If calls persist, report the firm to home state
: We received a phone call at 3 a.m. recently from a woman who said she was from Sears collection regarding a payment my husband owed. The phone number she gave was (800) 881-5408. She said his account had to be settled by that day. But this lady called me two weeks earlier and said the same thing. She also gave me an incorrect middle initial for my husband's name and the incorrect last four digits of his Social Security Number. My husband hasn't had a Sears credit card for almost 20 years. Can you alert people to this possible scam?
Answer: The number you provided is for Allied Interstate, a collection agency based in West Palm Beach, Fla., that is the subject of numerous references on the Internet, mostly dealing with consumer complaints.
According to the Better Business Bureau of Southeast Florida -- www.bbbsoutheastflorida.org/BBBWeb/Forms/Business/
CompanyReport_Details.aspx?CompanyID=9638&sm -- the company has a pattern of complaints regarding customer service and credit or billing issues.
The BBB report notes that the Minnesota attorney general filed a lawsuit against Allied Interstate in 2004, alleging it tried to collect debts from the wrong person and continued to make calls to consumers after it was told it had the wrong person or the person did not owe the debt.
In a 2005 settlement, Allied agreed to stop making phone calls if it had been told they had the wrong person or the debt was not owed, and also agreed to provide information to consumers who have a debt to be collected on how to dispute their debt.
The company also could not make debt collection calls without a live operator introducing the call.
Although the business is based outside Hawaii, it still needs to be licensed by the state of Hawaii, according to the BBB of Hawaii. We were told Allied Interstate does hold a valid collection agency license in Hawaii.
The local BBB says that if you continue to receive calls from Allied Interstate, you might want to write directly to the company in Florida to complain, or file an online complaint through BBB at odr.bbb.org/odrweb/public/GetStarted.aspx.
Meanwhile, the BBB pointed out that the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires a collection agency to follow specific rules in trying to collect a debt, among them, not calling after 9 p.m. or before 8 a.m., unless you have agreed to the call.
If the rules are not followed, you can file a complaint with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Regulated Industries Complaints Office; call 587-3222 or go online at www.hawaii.gov/dcca/areas/rico/.
The BBB of Hawaii also suggested checking your credit report for the possibility of identity theft or just to monitor activity. Consumers are entitled to one free copy every 12 months. Call toll-free, (877) 322-8228, or order online at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt156.shtm.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to email@example.com
. See also: Useful phone numbers