Scammers Use Court Records Website to Prey on Arkansas Debtors

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Scammers from out of state are preying on central Arkansans who are drowning in debt. 

An investigator of these types of cases tracked down how they're doing it.

"It's pretty bad," said Athena Pettingill. "There's a lot of money involved there."

Pettingill, who's been in this business for 13 years, found the scammers' source is CourtConnect, a popular court records website.

It's a free resource for the public, but she said it's costing a handful of victims thousands of dollars. 

"You've got everything you need right there," Pettingill said.

All it takes is a name of one person with financial problems. Without giving too much away, the website then compiles similar cases, revealing full names and addresses. 

"People's financial information, I think that's just going a step too far," Pettingill said. 

As a regular user of CourtConnect, Pettingill views the site as a great tool for criminal cases.

"That information should be readily available to anybody," she said. 

However, Pettingill believes information should be sealed for people who only show up on the website for financial problems.

"This has got to stop," she said. 

One of the victims doesn't understand how scammers started this in the first place.

"I don't see how they can live with themselves," said a 56-year-old North Little Rock woman, who wished to remain anonymous. "I can't believe I fell for it."

The woman racked up $6,000 in credit card debt after she quit her job to take care of her 92-year-old dad.

When she got a message on her phone, "Are you in debt? Would you like to be contacted?," she answered yes.

A man from out of state offered to consolidate her debt and raise her credit score for $4,000 in Best Buy gift cards.

"I was like, 'Hey, that sounds good!,'" the woman said. 

Nothing raised a red flag for her until she received letters from two of her credit card companies that read, "Your account is under urgent review."

Transactions from Arkansas to Georgia to North Carolina popped up on her cards. She is now $10,000 in debt and counting.

Pettingill said several other victims have lost thousands in iTunes gift cards.

Anyone who has fallen victim to this or any other scam can file a complaint with the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division. 

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