Consumer Alert: This debt collector may owe you money

[anvplayer video=”5169354″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. Today’s consumer alert examines the letters, threats and calls from collectors.

If you were harassed by one of the largest debt collectors in the country, you may have some cash coming your way. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is mandating the company pay big money, $24 million. Twelve million dollars must be paid directly to consumers. The other $12 million will go into the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s victims’ relief fund.

We’re talking about Portfolio Recovery Associates or PRA group. It had already been cited by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2015 when the agency told company leaders to stop their abusive practices. But the CFPB says the debt collection giant did not stop.

In a scathing rebuke, CFPB director Rohit Chopra wrote, “After getting caught red-handed in 2015, Portfolio Recovery Associates continued violating the law through intimidation, deception, and illegal debt collection tactics and lawsuits.”

The CFPB says this company was ruthless. The agency says PRA group collected debt they didn’t even know if the person actually owed, refused to show the consumer documented proof of debt as required by law, lied to consumers, filed fake affidavits, collected debt outside the statute of limitations, and sued folks after legal deadlines had passed.

PRA Group was founded in 1996 and is now one of the biggest debt collectors in the world. Its website says it prides itself on collaborating with consumers, a sentiment echoed when I contacted them about the CFPB’s enforcement action.

In a statement, company president and CEO Kevin Stevenson said, “Our company was
founded on the principles of treating customers with fairness and respect, and we have prided
ourselves in upholding these values for more than 27 years.” PRA has agreed to pay the money but admits no wrongdoing.

Here are your rights in New York if contacted by a debt collector:

  • Debt collectors can’t call you more than seven times in any seven-day period;
  • After making contact with you by phone, debt collectors must wait seven days before calling again.
  • Debt collectors can’t call you between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., local time.
  • Debt collectors can’t contact you by email, text message, phone or at work if you ask them not to.
  • Debt collectors can’t contact you at your work email, public social media postings, or through third parties.

If they violate any of these mandates, you should complain to the NYS Attorney General’s Office as well as the CFPB.