I came across this article today — When the Debt Collector Poses as a Pizza Delivery Guy — which summarizes some of the activities used by Westlake Financial and its subsidiary, Wilshire Credit, in trying to get delinquent borrowers to pay. As the article states, the lenders would use alternate names on the Caller ID so that people thought it was someone other than Westlake who was calling. This is a practice called spoofing, and is illegal in most circumstances. Westlake was recently forced to pay a $48 million settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because of its less-than-legal collection activities.
But what’s interesting is that the lender often went to great lengths to use legitimate company names, and one repossession agency found out the hard way.
About nine years ago, Tom Angstead’s recovery company started getting calls from angry consumers. The callers were irate about the tone and content of messages left on answering machines and voicemails by individuals who appeared to be from Angstead’s company, judging by the name on the consumers’ Caller IDs. Angstead had no idea what these people were talking about. Their names weren’t on any of his repossession orders. Finally, Angstead caught a break. A man told him that he had taped the conversation and saved his phone records.
It took Angstead and his team a while to trace the number to figure out who it belonged to, but it ended up belonging to Westlake Financial. They were using Angstead’s company name and a Westlake number and calling delinquent borrowers threatening them with repossession if they didn’t make their payments. Angstead has no idea why his company was chosen – he didn’t even do work for Westlake.
Angstead was so angry he wanted to sue Westlake, but he said his lawyer counseled him against it because of the expense that would be involved in filing and fighting a suit against a large lending organization. Instead, the lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to Westlake and, miraculously, the calls soon stopped coming.
“I’m glad they got spanked,” Angstead said. “What they did really ticked me off.”
The article linked to above also mentions a particular product – Skip Tracy – which was sold by BellesLink until 2013. Having its name dragged into Westlake’s regulatory nightmare led CEO Paul Kulas to issue its own response.
Since 2002, Belles Camp has been an innovator in telecommunications technology. Our development team has pioneered many advances that are becoming the cornerstone of the automobile services providers industry, including browser calling and call recording.
Belles Camp has consistently spoken out against caller ID spoofing and other non-compliant practices. It was Belles Camp that led the way with fully-compliant caller ID control and best practices for debtor communications.
The actions of Westlake have tarnished not just its own reputation, but that of others in the repossession industry.