ACS Incorporation is a real company, but the email or phone call you’ve received may be part of a scam that could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Scam artists use a wide array of underhanded tactics like harassment, threats, and emotional manipulation to get people to part with their money. And, unfortunately, many of them are very good at what they do. Here’s everything you need to know about the ACS debt collection scam.
What is ACS Incorporation?
Established in 1985, Advanced Collection Services, or ACS Incorporation, is a mid-sized debt collection agency. It’s headquartered in Lewiston, Maine. Like other debt collection agencies, ACS helps creditors and lenders collect their payments on delinquent consumer debts like credit cards, loans, and utility bills.
Although there is a legitimate agency called ACS, many scammers have used these same initials in letters and phone calls to commit fraud. If you’ve received a notice or phone call about an old debt from a company claiming to be ACS Inc., it may very well be a scam.
Before you take any action or respond, make sure these letters or calls come from the real collection agency. Otherwise, you may end up paying money for something you don’t actually owe.
Details on the scam
According to the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), there have been many complaints about a debt collection scam surrounding ACS.
The people running the scam use ACS’ initials in an attempt to convince people they’re authentic. Not only that but they also often have access to private information like the consumer’s bank account number and social security number.
Many consumers report being harassed or receiving threatening phone calls and emailed letters claiming they owe debts they’ve already paid. Some of these calls and letters come from people claiming to be attorneys or law enforcement personnel. In many cases, the scammer will harass others in the individual’s life such as their credit references.
Typically, those behind the scam threaten to take legal action if the individual fails to pay them. This action includes sending the account to collections, which could severely damage their credit score, or taking them to court.
How to verify ACS
Dealing with debt collectors can be stressful. It’s even worse when you’re not sure if the person contacting you is who they say they are or if they’re operating a scam.
Oftentimes, scam artists use the same type of information you might expect from a real company. This includes things like the consumer’s full name and the actual amount of a debt they may have owed.
In some frequent scams, the scam artist may even use a seemingly real name, address, and website to appear convincing. Those behind the scam use persuasive language in their letters and phone calls to get you to make payments on old debt. Since they appear legitimate in (nearly) every way, it can be hard to see through them.
However, there are a few ways to verify if you’re being scammed: your credit report and the email itself.
Start by checking the email address attached to the sender. If it comes from a common domain like Hotmail.com, Gmail.com, or Yahoo.com, then it’s probably a scam. A real company will have its own email server.
While you’re at it, read through the email (if you’ve already opened it) for any obvious grammatical or spelling errors. One or two mistakes may not be a red flag, but multiple certainly is. Keep an eye out for strange formatting such as all-caps sentences or red writing.
If you’ve received multiple emails, check if the sender is consistent. If it’s not, chances are it’s a scam. Any emails that come with suspicious attachments or demand personal information or immediate payment are also probably a scam.
Now, check your credit report. If the person contacting you is in fact ACS, Incorporation, it will appear on your credit report. While you’re at it, check if the sender or caller is licensed or registered to conduct business in your state. If they’re legitimate, they will be.
Never respond to any suspicious emails or phone calls. Don’t send money or private information to any person, website, or company until you’ve verified it’s legitimate. If you’re part of a scam, report it to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) immediately.
Other names for ACS
According to a report from the Washington State DFI, ACS scams operate under different names, including:
- ACS Legal Group
- ACS Legal & Collection Department
- ACS Inc. Payday Loans
- ACS, Inc.
- ACS Incorp.
- ACS Incorporation
- American Cash Services
- American Cash Services USA
- Advance Cash Services
- Ace Cash Services
- American Credit Solutions, Inc.
- ACE Incorporation
Some of the names scammers use reference payday loan providers, specifically Ace Cash Services. Most of the sent emails have the domain name “Google” and use the words “payday,” “paydaycash,” or “paydayloan” in the email address.
If you’ve never taken out a payday loan or other short-term loan, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with attempted fraud. Report it to the authorities immediately.
ACS Incorporation final notice email
The initial ACS scam letters you receive may appear official and list a fairly high amount of debt you owe. However, the ACS Incorporation final notice email will likely include some odd language or phrasing.
