collecting the debt from the right people. The lawsuit also alleges that Afni continued collection effots, rather than verify the legitimacy of the debt, after citizens informed Afni that it was attempting to collect the debt from the wrong person. This action is currently pending, no final action has been taken.
..."

Note that most of the above complaints are that AFNI failed to correct billing errors or substantiate charges, or engaged in improper collection practices, consistent with the many consumer complaints of failure to validate, abusive or deceptive collection, or other FDCPA violations.

Also note that of the 1217 complaints that BBB marks as resolved or administratively closed, with only a small fraction (24%) did the consumer acknowledge or agree the matter was resolved.

BBB is just parrotting AFNI's position, ignoring the overall pattern and nature of consumer complaints even when they are consistent with the allegations in the Minnesota AG's lawsuit.

AFNI's "compliance" people appear to have sold themselves as the "experts" in debt collection compliance, and BBB has bought it.

Anonymous said...

Information on Accurint requirements for allowing customer access to unmasked SSN and DOB data. Doesn't sound like they are much beyond verifying customer is in debt collection.

A debt collector having accurate SSN or DOB is no proof that an alleged debt is owed by a particular consumer.

http://www.insidearm.com/forum/
messageview.cfm?catid=9&threadid=
7795&enterthread=y

Anonymous said...

BBB rating has dropped from "A+" to "B+", due to "government action(s) against business". It only took 6 months...

http://heartofillinois.bbb.org/
WWWRoot/Report.aspx?site=109&bbb=
0724&firm=9000349

"...
BBB Rating

Based on BBB files, this business has a BBB Rating of B+.

Reasons for this rating include:
Government action(s) against business.
..."

Anonymous said...

AFNI is listed by Colorado's Collection Agency Board as having been subject to an "action" (Action = Yes).

http://www.ago.state.co.us/database
/CabReport.pdf

"...
"Action" Category
In addition to the "Status" column that shows revocations, the "Action" category enables you to determine whether the licensee was subject to legal or administrative action by this office or the licensee entered into a voluntary settlement with this office. If the entry is "yes," the licensee may have been subject to one or more letters of admonition, suspension of the license, a judgment or order against the licensee, or other action, including payments (fines, penalties, consumer refunds, or other monetary payments.) Additionally, "yes" may mean that the licensee's records include a voluntary settlement or stipulation with this office. If a licensee has been disciplined, it might still retain its license. Actions and settlements are matters of public record although research, copying, and mailing costs may apply. Contact this office for more information.

Collection Agency Board
1525 Sherman St., 7th Fl.
Denver, CO 80203
(303) 866-5706 (Phone)
(303) 866-5691 (Fax)
cab@state.co.us
...
AFNI INC 404 BROCK DR
BLOOMINGTON, IL 61701
987850 9/25/2001 A Active Yes
...
"

Anonymous said...

It seems that politicians campaigns are also being funded by fraud. Ronald Greene, the COO of AFNI has contributed to Aaron Schock. Mr Greene also contributed (once more I am sure with fraud money) to Jerry Weller. Debra J. Ciskey, Director at AFNI has contributed money to the ACPAC ACA.

Why is it that our officials, who we trust to guide our city and country are taking money from these people that are breaking the law on a daily basis? These people must be stopped.

Anonymous said...

Complaints against AFNI with IL AG should be over a thousand by now, probably similar to BBB complaint levels, and above the level at which they took action against Arrow.

The Minnesota AG took sued AFNI after receiving 50 complaints showing a common pattern of abuse.

Why hasn't the Illinois Attorney General acted?

Anonymous said...

Here is Chris Hoofnagle's FOIA request for 2006 FTC id theft complaint data.

http://www.governmentattic.org/
docs/
FOIA_Logs_FederalTradeCommission_FY2005-07.pdf

Page 32:
"...
FOIA-2007-00688 Law Firm Hoofnagle,Chris Samuelson Clinic ID Theft data Denied in part
..."

Anonymous said...

