Merchants' Credit Guide Co.
A notorious rip-off scam

For full how-to documentation of my successful and ongoing
counterattack ( PDF format), click here.

CBS4-Boston exposes Merchants'/NCO Portfolio Mgmt.
credit collection fraud
(In which I am interviewed)

"Protecting Yourself From Bogus Bill Collectors"
- May 23, 2006 -

Video no longer available

In June of 2005 I received a demand notice from a company billing itself as Merchants' Credit Guide Co., alleging that I owed "NCO Portfolio Management, Inc." $453.00 (a nice round dollars-and-cents figure considering the interest allegedly accrued since 1986) for an original creditor, "Citicorp," with which I have never ever — done any business.  With my perfect credit history I was stunned, to say the least.

I did a Google search for "Merchants' Credit Guide Co." to learn what I could about this collection agency, and stumbled across — where I discovered Merchants' (with the possessive apostrophe) had a longstanding scam of intimidation to collect false alleged debts. (Also click here — for Merchants, without the possessive apostrophe — for more complaints.)

I immediately responded to the then-infamous "Ken Hughes" on June 18th, then sent copies to the attorneys general of the states of Massachusetts, Illinois where Merchants' is based in Chicago, and New York where it has an office.

The AGs of New York and Illinois acknowledged my complaint: I'm still waiting to hear back from my own state attorney general, Tom Reilly — who incidentally is running for governor, which I'll "Remember in November."

I received one harassing phone call message from Merchants', but the caller spoke so fast that I couldn't even get the phone number to call back (and did I ever want to!).

The office of Lisa Madigan, AG of Illinois, has been great and today (August 19th) I received a letter from them, with a copy of Merchants' response to their inquiry, exonerating me entirely of the alleged — and false! — debt.

You'll note in Merchants' response to the Illinois AG's office dated August 10th and signed by "Scott A. Ross, Compliance Manager," that he refers to my alleged reference to a website "RipOff.Com" — an obvious misdirection from the valuable website resource that exposed Merchants' Credit Guide Co. to me and the world!

I finally received a response from New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer's Hauppauge office.  Merchants' has an office in Hauppauge too, so I cc'd Spitzer's office there as well as his Albany office when I sent out my initial letters on June 18, 2005.  I didn't hear back from the New York AG until his office's letter dated January 4, 2006 — but AG Spitzer is very busy campaigning for governor of New York, I guess.  My own state attorney general, Tom Reilly is also busy campaigning for governor — I haven't yet heard a word back from his office.

Note that Merchants' response to AG Spitzer is boilerplate:  the same letter, word for word, as that provided to Illinois AG Madigan's office — right down to citing the wrong website again!

Don't let Merchants' Credit Guide Co. intimidate you!

Contact Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office immediately if you receive a fraudulent demand from it and the now-infamous "Ken Hughes."

THANK YOU SO MUCH, RIPOFFREPORT.COM!  I couldn't have done it without the background intelligence your website provides, and the knowledge and reassurance that I was not alone.

January 21, 2006:

While perusing the Merchants' website, I was astonished to read:  “The principals of Merchants’ serve as Vice-Chairman of the Licensing and Disciplinary Board of the Collection Agency Division for the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, and as Director of the American Collectors Association.”

Can the fox truly be guarding the chicken coop?  Perhaps this explains why I've never heard back from Michael Johnson, Supervisor Complaint Intake Unit, Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations, since his September 22, 2005 letter (see link to PDF file for documentation).  In that letter he assured me that information I’d provided (I assume the Illinois AG's office passed on my complaint, as I hadn't contacted his office or ever heard of it) was being “evaluated” and that an “investigator will be in touch” with me “shortly.”  That was four months ago.

I immediately wrote Susan Bruenning's office (see link to PDF file for documentation/my letter) and copied that letter to the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, DC.  If the fox is indeed guarding the Illinois chicken coop, then AG Lisa Madigan's assistance will be limited, hampered; truly a disappointment if in fact that is the situation.

January 24, 2006:

A few days ago I pulled my credit reports from the three major credit reporting companies:  Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.  (You are entitled to one free copy in each 12-month period.)  I wanted to see if Merchants' Credit Guide Co. had affected my credit record.

From the Experian report on me, I found that MCGC had obtained a copy of my credit history (including my Social Security Number, current and past addresses for years, current and past employers, and my credit history including accounts and account numbers going back for years) on June 13 of last year — three days after the first demand letter was dated.  It's called an "inquiry."  Ken Hughes and his criminal cabal now have my detailed and confidential credit history somewhere in MCGC's vast files — if it hasn't been passed along to others too.

Neither Equifax nor TransUnion showed any contact from MCGC.

I called Experian and spoke to "Julie," its fraud investigations intake person, and filed a fraud report.  I wanted to know just how Merchants' — a scam — was able to secure a copy of my intimate financial details.  Julie told me it would have to have had "ongoing business" with me, or I would have had to apply for credit which they were considering, or they would have had to show that they were pursuing a legitimate debt that I owed.

She offered to remove the "inquiry" reference on my report.  I insisted that she leave it as-is, as I may need it as evidence as I continue my pursuit of this fraud.  Julie told me she would turn my complaint over to Experian's fraud investigations department.  I referred her to, and to this website for full documentation.  She assured me that I'd hear back from Experian's fraud unit "within the next 30-45 days."

Julie also put a freeze on further inquiries:  for the next 90-days I'll be contacted before my record is released to insure that it's going to someone I want to allow to access it.

For full how-to documentation of my
successful and ongoing counterattack ( PDF format)

See also:

The Salem News
Thursday, August 24, 2005
Column by Barbara Anderson

This is a consumer warning:
What happened to my partner could happen to you