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Indian-American agrees to settle threatening charges

Washington, Oct 24, 2012 (PTI) 8:55 IST
An Indian American, who is accused of using call centres in India to make threatening debt collector calls to people in the US, has agreed to pay an estimated USD 1,70,000 to settle the charges against him, a federal agency has said.

California-based Varang K Thaker, whose companies American Credit Crunchers and Ebeeze used to make calls from India to deceive, and threatened consumers into paying debts not owed by them, or which the companies were not authorised to collect, will turn over all of his assets to the US government, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said.

According to a FCT statement, the court order amounts to USD 5.4 million, which has been suspended because of Thaker's inability to pay. He and his company have been prohibited from debt collection.

In a charge sheet filed in February this year, FTC had alleged that consumers in the US received millions of collection calls from India, and in a two-year period, the operation took in more than USD 5 million from victims.

During this time, consumers filed more than 4,000 complaints with the FTC and state attorney generals about fraudulent debt collection calls. FTC alleged that the callers who worked with the defendants would contact consumers who previously had received or inquired about online payday loans.

Often posing as be law enforcement or other government authorities, the callers would falsely threaten to immediately arrest and jail consumers if they did not agree to make a payment on a supposedly delinquent payday loan. The FTC alleged that information submitted by consumers, who had applied online for these loans, found its way into the hands of the defendants, who used it to convince consumers that they owed them money.

Presenting themselves as local police department -- the 'Federal Department of Crime and Prevention' or simply a federal investigator -- the callers allegedly typically demanded more than USD 300 and sometimes as much as USD 2,000.

At other times, the callers also claimed to be filing a large lawsuit against the consumer, or threatened to have the consumer fired from his or her job, FTC said. The consumers actually did not owe money to defendants. Either the payday loan debts did not exist or the defendants had no authority to collect them because they were owed to someone else, the FTC alleged.

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