State officials warn parents to avoid child support payment scams

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Many who work with family court and the Department of Social Services say scams that prey on broken families aren't are not uncommon in South Carolina. And it's the children that end up victimized.

Father of four, Marquis Benjamin knows the weight monthly child support payments can place on a man's shoulders.

"You're sitting there looking at your check saying 'Hey, I got a light bill, water bill, sewer bills," he said.

But many in the same situation who don't pay can sometimes find themselves targeted by aggressive collection companies who misrepresent themselves as state agencies.

"They take a high percentage out of the collection, " said Assistant Director of DSS Child Support Enforcement Glenn Hastie. "It can be as high as 33% of the collection."

Last month, police in Georgia charged three people in a multi-state child support collections scam that took nearly $1 million in payments away from the families who needed them, including some in South Carolina.

"They usually get that information from the custodial parent," said Charles Brown with the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition. "This individual needs the money, and maybe feels our family court system is not doing enough or acting aggressively enough to collect child support."

In a recent scam based in Georgia, the company set up post office boxes in various surrounding states, victims were found through court records and threatened with arrest if they didn't pay.

"When you have someone aggressively coming after you, aggressively coming after you, and they may use other tactics like contacting your house or job or telling you 'We're going to arrest you for x,y,z' then they're more apt to pay them," said Brown. "Then they are to go to family court."

Staff with the Department of Child Support Enforcement caution the best way to avoid being scammed is to deal directly with family court, even if it the system may move a little bit slower.

"You should be able to walk into an office to talk to someone face to face," said Hastie. "It should never just be correspondence by mail or over the Internet. The end result is it effects the child. you're taking food clothing, the basic necessities."