Implication from a Verizon employee that AFNI is recognized by Verizon to be causing problems sufficient to set up a system to handle them.

http://budhibbs.com/
debtcollectorpages/AFNI.htm

"January 2009 I work for Verizon's Financial Department, and I assist customers daily with AFNI issues. I want to say that managers at Verizon DO have the ability to recall most Final Accounts back from AFNI. We even have a toll free number to an internal department for assistance cleaning up a damaged credit report because of a wrongful listing by AFNI or other agencies. I just want people out there to know that Verizon may still be able to help. I have been a manager in the Financial Department for a long time. Currently, I am in their Click to Chat department for financial assistance with Final and Live bills. Please contact Verizon about your Final Bill with AFNI. I hope we can help!"

Anonymous said...

AFNI statistics update:

Ripoffreport.com shows the following complaint thread counts in 2008-2009:
14 Jan. 2008
27 Feb.
18 March
8 April
3 May
16 June
21 July
13 Aug.
8 Sept.
8 Oct.
13 Nov.
4 Dec.
7 Jan. 2009

Anonymous said...

Reported allegation of AFNI fabricating fraudulent and deceptive "validation".

http://budhibbs.com/
collectorpages/AFNI.htm

"February 2009 AFNI, Inc. a collection agency out of Bloomington, IL. This is an actual follow up.

I finally received a response back from AFNI, Inc., after sending a validation letter, regarding the account they have placed on all 3 of my credit reports.

They failed to validate this account. The enclosed letter goes onto read;

This letter confirms the original creditor and balance of your account. Thank you for your attention in this matter.

If you have any questions, please contact our office toll free at 1-888-216-2408 Monday through Friday 7am - 9pm CST. For proper credit on your account, please write this number XXXXXXXX-X on your payment. (Hello, I did not ask for them to send me a collection bill, I asked for them to validate the debt and prove to me the debt is mine).

This is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for the purpose. You have the right to inspect your credit. This letter is from a debt collector.

Sincerely,

Afni, Inc.

Bottom reads
Please return this portion with your payment for proper credit pleas write XXXXXXXX-X on your check.

They also enclosed a rather strange bill, claiming to have been from the original creditor. However, it is not on the company (Qwest) letterhead. It also states a name that I have never used with the company, a phone number, which I have never had, the date of December 2002 (last bill), which is incorrect, as I canceled my service with Qwest in February of 2000. It also goes on to list what appears to be a mobile phone account, which I never had with Qwest, but it lists my old address, which I have not lived at in years.

The bill they had sent to me, claiming it was from the original creditor does not look close to being legit. The bill itself looks like someone in the office at AFNI, Inc. quickly typed something up, as it did not contain the original creditor letterhead or any other form of letterhead.

I am going to mail a copy of the letter, from AFNI, Inc. to Qwest. I refuse to pay a company that cannot properly provide me with legitimate documents, showing I owe. One too many red flags.

I am also sending a letter to the Attorney General in Illinois, also enclosed copies of all my correspondences.
"

Anonymous said...

They're still up to the same old tricks. Afni offered to "settle a debt" which I've never owed, by sending a phony settlement offer to an address in Texas, at which I have never lived (but my ex-wife got it and forwarded it to me - I assume Afni got the address from my son's military dependent records). As usual, it's a Verizon number, located in the Northwest, not Texas, and as near as I can tell, not currently assigned to anyone. I am contacting two States' Attorneys General, two US Attroneys, and the State Attorney for McLean County, IL with the details.

Anonymous said...

Your case provides practically a map of what they are doing: Take any account in their portfolio, and send bills to anyone with a similar name, at any address they can locate.

Spend nothing to determine who really owes it. And if they dispute, throw up barriers, make illegal threats, and do credit damage until some of the suckers pay bills they don't owe.

And don't forget, AFNI doesn't "know" they are doing anything wrong. After all, it is their policy to comply with the law, so they must be doing so. They may even offer you 50% off, in case you are not sure you owe it but want to settle anyway. How fair is that?

You never had that number, your name was never on that account, but whatever name was on that account is similar enough to your name, so their bills go out to any address showing your name, or even to addresses indirectly linkable to you.

Why don't you contact Verizon to see if they show any accounts under your name and SSN? Then check to see if AFNI pulled your credit reports, without permissible purpose since you never initiated a credit transaction with Verizon on this account.

And if you really want to have fun, if Verizon confirms there is no account, bad or otherwise, under your name and SSN, call AFNI and ask them what SSN they claim is attached to this alleged debt.

You might want to record that call, in case they attempt to extort payment from you by falsely claiming your name, SSN, past address, and other identity information was part of the account information from Verizon, while Verizon claims they never heard of you.

