Skip to main content

Some forms of masquerading are just good clean fun. Consider The Masked Singer, a surprise TV hit in which a panel of celebrities tries to guess the identity of other celebrities who sing karaoke while wearing elaborate disguises. (We’re not making that up. It’s a thing now.) But other forms of masquerading are based in deception, as the FTC alleges in a lawsuit against Global Asset Financial Services Group, LLC, and 15 Buffalo- and Charlotte-based defendants.

According to the FTC, the defendants are part of a large phantom debt collection operation. (That’s the pernicious practice of pressuring people to pay debts they don’t owe.) Some of the named defendants are debt brokers who sold portfolios of bogus debt. The rest are debt collectors who bought those debts and targeted consumers with a barrage of illegal tactics, including groundless threats of imminent legal action or even arrest.

Turning to the allegations against the debt brokers, the FTC says the brokers received numerous warnings that the portfolios they sold were toxic – everything from complaints from collectors that personal information didn’t match up to solid proof from consumers that they didn’t owe any money. Another red flag the FTC says the brokers failed to heed was that the source of the portfolios was Joel Tucker, an FTC “frequent flier” involved in multiple phantom debt cases, or others affiliated with him. One common Tucker tactic was to misappropriate sensitive information about consumers and then combine their personal data (bank accounts, social security numbers, etc.) with fabricated loan amounts, loan dates, repayment histories, and unpaid balances to create fictional portfolios. Tucker also sold payday lending leads – including consumers’ bank information – to lenders who, in turn, used that data to make unauthorized withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts for loans they never agreed to, an illegal practice called “autofunding.” And yet despite alarm bells warning the brokers they were trafficking in phantom debt, the FTC says they continued to sell the portfolios.

The lawsuit also challenges the conduct of debt collectors who bought those poisonous portfolios and pressured people to pay. According to the FTC, a common first step was a robocall to the consumer or their friends and family, falsely stating that a lawsuit had been filed against them or soon would be. Consumers who called the number on the robocall were told they were talking to “County Mediations” or a representative of a law firm. Some were warned that the district attorney was going to file charges against them for intent to defraud or for processing hot checks. It was all a masquerade, of course, carried out by debt collectors trying to squeeze money from consumers who didn’t owe anything.

The complaint charges the defendant debt brokers with the unfair distribution of counterfeit or unauthorized debts and with providing debt collectors the means and instrumentalities through which they deceived consumers. The defendant debt collectors are charged with multiple violations of the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

A federal court in North Carolina has temporarily halted the operation, appointed a receiver, and frozen assets. But even at this early stage, the lawsuit is a reminder to industry members to scrutinize what you’re buying and selling. If collectors are complaining about factual discrepancies, if consumers are saying “But I don’t owe that money,” or if the source of the portfolio is someone with a history of dealing in questionable debt, brokers and collectors shouldn’t look the other way.

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

jerrie schulze
March 11, 2019
the debt collector but a freeze or levy on my savings acctount9THERE WASNT A DIME IN THERE I OPENED A HGIGH SCHOOL ACCT FOR MY GRANDSON (WAS HIS HRAD EARNED MONEY NOT MINE 0 but he is under age so it has my ss# buy my banking acct they didnt but i had no money in it but im scared to death (heart attack debt) that when my ss check hits they wiill take it. my grocery money bill money doc bill money my whole life money im worried sick what can i do ? they put a -3500 DOLLAR ON BOTH ACCTS? IS THIS LEGAL? I WAS NEVER SERVED ANY PAPERS THEY SERVED MY BANK
FTC Staff
March 22, 2019

In reply to by jerrie schulze

You could talk to a lawyer about this. The Legal Services Corporation and American Bar Association are places to check for lower-cost legal help.

You can contact the debt collector to get copies of the papers it served on the bank. A debt collector is supposed to send you a written “validation notice” within five days of first contacting you. The notice must say how much money you owe, the name of the creditor you owe money to, and what to do if you think you don't owe the debt. This FTC article tells more about your debt collection rights.

You can report a problem with a debt collector to your state Attorney General. Find your state Attorney General on this page.

July 17, 2019
I have known that this company is still collecting money from individuals and over charges them and have promised them that they will receive the funds but they never received anything but steal the funds from them
FTC Staff
July 23, 2019

In reply to by Guest

You can report a problem with a company to the FTC at You can report a problem with a debt collector to your state Attorney General. Find your state Attorney General on this page.