“[Private child support collection] companies often inflate child support debts by charging unauthorized interest on decades-old debts and extort payments that the companies know that parents do not owe. They undermine regular payments being made by the parents and sabotage these parents” often tenuous toe-hold in the mainstream economy.’–The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Private child support collection companies are one of the more noxious plagues afflicting divorced parents. In 2008, Fathers & Families led a successful campaign against Fox, which planned to air Bad Dads, a show which would glorify the role of private child support collectors. Fox dropped the show in the wake of our protests, which made 300 newspapers.
In April of this year, Lifetime announced plans to air the same show, rechristened Deadbeat Dads. Again Fathers & Families led a highly-publicized campaign against the show. Our Lifetime campaign was apparently successful–we had been told that Lifetime planned to begin airing the show in late July or early August, and it’s now mid-September. To learn more, see our campaign page here.
As we noted during the campaign, private child support collection agencies often manhandle fathers and exploit and deceive custodial mothers. In fact, women”s advocates, including the National Organization for Women, have repeatedly condemned these agencies for mistreating women.
Apparently we can now add Child Support Services of Atlanta to the list. From the Courthouse News Service (9/9/09):
Child Support Services of Atlanta used the U.S. mail to wantonly mislead parents into believing it is a state agency and persuade them to send it child support payments, which its owner Stuart Clay Cole stole for himself, the Post Office claims. The federal complaint claims Cole’s company has offices in Georgia and 12 other states, and used threats and intimidation to get money from noncustodial parents.
Child Support Services charged its victims excessive fees and failed to abide by its own “rules,” refusing to allow parents to cancel contracts, the Postal Service says.
The Post Office seeks a restraining order and injunction authorizing it to seize mail sent to any of the defendants’ addresses.
The Post Office says Child Support Services of Atlanta does business under “various names which include Child Support as a part of the name,” in Georgia, Nevada, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and California.”
Child Support Services used a variety of methods for the scam, including Internet and directory assistance listings that appear to link it to legitimate government child support collection agencies, the Post Office says.
Most of its offices are in capital cities, reinforcing the appearance of affiliation with state entities.
The company is accused of identifying potential victims through public records, then subjecting them to barrages of telemarketing and mail solicitations. Many victims were not under court order to pay child support, but Child Support Services used threats of arrest, license suspensions and wage garnishments to get their money, the Post Office says.
In some instances, Child Support Services “committed explicit fraud by forging correspondence to state child support collection entities to indicate the correspondence was sent by a person being served by the state entity and to direct the state entity to close its file to allow CSS to then serve the custodial parent whose signature it forged,” according to the complaint.
Victims were told to send their payments to local offices of Child Support Services by mail; these payments were funneled to the company’s Georgia office, the complaint states.