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Swindler preys on woman with past debt

Fictitious law-firm bill collector stole victim's identity and money after threatening arrest

A woman who had previously had debts was threatened with an embarrassing arrest at her place of work by a fraudulent bill collector and was swindled out of $898, according to Palo Alto police.

The 35-year-old victim, a Stanford Hospital employee and Campbell resident, was contacted on Nov. 30 by a female who identified herself as "Stacy Wilson" and claimed to work for a law firm called "ACS," Palo Alto police Sgt. Wayne Benitez said.

The suspect had demanded the money, $898.87, for a past PayDay loan. If the victim did not pay the loan, the suspect threatened to have the victim, the victim's sister and the victim's boyfriend arrested.

The victim thought the debt could be part of an older loan she thought she had paid off, but agreed to wire the money from her bank account after the suspect threatened to have her arrested at her place of work, according to Benitez. The victim faxed a copy of her driver's license and a letter to her bank authorizing ACS to debit her credit account.

Benitez said in such situations the suspect could potentially "wash" the check and could add in a higher sum or could assume the woman's identity from her driver's license.

The victim had second thoughts after faxing over the information and called police, but the suspect had already cashed the check, he said. Police do not have a record of any other similar incidents, he added.

The Palo Alto Police Department is asking anyone with information about this crime to call the department at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be posted online at paloalto@tipnow.org.

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