Here are some examples from people involved in the ACS scam:
- “Dear Customer as we were investigating your profile, we found you to be a genuine person so it is our duty to help you out but for that we need some right answers from your side. Also we would like to know your intentions”
- “Dear Debtor, Alright, Get ready with your attorney to fight the case against the company because we are going to download your case file and you are going to be legally prosecuted in the Court House within a couple of days. So do not ignore our notification and kindly pay back your debt and close this case file ASAP. We would like to tell you if Once this case is downloaded then you have to bear a lawsuit amount of $4206.00. Do revert ASAP.”
- “AGAIN IF YOU WANT TO RESOLVE THIS MATTER THAN CONTACT US IMMEDIATELY THRU AN EMAIL”
- “NOTE: THIS CASE IS UNDER INVESTIGATION UNDER MAJOR CREDIT BUREAUS”
In addition to using strange language, these scam emails have a distinct lack of punctuation, odd formatting, and poor grammar. They often refer to the recipient as “customer” or “debtor,” rather than by name.
A letter like this is generally a red flag. If you’ve received a similar letter, verify the sender is from ACS Incorporation before responding.
Complaints against ACS
There have been dozens of official and consumer complaints about the ACS scam. Here are just a few.
On the Washington State DFI’s official website, official complaints about the ACS scam involve the following:
- Frequent debt collection scam by people with “ACS” in their names.
- Letters and calls harassing consumers about debts they don’t actually owe.
- Inconsistent or strange email addresses and domains, often associated with payday lenders.
- People behind the scam claiming to be attorneys or law enforcement officials.
Various consumers have also filed complaints regarding the following:
- Calls to their home and workplace regarding debt they either never owed or already paid off.
- Phone calls to the consumer’s credit references.
- Threats of legal action.
- Access to private information such as bank accounts, SSN, etc.
As of November 2021, the CFPB has received around 40 complaints about ACS Inc. These complaints primarily cite violations of their rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA).
Other reputable sites also list various posted complaints. For example, BBB gives ACS, Inc. an “F” rating. BBB also calls it “ACS Inc. Phony Debt Collector” on its official page. Here are some examples of online consumer complaints.
How to remove ACS from your credit report
Even after you’ve paid off an old debt or account, ACS will still show up on your credit report for some time. In fact, any account that’s in collections can damage your credit history and stay on your credit report for up to 7 years. Here are three ways to remove ACS from your credit report.
Ask for a debt validation letter
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are legally obligated to provide you with the details regarding your debt. So, if you want to remove ACS from your credit report, the first thing you should do is request a debt validation letter.
A debt validation letter is an official letter sent by the debt collector. This letter should outline how much you owe and to whom. It should also include information regarding the next steps. Once you’ve requested the debt validation letter from ACS, the debt collector will have 5 days to respond to it.
Check the debt validation letter for any errors or inaccuracies that you can dispute on your report. If there are any, you may be able to get the credit bureaus to investigate and remove ACS from your credit report.
After receiving the debt validation letter, you have 30 days to send a debt verification letter. This is an official letter in which you dispute any information in the debt validation letter. Here are some sample debt verification letters you can write.
There’s another advantage to going through this process. If you suspect you’re being scammed, you can request a debt validation letter to see if they’ll send it. If they refuse, then they are not a legitimate debt collection agency.
For more information about the differences between a debt validation letter and a debt verification letter, as well as when you should send or request one, check out this article.
Ask for a goodwill deletion
Another way to remove ACS from your credit report is to simply ask for a goodwill deletion. You can do this by writing and sending the agency a goodwill deletion letter. The purpose of this letter is not to dispute an error in the report. Instead, it’s you asking for forgiveness in the form of removing the negative mark in its entirety.
In the letter, you should write about your circumstances and why you need the mark dropped from your credit report. It’s entirely up to the debt collector to remove it or not. If they do grant forgiveness, it may take a couple of months before the mark is gone.
Keep in mind that a goodwill deletion request isn’t a guarantee, especially if there are already multiple negative marks on your credit report. Still, it never hurts to try.
Negotiate a settlement
One other way to remove ACS from your credit report is to try to negotiate a settlement. This is most likely to work if the creditor is desperate to receive the full or partial payment for what you owe.
Negotiating a settlement is fairly challenging and doesn’t always work. Still, like with the goodwill deletion, it doesn’t hurt to try.