Anonymous said...

Reported credit damage caused by illegal re-aging of a disputed debt.

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/427/RipOff0427332.htm

"...
I was shocked to see an old debt, which I had disputed over 12 years ago, return as a new negative. The debt, $685, is supposedly for Aerial Communications Cellular Service.

I have not had an account with Aerial since 1997.

Aerial Communications was acquired by VoiveStream Wireless on September 20, 1999. T-Mobile then acquired VoiceStream Wireless.

How could a debt that is over 12 years old with Aerial reamerge as new?
..."

Anonymous said...

FTC report from the 2007 Workshop on collecting consumer debt.

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshops/
debtcollection/dcwr.pdf

Deception by debt collectors is only mentioned in passing, although it was a topic of discussion at the workshop, as noted above.

FTC acknowledges it is overwelmed by the increasing number of complaints, and that enforcement of FDCPA depends primarily on private litigation. It also acknowledges that the FDCPA statutory penalties and caps have not increased in 30 years, weaking private enforcement and deterence.

The $1,000 statutory penalty set in 1977 would be $3,600 in 2008 dollars, while the $500,000 cap would be $1,800,000 in 2008.

It does indicate there is a problem in transferring enough information with debts to identify the correct person owing and amount owed, that most debtors, particularly the unsophisticated, are at a disadvantage in dealing with the debt collection industry, and that this is exacerbated by debt collectors providing inadequate information on a debt or disclosure of consumer rights.

It notes that FTC and courts considered threatening to sue on time barred debts to be FDCPA violations, and that collection of debts discharged in bankruptcy is prohibited by federal bankruptcy law, but that there is still a market in the selling and collection of discharged debts.

Anonymous said...

Another AFNI "id-theft or you cosigned" game, not even credible. "Who did you cosign for?" If it was actually cosigned, AFNI would already have the primary name on the original account, as the account would be in that person's name, not the "cosigner".

Evidence of deceptive talk-off. AFNI employee is fishing for a threat that will work to extract payment, while attempting to deflect consumer's dispute.

Using having SSN and DOB as "proof" of correct identity, yet consumer never did business with alleged creditor, and lives 400 miles away. Reduces the odds of actual id theft, making it more likely AFNI obtained SSN and DOB themselves.

"Why don't you pay to clear your name". Since the alleged "debt" is "substantiated" through deceptive intimidation, obtaining identity information without authorization, basically extortion.

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/
debt/afni.html

"Diane of San Jose CA (03/12/09)

I received a collections statement using the wrong last name for a business I never have used in a town 400 miles away from where I live. Afer calling to report the bill was an error...the person quoted my correct SSN and Birthdate. Then accused me of either so-signing for the use or denying I was responsible. He kept stating 'WHO DID YOU CO-SIGN FOR' and ' WHY DON't YOU PAY TO CLEAR YOUR NAME', etc. I became very frustrated. Later, I checked my credit report and found I had one negative mark.....from AFNI.

This has caused me much stress. I have worked hard to obtain excellent credit. At first, I thought this was Identity theft, but then I realized after checking my credit report that it was AFNI working solo. How do I get this off my credit report? "

Anonymous said...

Relative skip-tracing. Accurint?

http://www.complaintsboard.com/
complaints/wouldn039t-tell-me-just-
asked-for-my-daughter-in-law-c51333.html

"asked for my daughter-in-law by her maiden name ... The funny thing is that shes never lived here."

Anonymous said...

Deceptive collection.

Essentially "social engineering" to find out enough to alter the alleged debt information to match what the consumer would be likely to believe. The consumer calls to find out where some unrecognized debt came from, and instead gets a con game.

Note use of "A.I.M." and neurolinguistics in deceptive talk-off. Indicative of "training".

http://www.ripoffreport.com/
reports/0/435/RipOff0435083.htm

"...I received a collection letter that is trying to collect for a debt that they claim I owe to Verizon for service that was disconnected in January 2009.

I've never had phone service with Verizon, I'm assuming that they are a good company, but I've never dealt with them. I've had Quest and T-mobile service for at least the past 10 years.

Neither person that I spoke with would actually answer any real questions. They continued to try to pry new information from me by asking, 'how work was going?' and other leading questions. I kept telling them that I wasn't calling them to tell them my life story. I was calling them to find out how I could dispute this bill.

