The complaints coming in from consumers across the country paint an alarming picture: a Chicago-area debt collection agency accused of violating federal consumer protection laws and harassing consumers nationwide. Now, an employee of the business speaks out to NBC5 Investigates, to blow the whistle on tactics she says are used every day to target unsuspecting consumers, many of whom never even took out the loans in question.
"You're going to jail, your kids are gonna be taken away…a lot of people were threatened with incarceration," the employee of Aurora-based Second Chance Financial told NBC5 Investigates of the threats they say were routinely used to intimidate consumers and get them to pay bogus loan amounts.
She shared the "hit list” she was assigned to call: consumers nationwide, many of whom had merely visited loan websites but never secured any loans.
"There's absolutely nothing that can be done to these people…maybe by someone they actually owe. But not us," she said.
Still, the collectors are told to call “as many times as it takes” in order to get money from the consumers on the list.
NBC5 Investigates called the names on the “hit list.” Those who were willing to speak to us backed up the insider’s claims, including a minister in Los Angeles who says they threatened to take his driver’s license and harassed him with calls “75 to 100 times, 2 to 3 times per day, for four months.”
A Florida woman said, “I felt like my back was up against the wall.” And a New York woman says they threatened her “as if they were the mob.”
The owner of Second Chance Financial, Chantelle Dickey, did not return repeated calls for comment.
The employee, who quit several weeks after our interview, says Dickey changed business names at least three times in recent years, as part of a calculated strategy to stay one step ahead of authorities.
"Change the name, reinvent yourself, and now you can collect debts under a different name," she said.
NBC5 Investigates learned that Dickey did not apply for a business license for any of the collection agencies she has operated, in direct violation of state requirements. The Department of Professional and Financial Regulation would not comment on any possible investigations by the state into Dickey’s businesses. The Federal Trade Commission and Illinois Attorney General’s office combined have received 146 complaints on Dickey’s businesses, from consumers across the country. The agencies also declined to answer NBC5 Investigates’ questions on whether they are investigating.