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My father just received a phone call from collections saying he owes $650 for a product he purchased in 2015. We thought it was a scam call at first but they seemed to have his personal information correctly (name, address, phone number).

This was apparently from a product offered by "BioLife". He called one of those TV ads to purchase a weight loss waist trainer. According to the collections agent, this particular company does this commonly by having the purchaser think they're purchasing a simple waist trainer for a low price but make you commit to order an entire product line on a monthly basis without knowing it. He did not know this, so he declined products that came thereafter the initial waist trainer. His card was not charged after that nor was he contacted about it.

Now, 2 years later, collections call wants us to pay the remaining amount plus interest. We'll apparently still receive the product via UPS and were told to submit a money order for exactly $650 after receiving it, under the name "Bio". If we refuse to comply, BioLife will apparently take us to court.

Is this a scam? How should we proceed? Is there anything we can do to avoid this?

He did not verify the name of the collections agency.

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    Sure, they can take him to court. (I can take you to court.) If they didn't send him a bill, didn't charge his credit card, and he refused shipment of all product, then I don't see what leg they have to stand on. IANAL, though, so this should probably be asked on law.SE. Also, I googled "biolife waist trainer" and don't see anything relevant. – RonJohn Dec 30 '17 at 19:53
  • Requests for specific legal advice aren't generally on-topic for law.SE – GS - Apologise to Monica Dec 30 '17 at 20:37
  • "biolife waist trainer" seems to have disappeared from search results for some reason. Though the card transaction shows "AS SEEN ON TV". It seems like a site full on fraudulent items. – Pkmmte Jan 2 '18 at 23:08
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    It's 100% scam, however the problem is, many of such scams are legal thanks to holes in law system, especially in developing countries. Something written in small letters, and debt collection waiting for 'debt' to accumulate looks perfectly as such legal scam. Without country tag it's not even possible to estimate if you have any chances to defense yourself. Law.SE, and NEVER EVER forget to add country tag. – Danubian Sailor Jan 9 '18 at 20:53
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Money order!?? SCAM.

If this was the company proper, they would be able to charge his card. It's not. Very likely, phishers and script kiddies (hardly even hackers) are trying to break into every computer system in America, and they managed to get into this company's. Or they found a PC in a dumpster or bought it at bankruptcy auction. Or a stolen laptop. Or it may be a disgruntled employee.

Either way, some crook got ahold of their customer database, and is now running scams on all their customers. This type of scam lends itself to being highly automated, either with robo-calls, emails, or paying offshore call centers to bulk out voice calls. Some of the call centers employ people with very little accent.

The scammers are scamming everybody on the list, and hoping to get a few suckers to pay. It always works, that's why scams continue to happen.

Even if it was "legit"...

Wait a minute. They're admitting he's never taken any product, and that they never charged his card. But they're claiming now after some years, -- that he must now take a bunch of product and pay for it!??

If you were really super sure they were the legit company, then contact them through their published website/phonebook number... have them mail a copy of the contract he signed, and insist that you need the copy with his signature, not an unsigned copy. Or, a copy of the phone conversation recording. they will absolutely need to have those things to not have their "lawsuit" instantly dismissed, and they are obliged to give it to you on request once a lawsuit begins. Give it a read or a listen. Of course, they will never get back to you with this data, they don't have it.

So even if this were the "legit" version, the scam here would be that they work the scam on 100,000 past customers, and 10% of them panic and obey. Be the 90% not the 10%.

They are not actually going to sue anyone for $650. It costs them about $500 of legal work just to file the suit, and about $20,000 to bring a suit to conclusion against a defendant who is fighting back. Far more if the defendant is a legal troll who uses every trick in the book to drive up their litigation costs.

No matter what's in that contract, no judge is going to make a consumer buy hundreds of dollars of product he doesn't want because of a contract that has long been dormant and really smells like a multi-level marketing/pyramid/Ponzi scheme.

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    Thank you for the detailed answer! I am now 99.99% convinced that it is indeed a scam. Just one problem: my father's immigration status. Even if they did take him to court and the judge rules in his favor, he may still be in danger of being deported just for the fact that they'd take him to court. If this situation is indeed a scam, how likely would it be that they'd take him to court just for minor gains? These scammers talked in Spanish, so they may be trying to prey upon uninformed hispanic families whom fear court in general. – Pkmmte Jan 2 '18 at 23:05
  • Also, they never asked for consent to record the call. In the event that they do have a recording as proof, would it become invalidated if they never asked for consent? This is in California and it is a Florida number. As far as I'm aware, both states require the consent of all parties involved before recording. – Pkmmte Jan 2 '18 at 23:07
  • @Pkmmte Overstaying your visa always adds some risk... but there is broad sensibility in the civil law system that legal protections should apply to everyone to stop exploitation of you and others. The legal system is herd immunity, e.g. Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty, precisely a case of targeting immigrants. Eavesdropping is a crime, so if you raised that issue, I suspect the civil judge would use it, but only against them, and may recommend it to the D.A. for criminal prosecution. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 2 '18 at 23:36
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    'They are not actually going to sue anyone for $650. It costs them about $500 of legal work just to file the suit' - wrong, totally wrong! Never underestimate scammers! They might add in small letters, that every call from collector costs additional $50, until the sum will be high enough to go to the court. Everything depends on where the OP lives, how good (or poor) are consumer protection laws there, and how (un)corrupted the courts are. – Danubian Sailor Jan 9 '18 at 20:56

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