Both men tried to convince me to pay half a debt they claim I owe to Verizon. That way it wouldn't negatively affect my credit report.

The phone number is from Florida, I live in Denver, CO. Then they kept asking me things like 'how long have you lived in Colorado' and 'When did you move from Florida'. I made the mistake of telling them that I had at one time lived in Florida (4 years ago). Then, all of a sudden, the dates that I had supposedly had service with Verizon changed to 6-4 years ago.

Regardless of the dates of service both men went on to state that I didn't need to sign an agreement or actually agree to have service connected at all in order for Verizon to claim that I had service and that I owed Verizon for that service. That makes no legal or common sense. I called T-mobile and verified with them that I had actually signed a contract for my phone service. I then asked them if I could sign up for a new line of service without signing a contract or any form that showed I was getting service. Their answer was 'NO!' I then called Verizon and asked them the same questions; they answered the same as T-mobile. And I asked them if they could find something in their computer systems that showed that I actually had service with them. Again, after almost 15 minutes and several very nice people had researched it for me, they answered 'No!'.
..."

Anonymous said...

"Social engineering".

Note that under GLB, use of deception to obtain consumer account information either from a financial institution, or from the CONSUMER HIMSELF, is a violation of law.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Social_engineering_(security)

"...
The statute states that when someone obtains any personal, non-public information from a financial institution or the consumer, their action is subject to the statute. It relates to the consumer's relationship with the financial institution. For example, a pretexter using false pretenses either to get a consumer's address from the consumer's bank, or to get a consumer to disclose the name of his or her bank, would be covered. The determining principle is that pretexting only occurs when information is obtained through false pretenses.
..."

Anonymous said...

Background on AFNI call centers and clients.

http://pundit.blogpeoria.com/2009/02/20/
local-my-heart-bleeds-for-sprint/

Anonymous said...

Allegation of abusive collection, harassment, and illegal threats of arrest. Most reported AFNI violations have not been this blatant.

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/
debt/afni.html
"...
Sheldon of Far Rockaway NY (03/24/09)
Afni collections inc is the worst after I contact them and told them this Verizon account is not mine, they started to say that if I dont pay them their money they was going to send the police to my house and have me put in jail for nonpayment. I told them I dont owe them anything and to send me a bill stating I owe this money they did not , then they was calling me all day and night on my home phone leaving all types of nasty messages is this the way a collection agency to act?

I tried blocking the number but they keep calling from different numbers. Then they started calling my job telling the people I work with not to trust me that Im a thief and dead beat that dont pay his bills. These people are sending me crazy for an account thats not mine I called Verizon about the account they said they have no record of me having an account with them. When I told afni this I was told thats not there problem? they want their money and if they dont get it Im going to jail.

at a point that i could have lost my job they keep on calling and telling lies about me trying to collect money i dont owe.
..."

Anonymous said...

over 10 year old GTE north bill on an account that was paid in full when closed
verizon bought GTE north over 7 years ago
AFNI now trying to collect on a 10+ year old bill
it was paid twice
once to GTE North and once to Verizon when i went to get a new line
this will make a third attempt to collect on a paid bill thats past the states statute of limitations

one note to people complaining about the BBB's rating of AFNI
The BBB charges companies to be members, think of it as extortion money to clean the report
well documented if you take the time to research
BBB is not to be trusted

Anonymous said...

BBB Peoria has failed in its role of protecting the public from AFNI's business practices. At this point the Illinois Attorney General (or other state AGs) are probably the most effective channel short of suing.

Until the lawsuit by the Minnesota Attorney General, Peoria BBB's report did not even show any indication that there was anything suspicious about AFNI collection letters, only generic boilerplate advice on dealing with debt collectors along with a Satisfactory or A+ rating.

Even today, although it notes thw Wisconsin AG's action last July, the report rates them B+ and contains no other specific warning.

This is despite the consistent high levels of complaints of deception, erroneous collection, and failure to validate in numerous consumer forum reports, statistically abnormal complaint levels for "id theft" to the FTC in 2007 and 2008, complaints to the NY AG by a NY state senator, several newspaper and TV stories on consumers hit by their credit damage, and the allegations in the Wisconsin AG's lawsuit and press release consistent with the many other complaints.

