Debt collectors use DA’s letterhead to scam you

In the latest twist on smarmy debt collection, some debt collectors are paying District Attorneys to let them use their official letterhead to threaten debtors with jail if they do not make good on bounced checks according to the New York Times.

Typically these official looking letters are sent to someone who has bounced one check issued in payment of a debt.  They tell the recipient that unless they make good on the debt and take a class in debt management (for which they have to pay) they may be subject to criminal prosecution and jail.   If you then pay the balance due and take the class (for a fee) the District Attorney who supplied the letterhead gets a commission.

The reason this is a scam is that, despite what the debt collectors imply, the chance that the DA will prosecute anyone for writing bounced checks is very low.  They have to prove that the check writer had intended to defraud the creditor and to do that they generally have to show a pattern of bad checks, not one or two.  So the debt collectors are lying to get you to cough up.

If you get a letter like this, you can safely ignore it unless you have a pattern of bad checks.  You can probably just pay off the debt for which you wrote your check and the whole thing will go away.  However, I suggest you pay the original creditor, not the debt collection agency (they are not to be trusted).  You can send them a copy of the cancelled check if they persist.

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