Buffalo NY Collector Shut Down

Over the past several years, many Arizona consumers have called with stories of harassment and threats by collection agencies or debt buyers from Buffalo New York. The threats include arrest, criminal action, legal action, loss of one's home and car, contacting employer, etc. Though these threats seem obviously illegal, many debtors get scared and pay these criminals money.

The Syracuse.com website recently posted a news article on Maurice Sessum, a Buffalo debt collector and owner of the collection agency 4 Star Resolution, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for fraud. Sessum was operating a collection which scammed thousands of consumers to overpay their debts by $31 million. 

The article outlines many of the false statements used by 4 Star and Sessum to defraud consumers, including:

  • that 4 Star was affiliated with local government and law enforcement agencies

  • that debtor had committed crimes, and if debt was not paid immediately, they would be arrested

  • that driver's license would be suspended if debt not immediately

  • false threats of legal action

Anytime you receive a call from a collector, make sure you know who they are, including the name and address of the agency, and that they have a legitimate claim that you owe them money. You can check to see if they are licensed by the Arizona Department of Financial Affairs here. (A company collecting its own debt does not have to be licensed.) Most importantly, if there is any doubt that the company is legitimate, contact a consumer protection lawyer. 

You can always call the Bybee Law Center, PLC at (480) 756-8822 to discuss a collection call. 



Portfolio Recovery Associates Sued For Collecting on a Settled Debt

Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC, or PRA is a huge debt buyer that files thousands of law suits every year to collect debts it has purchased for pennies on the dollar. PRA files hundreds of collection suits here in Arizona.

My office recently filed a case under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA against PRA for attempting to collect an alleged balance on a judgment which had been settled in full, and which had been set aside by the justice court so there was no longer a judgment.

Collection Abuse Continues Against Arizona Consumers

As this case illustrates, collection abuse by collection agencies, zombie debt buyers, and their collection lawyers continues in spite of federal law prohibiting their actions. The FDCPA prohibits a debt collector --- including collection agencies, zombie debt buyers, and collection attorneys --- from misrepresenting that a debt is owed when it is not. The FDCPA also prohibits a debt collector from attempting to collect amounts not owe, including aksing for payment of a debt which has already been settled. 


FTC Issues 2010 Annual Report on FDCPA to Congress

FTC Reports Consumer Complaints Rise 17% in 2010

The Federal Trade Commission recently issued its 2011 annual report to Congress on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) showing that consumer debt collection complaints rose 17% in 2010.  The federal agency received 140,036 debt collection complaints in 2010 compared to 119,609 in 2009.  The FTC also reported that it received more complaints about the debt collection industry than from any other specific industry.

Top Categories for Debt Collection Complaints

The top areas which consumers complain about were:

•    calling repeatedly or continuously

•    misrepresenting the character, amount or status of the debt (including demanding a larger payment that is permitted by law)

•    Failing to send consumers the required written notice about the debt and their rights

•    Threatening dire consequences if the consumer fails to pay, including false threats of legal action, threats of criminal prosecution, wage garnishment, and damage to consumer’s credit rating.

•    Failing to identify that it is a debt collector

•    Revealing alleged debt to third parties, including family, friends, and co-workers.

•    Calls to consumer’s place of employment

•    Failing to verify disputed debts

•    Continuing to contact consumers after receiving written notice to stop all communication.

FTC Provides Information About Consumers’ Rights

The FTC’s “Debt Collection FAQs: Guide for Consumers” brochure is available at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm.  The FTC also has an animated video that explains consumer rights regarding debt collection. It can be viewed at http://www.ftc.gov/debtcollection and http://www.youtube.com/ftcvideos.

FDCPA Prohibits Deceptive, Unfair and Abusive Practices

The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from using any deceptive, unfair, and abusive collection tactics to attempt to collect a debt. Though the FTC may take action against some third-party debt collectors or debt-buyers, most Arizona consumers will obtain relief only from bringing a private action in Arizona courts.

If you are an Arizona consumer who has been contacted by a third-party debt collector or debt buyer and feel that their collection actions were deceptive, unfair, harassing, or abusive, please call Floyd W. Bybee at the BYBEE LAW CENTER, PLC (480) 756-8822.

Should I Pursue My FDCPA Claims?

Many times I am asked by Arizona consumers whether they should pursue their claims under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). My answer is usually yes, and always starts with an explanation of the purposes of the Act.

FDCPA Intended to Protect Consumers From Abusive Collection Practices.

Congress stated that the purpose of the FDCPA is to protect all consumers from abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices. Even though not all consumers who are abused file suit, or even know they have any protection under the law, each individual consumer who does bring a claim under the law adds to the cumulative effect of coercing collection agencies into complying with the FDCPA. Thus, not only do these consumers recover the damages they have personally suffered as a result of the collection abuse, but the collection agencies are more likely to comply with the law in order to avoid similar court actions from other consumers.

Enforcement of the FDCPA also Levels the Playing Field for Ethical Debt Collectors.

Part of the benefit from enforcing the FDCPA, is that ethical collection agencies — the ones who are polite, and truthful, and respectful — are not put at a competitive disadvantage to those agencies who fail to comply with the FDCPA. That may not seem to be much of a benefit to the consumer, but it really is. Almost all Arizona consumers with whom I meet, are not looking for a way to avoid or delay paying a legitimate debt. They just need the harassment to stop so that they can keep their job, avoid filing bankruptcy, and eventually pay the debts they legally owe. So by raising the compliance level of all collection agencies, fewer Arizona consumers are suffering the effects of collection harassment and will ultimately be in a better position to pay the debts they owe.

I Can Help.

If you are an Arizona debtor and are being abused or harassed by a collection agency or other debt collector, find out what your rights are and whether you have any claims.

Feel free to call Floyd W. Bybee at the BYBEE LAW CENTER, PLC (480) 756-8822 to set up a consultation.

Arizona Consumer Sues Portfolio Recovery Associates for Collection Harassment

My office recently filed suit on behalf of an Arizona consumer under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) against Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC out of Norfolk, Virginia. Portfolio Recovery is one of many companies known as “Debt Buyers” or “Junk Debt Buyers.” These debt buying companies purchase blocks of debts which are charged off by the original creditors and sold for pennies on the dollar. The debt buyers then try to collect the debts sometimes using collection tactics which violate federal law.

For instance, the Arizona Consumer in this suit alleges that Portfolio Recovery repeatedly called her at work after being told that she cannot accept personal calls at work. They even left a message on one of her co-worker’s voice mail to “pass along” to the debtor.

The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors, including these “Debt Buyers” or “Junk Debt Buyers,” from calling an Arizona consumer at her place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such calls.

The FDCPA also forbids debt collectors from contacting third parties, including co-workers, friends, family, and neighbors, except to obtain location information. Calling and leaving a message with a co-worker or other third party is not done with the intent to obtain location information — its to done to harass the Arizona debtor and perhaps embarrassment them into paying a debt they either do not owe or one that they cannot afford to pay at this time.

I have filed many lawsuits over the past several years against collection agencies who participate in these types of illegal collection activities.

If you are an Arizona consumer who has been subjected to these types of collection harassment, please call Floyd W. Bybee at the BYBEE LAW CENTER, PLC (480) 756-8822 for a free phone consultation.