Other local BBBs have not been so weak in acting against even member debt collectors that have failed to address the root causes of consumer complaints. Notably, ER Solutions in Washington state was kicked out of BBB for failing to curtail their actions that were resulting in complaints.

http://www.seattlepi.com/
local/328406_debt21.html
"...The bureau revoked the membership of ER Solutions for "failure to eliminate the underlying cause of complaints on file."
..."

BBB Peoria's handling of consumer complaints may actually assist AFNI in continuing its practices by reducing levels of AG complaints, while adding an endorsement of legitimacy. Other BBBs, who are also receiving complaints, now mostly direct consumers to Peoria.

Anonymous said...

AFNI collecting on an old alleged debt, that Verizon actually confirms their records show as paid, in a conference call with AFNI.

Implications with respect to AFNI:
1) Illegal threat to damage credit if not paid.
2) AFNI is intentionally and knowingly collecting on accounts it knows are not owed, in a manner targetted to obtain payment of unowed debts. (e.g. threatening to damage credit past the FCRA period, implying consumer has to prove debt is not owed but they don't have to prove it is, even when any presumption the debt might be valid has been removed by Verizon's own statements.)
3) AFNI is evading their FDCPA validation obligations by implying that only receipts could prove the debt was paid. They are implying that Verizon's verification that the account is paid would not suffice, even though FDCPA gives the consumer the right to request that AFNI obtain that validation from Verizon, and especially since they know from the conference call that Verizon considers the account paid.

Implications with respect to Verizon:
1) Verizon IS providing to AFNI account information on old paid or settled accounts.
2) Verizon, or at least some of their employees, ARE aware that AFNI is collecting on already paid accounts, yet they still refuse to intervene with their contractual partner.

http://www.no-one-owns-me.dailykos.com/
storyonly/2009/3/31/714895/
-UPDATED:SCAM-ALERT!-AFNI-Tries-to-collect-debt-I-dont-owe

"...
I call Verizon Northwest and find out why I am still reflecting money due. Mind you, this collection account has never shown up on my credit report, never received any correspondence from this, or any other company regarding this debt. This is the first notice I've received regarding this old account from 2001. I have been actively trying to get my credit in order since 2004 by paying off old collection accounts and clearing old debt from my report. After speaking with Verizon, they have no record of me owning any money to Verizon for this account. It shows in their database as being paid.

After explaining to Verizon that Afni won't believe me that this money has been paid, I asked Verizon to conference over to Afni so we can talk to them together and get this all straightened out. At that point, speaking with Afni, with Verizon listening in, Afni explained that since I purged my receipts, I cannot prove that this money has been paid, and therefore I will have no choice but to pay them or I will have this collection "hit" my credit.
..."

Anonymous said...

Chris Hoofnagle has updated his statistics to include FTC id theft complaint data from 2008, to add to the 2007 and 2006 data. In all cases, the FTC data is drawn from 3months in each of these years.

AFNI shows up as the only debt collector among the list of top 25 names for FTC id theft complaints in 2008. Both Verizon and AFNI have dropped together in 2008 compared to 2007, consistent with the majority of AFNI id theft complaints also being Verizon id theft complaints.

AFNI complaints still stand out as an anomaly among the top 25, and still track Verizon.

Chris does identify telecom companies as being a particular problem for id theft due to weaker security than banks. Banks lose real money, telecoms lose marginal network usage, with less cost to the bottom line.

He still thinks AFNI and collection agencies appear associated with id theft complaints because consumers are "confused about the role of collection agencies", although only one collection agency shows up on this top 25 list.

He assumes "companies are acting in good faith, when they turn over an account for collections", but that "[c]onsumers are confused by this process, and in large
numbers, they are making complaints to the FTC, where they identify the collections agency, rather than the company at which the account was actually established."

AFNI is the ONLY collection agency in this top 25 list, and based on many visible consumer complaints, they are NOT "confused" about what AFNI is doing, only about how to deal with it. They have collectively figured out what is going on by exchanging information, but are angry that AFNI can continue to get away with it. Discussions of AFNI's collection tactics show up back in 2006 and earlier on complaintboards.com and other sites, and are often described by words such as "scam", "fraud", and "deceptive".

