Debt Collector Accused of ID Theft
October 9, 2008
Add this to the many reasons to dread a debt collector’s call: A “rogue” Buffalo debt collector is accused of stealing a customer’s debit card number to finance a spending spree, The Buffalo News reports.
Antonio R. Speed, 37, was arrested on two counts of identity theft. He allegedly ran up almost $1,900 using the debit card number of a Pittsburgh-area woman he persuaded to settle an unpaid Shell gas card bill.
Speed reportedly used victim Mary Reynolds’ banking information to go online and buy bowling balls, bowling shoes and bowling shoe covers. He also bought prepaid credit cards, visited a paid porn site, and paid someone else’s car insurance, Reynolds told The News.
Not the first time!
Speed, who was employed by Graham and Noble Associates, a Buffalo collection agency, called Reynolds and introduced himself as “investigator Dave Murdock.” He said he was calling about a $399 Shell gas card bill from 2000. Reynolds denied responsibility for the bill, explaining that she was an identity theft victim.
Speed, as “Murdock,” then brought up a previous run-in Reynolds had with the law (for picking flowers on private property), and she became angry. Reynolds’s husband took the phone and eventually convinced his wife to agree to a compromise—$168 to settle the matter.
Days later, Reynolds’s bank notified her of uncharacteristic charges to her card. She froze her account and contacted police.
Northeast District Detective James Dunham interviewed Speed: “I had a chance to ask him ‘Don’t you think it’s strange that this bank card information would come back to Buffalo and she [Reynolds] doesn’t know anybody in Buffalo?’ He said, ‘Yeah, that’s strange,’” Dunham told The News.
Graham and Noble’s owner Omar Smith aided the investigation and also canceled the $399 bill Reynolds owed, Dunham said.
Smith characterized Speed as “a rogue collector” in The News. He told the newspaper his collection agency now records all calls made by its bill collectors, adding, “It’s unfortunate that this transpired, but it could happen at any agency.”
Monitoring debt collectors’ actions is a positive step, but the best way to keep this from happening at “any agency” is to do thorough background checks of potential employees (The News did not report whether or not Speed had a prior criminal record).
In the meantime, consumers can avoid becoming a victim of another “rogue collector” by managing their debt.
The Federal Trade Commission offers tips for those Knee Deep in Debt.
Find out more about the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.