Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Child Support Scam: BEWARE!

(click on the picture to see an enlarged version)

A friend just brought this letter to my attention today. It gave him days of unrest, and you can see why! It's a pretty scary, threatening missive full of dire legal threats. He had thought his child support was all paid up and everything was OK until he saw this! In a panic, he left Lisa Culp repeated messages, trying to find out what was going on. For two days she didn't return his calls. Today he finally got through.

At first, she told him that he needs to pay his child support but she is no longer on his case. (Well THAT sounded very efficient and official, didn't it?) She also added that he needed to contact the State of Florida.

"Why?" My friend asked. "This letter says that I owe $500 and I know that this is not my exact payment. There's a discrepancy in your amount." She hemmed and hawed a little.

He said "I told her "I'd like to know where you got this information from! It's tied to my name! I have a legally binding court order that tells me when my child support is due." I then asked her if SHE had the legal State of Florida paperwork. She wouldn't really answer. That's when a lightbulb went off in my head and I realized that I had the answer: This wasn't on official State of Florida stationary!!! I said "You're not really The State of Florida, are you?"

She finally admitted "Well... we're a third party collection agency..."

He said "So you're a company that has absolutely nothing to do with the State of Florida, you're threatening ME with license revocation and attorneys, when you actually have NO power whatsoever." She couldn't deny it. Then he asked her where she got off asking for $500 when his child support was only $375. She told him that there were additional fees for THEIR "services".

Not a bad scam, huh? Send out nasty letters to people who owe child support and net MAJOR bucks per collection. Notice that their company name is "Child Support Enforcement" and is a division of "SupportKids, Inc." Both names come very close to the State of Florida programs.

My friend went to to investigate further. Upon entering a fictitious name and account, he found out what their fees are (after having to answer a lot of very personal and potentially embarassing questions). As they say (thus implying this could be solving a court case for you) "Since we are only paid out of the money we collect for you, our success is your success... We don't win unless you do!" It also admits that the fees are 25% of what is collected! Therefore, they would have netted $125 from the $500, would have passed on only $375 to the State of Florida, and the mother would have only received that $375. Both families would suffer and be out the $125, for NO reason whatsoever.

Do you know how many people must pay this??? Not only does this company give the impression that THEY have the ability to take away your license, they also give the impression that they have the ability to help you KEEP your license.

This company certainly can't guarantee all other enforcement will stop (since they're not a governing authority), so they will send your check on but they don't give a crap as to whether you'll actually be in compliance or not, nor can they intervene if there are difficulties!

I don't know if they could be held liable or not, but I fear for those people that are ignorant enough to fall for this. You know that there are still people who fall for all those Nigerian scams! How much more believable is THIS one?!

They must make a FORTUNE off their unfortunate victims.

P.S. My friend received a call from ANOTHER person from that company, who hadn't realized that he'd already spoken with Lisa Culp. THIS person actually lied to him and told him that the additional $125 was for back-child support. When he confronted her with this lie, she told him that they were simply trying to provide a service as a courtesy to him. "A COURTESY?" he asked. "This is an attempt at INTIMIDATION! You are trying to strong-arm unfortunates, giving someone the illusion that you can prevent legal action in an attempt to get money."


kathleen said...

This is outrageous! The State of Florida should be taking notice of their part in this sham and make sure that they have distanced themselves from this fraud. How does the State fit into this sham? Do they use them as a collection agency?

The Lazy Iguana said...

The State could give a crap less, as long as the sap pays up on the due date.

This scam would not work for me :)

Saur♥Kraut said...

Kathleen, I KNOW! He's called the State Attorney's office to complain and they're going to call him back. We'll see if that gets anywhere. Believe it or not, on his first call there, the woman told him that it definately was from The State of Florida!!! Until... he gave her the full information. Even the State Attorney's office was fooled!

Lazy, I hope you're wrong about the state not caring. It's HIGHLY unethical, even if it's legal. I doubt the scam would work on you... but then again, you're in luck since you're not paying child support, either. That's a very convoluted system!

Anonymous said...

My main question is, how did this company get this information? This should not be public information, that he pays child support, his name and address, etc. Unless this is mailed out to everyone whether they are in a child support situation or not, I would wonder if the state is giving out his information. If that were the case I would be pissed!


Saur♥Kraut said...

Ange, I seem to recall that there's a new law that now allows these scuzzy collection agencies to try to collect on child support. He had fallen behind (due to falling on hard times) and had just rectified the situation before he got the letter. I'm thinking that when you fall behind, it might trigger such a release of information to these scam artists. If the state's not careful, they'll be victimizing many families as a result of this.

Hans said...

I have a hard time feeling sympathetic to people who have fallen behind on there child support. It would have to be an extreme set of circumstances.

Collection agencies are scuzzy. There is more than one resident of my city that shares my very common name. One of them has a hard time paying his bills and I regularly get calls from collection agencies. They can be very aggressive.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Hans, it's incredibly easy to fall behind on child support when you barely have enough to make it. Before my divorce, I scorned people in such circumstances, as you do. But since then I've had a vast amount of personal experience in the matter and I assure you that many parents go into debt trying to pay child support... many don't eat or scrape by on beans and rice to make it, some lose their jobs and can't find one immediately... etc. In a perfect world, everyone would have money. This isn't a perfect world. But the good parents that at least make up for the lost support are showing they are trying. That's more than the leaches who work for the government can usually say.

Hans said...

"it's incredibly easy to fall behind on child support when you barely have enough to make it" - My response is get a second job or a third, do what you have to do.

"many don't eat or scrape by on beans and rice" - My response is that the kids eat first.

"I assure you that many parents go into debt trying to pay child support..." - My response is that many parents go into debt trying to raise their children.

Child support is a debt like no other. Your living, breathing responsiblity is counting on it.

I watched my best friend's mother struggle to put food on the table for her 3 kids while his father neglected his responsibilites and I've listened to the tales of whoa from my employees when their wages are garnished and how they are barely scraping by but they still have problems showing up for work. regularly.

For the parents who get behind but than make it up, should I congratulate them for doing what they are suppossed to do?

I'm sure there are "extreme" circumstances where I might be sympathetic but I haven't witnessed them yet.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I think your attorney general would stop this in an instant. That's where your friend ought to appeal.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Hans, All your answers and observations are 100% politically correct. You even have me in agreement. However, we're not dealing with the real world. The truth is, it's just not always that simple. As long as someone is TRYING, I will not castigate them. It's the true deadbeats that simply don't care and don't want to "waste" the money on their kids that deserve hell. Not the ones that are struggling to make it. Your answers, while they look good on paper, are not always feasible. People fall on hard times. People struggle to find work. People cannot always make payments on time, because they simply don't have the money. The good people eventually scrape it together, but not overnight.

Old Hoss, He did leave a message for the attorney generals in both Texas and Florida. Let's hope they pay attention!

Hans said...

Saur- I always work in theory and rarely in reality. This can't come as a relvelation to you.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Caiman, usually I just delete your comments if they're too nasty or racist, but I liked this one so I'll reprint it w/o the PIS (Politically Incorrect Speak):

Senor Caiman Said:

The only good thing about collection agencies is they let you know when your identity has been stolen. Collection agencies are nothing but Lawyers making a buck on the side."

Hans, ;o)

Hans said...

As the saying goes "If you're looking for sympathy check between sh*t and syphilis in the dictionary. That's where you'll find it."

R2K said...

Looks like fun : )

Miss Cellania said...

I think all states use collection agencies for those who are behind on child support. Most keep 50% of what they collect, so Florida is easier than most.