He recognizes that collection activity resulting from fraudulent accounts imposes a cost on consumers that should be minimized, but still assumes that these are legitimate id theft cases. "The collections agency could request that the client rereview delinquent accounts for fraud before collecting on them, in order to save consumers the inconvenience of a debt collection call and derogatory notations on their credit files."

He is apparently pushing for better disclosure of id theft statistics as a means for creating a more effective "market" to drive companies toward changing the business practices that create vulnerabilities to id theft. But markets are only effective where the consumer has choices, and you don't choose your collection agency, especially when they are sending you made-up bills from companies you never did business with in the first place.

He assumes that the original creditors are acting in good faith, and assumes that the cost to victims of id theft can be reduced by collection agencies "rereviewing" accounts with the original creditors.

He has entirely missed what happens when the collection agency is NOT acting in good faith, deliberately evading validation of debt, dunning consumers based on erroneous skip-tracing or weak claims based on partial name or old address matching, and intentionally acting to deceive consumers into paying unowed debts.

Detecting deception requires considering that it is possible, that the potential perpetrator is capable of it, that they have a past history consistent with engaging in it, and that they have an incentive to engage in it now. At that point, you must consider what it would look like if it was occurring, and then see if that pattern is showing up in the data.


http://www.luc.edu/law/activities/
publications/clrdocs/vol21issue2/
hoofnagle_bank_safety.pdf

"TOWARDS A MARKET FOR BANK SAFETY
Chris Jay Hoofnagle"

...
2. Telecommunications Companies
All the major telecommunications companies (AT&T,Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint/Nextel) appear in the top 20 of the ranking. AT&T and Verizon rank as 2 and 3 in 2008; in 2007, Verizon ranked as number 1, having more fraud events than all banks. Similarly, three television providers, Comcast, DirecTV, and Dish Network, appear in the top 25 as well. Clearly, identity theft among telecommunications companies is a major, industry-wide problem. But consumer advocates, the media, and regulators are more focused on the role of banks in fraud. It is generally believed that banks have better security and authentication practices than the telecommunications industry. These statistics suggest that impostors are exploiting a different level of care used in this specially-regulated industry.
...
3. Collections Agencies
AFNI, a collections agency, was named by victims in between .85% and 4.45% of all identity theft complaints from 2006-2008. This indicates that consumers are confused about the role of collections agencies. Assuming companies are acting in good faith, when they turn over an account for collections; the belief is the account is legitimate and the customer is simply a deadbeat. The collections agency then contacts the putative accountholder and that person claims that the account is fraudulent. Consumers are confused by this process, and in large numbers, they are making complaints to the FTC, where they identify the collections agency, rather than the company at which the account was actually established.

This offers another opportunity for intervention: authorities could require collections agencies to act differently when collecting on behalf of a client with a large number of fraudulent accounts. The collections agency could request that the client rereview delinquent accounts for fraud before collecting on them, in order to save consumers the inconvenience of a debt collection call and derogatory notations on their credit files.
..."

Anonymous said...

Consent Order by the Arizona Dept. of Financial Institutions against Cavalry Portfolio Services. Arizona claimed Cavalry failed to investigate consumer disputes alleging misidentification or invalid debts.

http://www.azdfi.gov/Final/Forms/
Cavalry_Portfolio_Services_LLC_Consent.pdf

Anonymous said...

Arizona Dept. of Financial Institutions Consent Orders:
http://www.azdfi.gov/Final/Consent.htm

Allied Interstate Consent Order:
http://www.azdfi.gov/Final/Forms/
Allied_Interstate,_Inc._Consent_Order.pdf

Note that Arizona requires a response to inquiries sent due to consumer complaints within 10 days. Also note that Allied routinely took about a month.

Anonymous said...

Nevada Dept. of Business and Industry, Division of Financial Institutions, Enforcement Actions.

http://www.fid.state.nv.us/
New_EnforcementActions.htm

Anonymous said...

AFNI statistics update:

Ripoffreport.com shows the following complaint thread counts in 2008-2009:
14 Jan. 2008
27 Feb.
18 March
8 April
3 May
16 June
21 July
13 Aug.
8 Sept.
8 Oct.
13 Nov.
4 Dec.
7 Jan. 2009
10 Feb.
11 March

Anonymous said...

Connecticut Dept. of Banking (responsible for regulating debt collectors), enfocement actions:

http://www.ct.gov/dob/cwp/
view.asp?a=2246&q=302060

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