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Chicago Woman Says She Was Ripped Off By Debt-Settlement Firm

CHICAGO (CBS) --  Northwest side resident Letitia Mika says she couldn't believe it when she realized she'd been had.

She says she was victimized by a scam artist masquerading  as a legitimate debt-collection agency.  The Lincolnwood firm known at PN Financial contacted her and offered to settle her overdue credit card balance for fifty cents on the dollar.

She forked over $1,800 but then found that PN Financial was taking the money for themselves, Mika says. None of it had gone to pay off her debt.

Now the Illinois Attorney General is suing PN Financial for fraud in Mika's and four dozen other cases.

A spokesperson for the AG, Natalie Bauer says PN was also portraying itself as a law firm and threatening to sue people.

"They were sending out letters, for instance, with fake court case numbers saying 'We've filed suit against you,' when, in fact, that was nothing of the truth," Bauer told CBS 2's Mike Parker.

CBS 2 went to PN Financial in search of the owner, Nelson Macwan.  Nobody in the office would comment.

Bauer says other cases are equally unnerving.

"We've seen cases where a company will threaten to take your children away," she says.

It's not happening only in Illinois.  In California, two collectors for a cemetery were charged with threatening debtors with digging up their loved one's remains and dumping them somewhere if they didn't pay up.

Consumers should know their rights. Debt collectors may not call you at all hours, they cannot threaten you or call your employer to tell them about your debt. Also, the collector must apply any payment to the actual debt.

If you've been victimized, call the Illinois Attorney General's office or the Federal Trade Commission.

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