Debt Collection Deception - WBAY

Target 2 Consumer Alert

Debt Collection Deception

Timothy Arent (left) Timothy Arent (left)

Millions of Americans are deep in debt and some people have been contacted by collection agencies. Not a pleasant experience.

But those phone calls could actually be a scam.

Victims of a complex scheme are sharing their stories to keep it from happening to others.

U.S. Postal Service inspectors started tracking Timothy Arent and his accomplice for their suspected roles in an elaborate debt collection scheme. Inspectors say they secretly recorded Arent and the accomplice picking up checks at a post office from people who believed they were paying off a debt.

You should know your rights as a consumer.

Debt collectors are prohibited from saying you will be arrested if you don't pay your debt

Collectors cannot lie or falsely claim they are law enforcement or an attorney

Collectors cannot harass or abuse

"One day I was at school and I got a call on my cell phone from a police officer who said he had a bench warrant for my arrest if I didn't call a certain law firm within the hour to pay an unpaid debt," one victim, identified only as Chris, said.

Chris and Erin called a law firm which told them they needed to pay off a $4,500 debt immediately or Chris would be arrested.

"I didn't want an officer showing up at my work or my home, and I wanted to take care of it as quickly as possible. It wasn't fully sinking that this was a trick or a trap," Chris said. "I gave them my bank information, which I should never have done."

"It was that fear and intimidation to come and take him away from his school, family, and children that caused him to act in a manner he never would have before" Erin said.

Arent illegally obtained lists of people who had recently paid off debt. He then called and bullied them into believing they owed even more.

"They had paid their bills and they were targeted because they had demonstrated the ability to pay," US Postal Inspector Shelley Carosella said.

Postal inspectors arrested Arent and found how he was spending victims' money.

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"Found many luxury items inside. He lived in a mansion and it was reminiscent of a museum, he had paintings, Tiffany lamp, he had grand piano, grandfather clocks. The furnishings were high-END," Carosella said.

"It was very traumatic, very difficult experience for both of us financially -- and emotional level as well," Chris said. "We were definitely seeking retribution and seeking vindication, making sure these people paid for their crimes because they are hurting people, and we're one of them."

Arent received a 12-year sentence and was ordered to pay $3.6 million in restitution.

If you believe you've been a victim of fraud that used the US Mail service, you can file a complaint with the US Postal Inspection Service at

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