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Some time back I had a website made for a business that a few friends and I were considering working on. We didn't do anything with the website as we never made it past the research stage before giving up on the idea and, as such, we took down the website. Now, several months later, I am getting multiple calls from several different SEO companies all claiming that I have a "past-due invoice" (that I never received) and threatening to send the debt to collections if I don't pay. I never signed up with an SEO company for anything (as mentioned, we never did anything with the website and had no need to be contacted by anyone as we were still researching), but they do have my name and phone number and the name of the business that we were trying to start (which was registered in Virginia). The first three companies that called with this claim I simply paid the money to make them go away - it wasn't an exorbitant sum and I didn't want to deal with the hassle. However, there has since been a fourth and a fifth company with the exact same claim - I've refused to pay so far. If and when they do try and send it to collections, what do I do?

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    This is probably a scam. Is your name phone number and other information visible on the whois for the domain of this website? – quid Mar 23 '17 at 23:18
  • @quid: The website has since gone down, but I believe it might have been. – R_Kapp Mar 23 '17 at 23:19
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    "The first three companies that called with this claim I simply paid the money to make them go away..." No wonder more are calling! They're probably all the same scammers behind the scenes. – ceejayoz Mar 24 '17 at 12:23
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Reading stuff like this makes me want to go into the debt collection business. Just send letters to random people demanding money. Sounds like an easy way to make a living. What's your name and address? Just kidding.

If they are sending stuff to a Virginia PO Box, close the box with no forwarding address and consider it case closed.

If they are targetting you personally in New Hampshire, the best thing to do is to sue proactively before it goes to collection. New Hampshire has strict anti-debt-collection laws. Basically, what you do is go to small claims court and fill out a one-page form. Sue them for $2000, $3000 or whatever is convenient. Do not hire a lawyer. You can do this in 2 hours of your own time. Your grounds are:

(1) Violation of the creditor of NH FDCA laws. According to the laws the creditor has to put all kinds of specific stuff in their threat letters. Since they are not doing this, they have violated NH FDCA. Read the FDCA so you know which specific items they are violating.

(2) Extortion. Since you do not owe them any money, demanding money from you is extortion which is both criminally and civilly actionable. You sue them for mental anguish due to extortion.

The validity of your claims is irrelevant. You just need to get them in court. There are two possibilities:

(A) They fail to show up. In this case you win and they owe you $3000 or whatever. Not only that if they later try to collect from you send a copy of the judgement to the credit bureau or collector or whatever and that is proof you owe them no money.

(B) They hire some stooge local lawyer who appears. Accept the court's offer for arbitration. When you go into arbitration with the lawyer tell him you will drop the lawsuit if they send you a check for $500 and a hand-written guarantee from him that you will never hear from his client again.

Either way, you come out ahead.

By the way, it is absolutely guaranteed that the enemy lawyer will accept your offer in (B) above because the SEO company is already paying him $5000 to show up to answer your lawsuit, and the lawyer does not want to hang around all morning in court waiting for the case to be heard. If he can get out of there in half an hour for only $500 he will do it.

-------------------------------UPDATE

If all you are getting is calls and the caller refuses to identify themself, then it is definitely an illegal scam.

It is illegal in New Hampshire to make collection calls and refuse to full identify who is calling. The phone company has methods for dealing with illegal calls. First you have to file a police report. Then you call Verizon Security at 1-800-518-5507 (or whatever your phone company is). They will trace the call and identify the caller. They you can make a criminal complaint in their jurisdiction unless the call is from Pakistan or something.

  • They're actually sending it to my NH address. The kicker is that the address they have is my physical address - which doesn't receive any mail (I have no post box). They do not have my mailing address so I have no contact with them other than a phone number when they call (which is "Restricted"), so I don't think I can sue pro-actively (who do I sue? Surely, "that guy that called me a few times" wouldn't hold up...) – R_Kapp Mar 23 '17 at 23:35
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    @R_Kapp I have updated my answer concerning phone calls in which the caller refuses to fully identify themself and the name and address of the firm they represent. – Five Bagger Mar 23 '17 at 23:40
  • I wouldn't recommend going forward without a lawyer. I mean, at least consult one first, before doing all this. Depending on local laws, the fact that you've already paid the "debt" three times could be used as evidence of it's legitimacy ("if you weren't sure that it was a legitimate debt, then why did you pay it in the first place?") – Steve-O Apr 21 '17 at 17:39

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