Civil Investigation Unit not quite so civil, Idaho Falls woman says

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

Doreen’s daughter hasn’t lived at home for a couple of years, so when she received a call from a company that identified itself as the Civil Investigation Unit asking for her, she grimaced.

“He said where he was from and gave me a Civil Case number THER-3279,” she says. “He said he needed information about my daughter.”

She said her daughter, an adult, wasn’t in the house, so she just hung up the phone. After thinking about it, she called BBB for some answers about why Civil Investigation Unit could call.

Civil Investigation Unit first appeared in the BBB system in January (2013), and has used its pseudo official title to intimidate people it contacts to either get information on a person, or force contact. The message goes something like this:

 “We are civil investigation unit contacting you pursuant to a claim being filed against you. You have been named a respondent to a court action regarding a restraining order. Please contact your attorney. You and your attorney will have 24-48 hours to respond.”

Debt collectors work to reclaim money on past-due accounts for creditors, businesses or people.

Idaho Department of Finance director Gavin Gee says the most complaints filed in the department relate to debt collection.

“Many of these complaints involve unlicensed out-of-state collection agencies who are also violating a variety of federal and state collection laws,” he says.

Civil Investigation Unit is not licensed to do debt collection in Idaho.

Better Business Bureau reports that collection agencies ranked 3rd in number of complaints it received.  With more than 24,830 complaints (in 2012), consumers need to be aware of the best practices for when it comes to handling debt collectors.

But, sometimes the “debt collector” calling turns out to be an identity thief who is trying to get you to divulge personal or financial information, such as your Social Security, bank and credit card numbers.

Oftentimes, scammers will impersonate legitimate debt collectors to illegitimately get financial information. These fraudulent calls can be harassing and threatening.

Legitimately, if you owe a debt, you need to talk with the company that you owe. Dealing with the company will oftentimes provide some measure or form of repayment. Avoiding debt collection could result in court proceedings.

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4 Comments

Filed under Outreach

4 responses to “Civil Investigation Unit not quite so civil, Idaho Falls woman says

  1. Mark Burrows

    This is one of my favorite topics. Yes, there was a time years ago I was deep in debt and I had genuine debt collectors hounding me. Now, since I am Canadian, I don’t know if laws are similar in the United States, but here the law does take a dim view on harassment. They can’t call after certain hours, they can’t use a threatening tone, and they can’t ask for personal information. The best defense against debt collectors or anyone pretending to be a debt collector is to take the offense. Simply tell anyone who calls to send you documentation by registered mail, that way they will have receipt that you received the document, and that you will have your lawyer inspect it at his leisure. As soon as they ask for your address, you have them. If they have your phone number or if it was an email, then why not your home address? Hang up. If they call back, tell them immediately that you are recording the call, state the date and time and mention how many times they called before. It would be a bonus if their phone number showed up on your caller ID, then you could easily block them, but generally they are not that stupid. The only other option is to buy a telezapper that you can activate during a call that will block even numbers that hide their phone number. Some phones come with them, but it is better to buy a separate unit so it will work on your line for all phones in your home.

  2. This is really happening in Idaho Falls

  3. Mark Burrows

    Yes, it happens. It is an underhanded unethical way that collection agencies do business. They are like door to door magazine sale. They will enter an area without license and try to get away with as many contracts before someone complains, then they get out of Dodge. Now magazine sales are really not a threat to consumers, they are legit, they just get a state blanket license but avoid to get a municipal license for the smaller towns where they are only spending a day.
    Collection agencies are different, they think they are above the law and using scare tactics is their way of doing business.
    In my humble opinion, mind you it is only an opinion, they should be outlawed and considered as domestic terrorists. After all, what are terrorists by definition? A terrorist is someone who feeds upon your fears, your belief system, and your paranoia. The only way to fight a terrorist is knowledge and the strength not to give into their threats. Other wise, know their tactics and then ignore them. Where many people make mistakes is they threaten them in return, which propels them into action.
    So, when you receive such threats, always and I mean always be calm, ask for names and numbers where you can contact that person and you will get back to them after you check them out, as they suggest, with their lawyer and other legal representation pertaining to the validity of who they are and where they are from.
    As the original article said, they are not so civil. I know now, they worry when you take control of the conversation. Intimidation is their greatest tool and if that fails they must decide whether your collection is worth being declared ineffective. If they loose their ability to bully people around, no one will hire them. Each complaint made against them, robs them of their power and eventually, they will avoid your state for calling.

    Mark Burrows

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