Watch CBS News

2 Investigators: Debt 'Collectors' Trick People Into Paying Money They Don't Owe

(CBS) – Debt-collection scams are one of the most popular for con artists preying on the citizens of Illinois.

As CBS 2's Pam Zekman reports, one woman who was taken for $30,000 was the victim of a repeat offender.

"I never thought it would happen to me, it almost seems like its older people that it happens to," Karen Michl says.

But it did happen, no thanks to bogus debt collection agencies that repeatedly called her .

Michl recalled the many phone calls she received from the debt collection agencies: "I owed a debt. The magic numbers were between $7,000 and $9,000, and it was always the same spiel."

She paid, thinking the debt was incurred by her first husband before she was divorced. And then a detective at a bank told her she had been scammed.

Michl was contacted by three debt collection companies. At least one of the companies, New Britain Financial, is run by a man named Nelson Macwan.

In 2015, Macwan was permanently enjoined from "working in debt collection in or from the state of Illinois," according to a consent decree obtained after the Illinois Attorney General filed a civil suit against him for unfair practices.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says Macwan used "really abusive debt collection practices, trying to collect on phantom debts, calling people threatening to file lawsuits against them."

The 2 Investigators tracked Macwan's latest company, New Britain, to a Munster, Ind. post office, where it operates out of a P.O. Box.

And a second company that got money out of Michl, called Brookshire, based out of an apparently empty Skokie office building, appears to be run by a relative of Macwan's.

"He needs to go to jail," Michl said.

As a result of CBS 2's inquiries, the Illinois Attorney General's office just filed new charges against Macwan.

"The hope is that he will end up in prison," Madigan says. "What we have done now is file a criminal contempt motion, basically not just to have him put out of business, but put in jail."

Fraud trackers are very familiar with these types of debt collection scams.

"Once you make a payment to somebody and you don't owe it, you can become on a sucker list and they sell your name to others," warns Better Business Bureau President and CEO Steve Bernas.

The Illinois Attorney General says they have received more than 100 complaints about Macwan.  When his bank account was frozen he had $1.8 million in it.

Thanks to a bank detective, Michl recouped most of her money.

If you have been the victim of a phantom debt collector or specifically one of Nelson Macwan's companies, you can call the Attorney General's Consumer Fraud hotline at 1-800-386-5438 or file a complaint on their website,

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.