If you’re able to come to an agreement with the debt collection agency, make sure they honor their side of the deal by getting it in writing. Don’t make any payments to them until it’s official or they may try to back out.
If all goes well, ACS should be gone from your credit report in around 30 days of negotiations. If, after two months or so, it’s still there, reach out to let them know. Remind them that not removing the mark is a breach of contract if they seem resistant.
How to check your credit reports
Here are some of the best ways to check your credit report.
Request your credit report directly through the credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Create an account and request your credit report from one or more of the credit bureaus. Generally, you can get a new copy of your report for free once every month. During the pandemic, you may be able to request an updated credit report once a week.
The officially authorized website, annualcreditreport.com, is another great option for checking your credit report. This website offers a free, comprehensive credit report from all three credit bureaus at no cost. However, you may have to create an account and pay if you plan to get frequent updates.
Although the free credit report does not include your exact credit score, it’s a great way to keep an eye on your accounts, check for errors and look for credit repair strategies.
There are plenty of third-party websites where you can request a copy of your credit report. Here are two popular options:
- CreditKarma: With Credit Karma, you’ll gain access to your credit report through Equifax and TransUnion. It’s a free report that includes things like your current balances, active and closed accounts, and negative marks. Accessing the report doesn’t result in a hard inquiry.
- CreditWise from Capital One: Through CreditWise, you can check your TransUnion credit report and score. It’s free and available to anyone. Signup is easy and doesn’t require a trial subscription or credit card. The information in the credit report is updated weekly. Plus, with CreditWise, you’ll receive a history of your credit score and how you rank in various areas that make up the score.
Tips to avoid falling victim to a debt-collection scam
- Ask for the debt collector’s information. This includes their name, company’s name, address, official website, and contact information. Do some research on the company using the information they provide.
- Request a debt validation letter.
- Never provide personal information or make payments until you’ve verified the caller or sender.
- Ask for information about the original creditor or lender. If they don’t have it or seem suspicious, it may be a scam.
- Check your credit report to confirm the debt or account is there.
- Keep records of everything from conversation details to dates.
- If you receive a court order, don’t ignore it or a judge could garnish your wages.
- Pay attention to red flags. If they call outside of business hours, threaten to reveal your debt to others, or ask you to pay through untraceable means, it’s probably a scam.
- If they threaten to add interest or late fees to the debt that don’t fall within the original contract, it’s a scam.
- Know your rights. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector cannot legally harass, threaten, or lie to you about what you owe.
There are a lot of debt collection scams out there. This video breaks down some of the warning signs so you can protect yourself.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you have reason to believe you’re being scammed, or if don’t know what to do next, consult an expert for advice. Or speak with a nonprofit credit counselor for help.
Another option is to check with your state attorney general’s office or the local police. If you’re dealing with a scam, they may have received complaints about the agency from other consumers.
The bottom line
ACS Incorporation is a legitimate debt collection agency, but many scam artists have also used the name to commit fraud. Debt collection scams are common but avoidable, as long as you know your rights and what to look for.
Check the email of the sender and verify the account on your credit report before doing anything else. In the meantime, if you believe you’re being scammed, consult an expert or the local authorities for help.
Advanced Collection Services Incorporation is a legitimate debt collection agency. It has headquarters in Lewiston, ME. Its mailing address is 155 Center St Auburn, ME 04210-5229. If you’ve received an email or phone call from ACS, check your credit report. If it’s not there, then you’re probably dealing with fraud.
Don’t respond to the scammer and don’t provide them with any information or money. Check your credit report to see if the agency is there. If it’s not, or if you’re still unsure, consider hiring an experienced attorney. Also, report the incident to the local police, the CFPB, and the FTC.
If the letter is a scam, then no, it won’t impact your credit score. However, if it’s legitimate and you ignore it, it could result in your account being sent to collections. The longer an account is in collections, the more of an impact it will have on your credit.
No, defaulting on debt does not result in jail time. In fact, the FDCPA protects consumers from criminal prosecution and jail time even if they fail to pay their debts.
However, if the creditor files a lawsuit against you and you fail to respond, this could result in a judge getting involved. If you ignore a debt collection letter from a legitimate agency, there is a chance they could sue you. Should you ignore a court order, a judge could also garnish your wages.