NY Attorney General Sues Debt Collection Agency
Last week, I wrote my first post on debt consolidation frauds, and it got a lot of readers, if not a lot of commentary. I’m not sure what that means, but suffice it to say that many of these guys are just bad.
This is the other side of the fence, debt collection companies, or collection agencies. Since last year, when the economy was going south and the government finally acknowledged that it was, debt collection agencies have tried to get more aggressive, often going after debt that wasn’t debt at all. Some of them were legit companies who were trying to collect really old stuff that had been written off years ago by the banks, but since they suddenly all needed money, they decided to try to recover some of it. But some of them weren’t legit, buying old records, knowing debts were paid, and using tactics that aren’t quite legal to try to collect that money.
Case in point, New York. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced that their office is suing a debt collection company called Benning-Smith Group, based in Buffalo, which is actually 13 collection agencies run by these three sneaky guys for unlawful debt collection practices.
You want to talk bad. These guys had their people calling people and harassing them with things such as verbally calling them names, saying they were the police on their way over to take their property, and even threatening them with physical and sexual harm. That’s not quite following the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act at all, which basically says you can’t harass people, you can’t lie to people, and if they tell you to go away you must.
Anyway, here’s the scam. These folks would scare people into paying on debts that, for the most part, were already paid or nonexistent. They would tell people they had to pay by money order, wiring payments to Western Union offices so they could get the cash. Supposedly nice and clean; no real paper trail. The thing is, that’s illegal also; if you offer to pay by check, they’re supposed to take it.
The state received over 850 complaints, but they found thousands of violations on their own. These are some of the sickest examples. This one collector kept repeating the name of a consumer’s daughter, describing various sexual things he would do to her unless the debt was paid. Another collector told a female consumer that if both she and her husband would engage in sexual acts with him, he would pay their debt himself. And there was all sorts of name-calling; they’re just not allowed to do that kind of thing.
To its credit, the Office of the Attorney General has gone after a lot of collection agencies and debt consolidation companies this year, as financial times have been tough and sneaky people have come out of the woodwork to play on our fears and frustrations. This highlights something I’ve always known, and sometimes talked about, that being most of us have no idea who or what we owe because we don’t keep records. So, we’re pretty much open to scams from all directions. It’s one reason I recommend people get copies of their credit reports, so they can keep up with what their financial history might be saying about them.
Here’s the name of the 13 companies run by this scum; if you hear from any of them, they’re fake: Abrams, Burke & Associates; Benning and Smith Acquisitions, Inc.; Brady and Caruso, LLC; DebtPayments.com; DebtPayments.com, LLC; Fredericks, Goldstein & Zoe; Graham, Noble & Associates Bookkeeping; Graham, Noble & Associates LLC; Graham, Beagle & Associates LLC; Kingman, Cole and Associates, LCC; Marshall and Ziolkowski Enterprise, LLC; Marshall Ziolkowski Acquisitions, LLC; Lansky, Goldstein, Zoe; OLS Payment Services; and University Debt Collection.