Date: September 5, 2007
Fraudulent Debt Elimination Schemes
To: Chief Executive Officers of All National Banks; All State Banking Authorities; Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Director, Office of Thrift Supervision; Conference of State Bank Supervisors; Deputy Comptrollers (districts); Assistant Deputy Comptrollers; District Counsel; and All Examining Personnel
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is aware that the volume and variety of fraudulent schemes supposedly designed to "eliminate" debt is increasing. These schemes are being promoted via the Internet and in seminars throughout the United States. The fraudulent schemes are being marketed to ordinary people, not just the wealthy or sophisticated, including borrowers who are current on their payments and those approaching foreclosure.
The persons perpetrating the fraudulent schemes claim that they can eliminate borrowers’ various types of debt, including mortgages, credit card balances (including balances on cards issued by nonbank companies), student loans, auto loans, and small business loans. The variations on these schemes are endless.
A recent variation includes the fraudulent use of the OCC’s 3-page Customer Complaint Form (form). The form is included in the package of documents provided to the victim, falsely adding another pretense of legitimacy to the worthless program. The victim is told to sign only the third page of the form, not to date it or complete any other information requested on the form. The date, customer, and financial institution information will be completed by the perpetrators. The form is subsequently completed and filed with the OCC falsely stating that the financial institution has acted improperly with regard to the victim’s account.
These schemes are designed to defraud victims of an up-front fee, which typically ranges from $400 to $7,500. As a result of using a fraudulent scheme, victims could lose money and property, and damage their credit record. In addition, the creditor may take additional legal action against a borrower to resolve a fraudulent attempt to eliminate a borrower’s debt.
A second, extremely harmful, potential result of participating in any of these illegal schemes is the theft of a victim’s identity . Based upon the information provided to the perpetrators in a scheme, they may be able to steal a person’s identity and run up substantial new debts before the victim is aware of the theft. Resolving identity theft issues is an extremely difficult and time-consuming matter.
The following are sample variations of the fraudulent processes used to fool borrowers into paying money to "eliminate" debt:
- A phony arbitration award from an arbitrator not authorized under the debt agreement;
- The use of a nonexistent "trust account" supposedly held in a person’s name at the United States Department of the Treasury or some other part of the federal government;
- The substitution of a debt instrument issued by a company, group, trust, or person for the obligor’s original note or account at the creditor;
- The substitution of a fictitious U. S. government debt instrument, which claims to be payable or authorized by the United States Department of the Treasury or a related person or entity, for the obligor’s original note or account at the creditor;
- The substitution of a fictitious U. S. government financial instrument, which references an account located at the United States Department of the Treasury or with a related person or entity, for the obligor’s original note or account at the creditor;
- The substitution of a fictitious U. S. government debt instrument, which requires an official to authorize or refute the authenticity of the instrument, for the obligor’s original note or account at the creditor;
- A notice to the creditor that the contract or note is illegal and, therefore, the borrower does not have to pay the debt and may even be entitled to a compensatory award; and
- A notice to the creditor that the creditor does not have authority to “lend its credit” to the obligor and has violated the law, and therefore, the borrower does not have to pay the debt and may even be entitled to a compensatory award.
These schemes have no substance in law or finance. No one can eliminate an obligation to pay a debt, simply by paying someone a small fee, relative to the debt to be eliminated.
In the guise of educating borrowers, these schemes provide inaccurate or distorted information about applicable laws and finance. Some examples of inaccurate information from these schemes include the following:
- Borrowing is a con game whereby a borrower’s debt is money "created" by and owed to the borrower.
- A borrower’s debt is an asset of the creditor owed to the borrower.
- Secret information or laws can be used to eliminate debt.
- Banks and other creditors do not have the authority to lend money or issue credit.
- Three or more persons can set up individual arbitration companies, create an arbitration award for a fraction of the debt owed, have the award certified by the two other companies, and submit the award and payment to the creditor in satisfaction of the total debt.
Any information that you have concerning these matters should be brought to the attention of appropriate local or federal law enforcement.
If the fraudulent scheme is presented via the Internet or e-mail, contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Please go to the IC3 Web site at: http://www.ic3.gov and follow the instructions for filing a complaint. Other sources, such as individual contacts or seminars, should be reported to the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or local financial fraud law enforcement organization. If the proposal was received via the U.S. Postal Service, please file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspector Service by telephone at 1-888-877-7644, by mail at U.S. Postal Inspection Service, 222 S. Riverside Plaza, Suite 1250, Chicago, IL 60606-6100 or via e-mail at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/forms/MailFraudComplaint.aspx.
Additional information concerning this matter that you believe should be brought to the attention of the OCC may be forwarded to:
Mail: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Special Supervision Division, MS 6-4
250 E Street, SW, Washington, DC 20219
For additional information on this and other types of financial fraud, please visit OCC’s anti-fraud resource at: https://www.occ.gov/topics/consumer-protection/fraud-resources/index-fraud-resources.html.
Richard C. Stearns
Director for Enforcement & Compliance