Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising St. Louis area consumers to be alert to recent mailings from a St. Louis company that claims to be collecting debts as part of what appears to be a non-existent St. Louis Regional Theft Division.BBB believes the mailers violate the Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Two St. Louis-area consumers contacted BBB after receiving mailers from C.D.L. LLC, which BBB believes is operated by Randall Lang of St. Louis. In each of the mailers, the business threatens consumers with arrest for violating the state of Missouri’s stealing statute.In both cases, C.D.L. LLC, which stands for Chas, Derk, Lee and Associates LLC, sent mail attempting to collect debt accrued for bad checks said to have been passed at a Hazelwood convenience store. The mail was sent to people the company believed to be relatives of the alleged offenders. C.D.L. LLC is not registered with the Missouri Secretary of State.Representatives with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri twice have attempted to sue Lang on behalf of consumers who received collection letters. Rob Swearingen, an attorney for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, told BBB both cases were dismissed without prejudice after lawyers were unable to serve Lang with paperwork on the lawsuits. “You would think this type of thing would be happening in a boiler room in another country, not happening right down the street from you,” Swearingen told BBB. Michelle Corey, BBB St. Louis president and CEO, said the law is clear on how debt collectors are able to approach consumers. “A legitimate debt collector will not threaten you with litigation and tell you that you willgo to jail if you don’t pay,” Corey said. “If the debt collector can’t give you in writing information about how much you owe and to whom you owe the money, they are violating the law.” A 90-year-old Kirkwood woman received a letter saying she owed more than $1,000. A family member who brought the letter to BBB’s attention said the family didn’t know any of the four people who were listed as “defendants” against Smart Mart, located at 6811 Howdershell Road in Hazelwood. The family doesn’t know why the woman received the mailer. A 57-year-old woman who lives on St. Louis’ north side told BBB she received a mailer from the company saying she owned nearly $4,000 for a bad check from 2006. The woman told BBB she was a distant relative to one of the two so-called defendants listed on the mailer. The one-page mailers feature the scales of justice in the upper right-hand corner of the document. The message is written in all capital letters and is filled with spelling and grammatical errors. It claims a felony review board has reviewed the case and that the law provides for criminal damages for fraud. The letter states that if the recipient fails to respond that the person will be charged with conspiracy to defraud or grand larceny theft. “My client with our recommendations will begin the process of seeking legal damages,” the letter reads, “if that happens my client will take further legal action to the fullest extent of the law. Please heed our warning!” The recipients are given a short time frame to respond to the letter. In the letters shared with BBB, one consumer was given five days to respond, while the other was given a week. The company says it will take a cashier’s check or major credit cards to settle the debt. “Avoid a lengthen (sic) judicial stealing trial and possible guilty verdict,” the letter reads. “Please remit balance in full to avoid criminal prosecution.” The letter is signed by John Roberts. BBB spoke with a man who identified himself as Roberts. He told BBB he was a customer service representative for C.D.L. LLC. He told BBB the company had been hired by Smart Mart to collect debts. Roberts said C.D.L. LLC helps other businesses find those who write bad checks. He would not say where the business was located and referred all correspondence to a P.O. Box located at the Normandy Post Office. “We’re not a fraud,” Roberts told BBB. BBB spoke with Jihad “Hanny” Yatim, who owns and operates Smart Mart. Yatim said he was approached by a man named Charles Williams with C.D.L. LLC. Yatim shared with BBB a flyer given to him promoting C.D.L. LLC and its work with the St. Louis Region Recovery Division, another fictitious agency. The flyer, dated April 2016, says the company works on a commission basis to collect on returned checks. The company claims in the flyer that it has 20 years’ experience and serves 50 customers. “Now, it’s time (to have) somebody on your side, without the slow … costly attorneys,” the letter reads. “We have a successful track record in the state of Missouri. … If they owe, they will pay up: Collections is our business!” Yatim told BBB that C.D.L. LLC had made at least four collections on his behalf. Yatim told BBB that on a recent $288 collection, C.D.L. LLC kept $45 as commission. Lang was the focus of a KMOV investigation in 2015 that centered on C.D.L. LLC using similar practices in an attempt to collect money from consumers. BBB offers the following tips for consumers approached by debt collectors: Research any debt collector and its owners carefully before paying any money. Go to www.bbb.org to search for BBB Business Profiles or find contact info for your local BBB.Ask the debt collector to provide an official “validation notice” of the debt. Debt collectors are required by law to provide this information in writing. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a statement of your rights. If the debt collector won’t provide the information, do not deal with them.If the debt collector contacts you by phone, ask the caller for their name, collection agency, their extension number and their department. Then look up the contact information for the collection agency to confirm its validity. Call and ask to speak to the representative at their extension. This will prove the caller was a legitimate representative of the collection agency.The agency should be able to give you a timeline on which you can pay, and they will let you call them back or send payment through another method at a later date.You cannot be jailed for owing a debt, and a debt collection agency cannot contact law enforcement to arrest you.Know your rights by visiting the FTC’s website at ftc.gov. St. Louis Area Media Contacts: Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), email@example.comShellie Kreter, PR & Communications Manager, (314) 584-6723 or (314) 348-5451 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.orgDon O’Brien, Investigator, (314) 584-6785, email@example.comColumbia media contact: Sean Spence, Columbia Regional Director, (573) 886-8965, firstname.lastname@example.orgCape Girardeau media contact: Joey Keys, Cape Girardeau Regional Director, (573) 803-3191, email@example.comQuincy media contact: Mara Clingingsmith, BBB Quincy Regional Director, (217) 209-3972 or (217) 242-6272 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.orgAbout BBBBBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information.