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Buffalo-Area Company Settles Debt Collection Violations Case With State Prosecutors

July 29, 2010

Our Yucaipa unfair debt collection lawyers were interested to note a legal settlement involving a collection agency accused of illegal, anti-consumer practices. The Buffalo News reported July 28 about a settlement reached between the state of New York and a company in the area, Lewis Hastie Receivables of Hamburg, N.Y. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had accused LHR of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and a similar New York state law with harassment and intimidation that included multiple phone calls at work as well as failure to investigate disputed debts. The company will pay $125,000 in penalties and costs and has agreed to reform its business practices.

According to Cuomo's office, LHR was accused of making multiple phone calls in the same day to some victims, including calls to victims' workplaces made after they were told that the employer does not allow this type of call. It also allegedly tried to recover debts from several people who did not owe any debt, and in one instance, three times the cost of the original debt. One woman in Oswego received 16 calls in a day about her husband's 10-year-old debt. The debt collector told her, incorrectly and illegally, that if she refused to pay, she would be arrested, her wages would be garnished, her car would be repossessed and a lien would be placed on her home. Another victim was an Iraq war veteran who was deployed overseas when the contract was signed for the debt at issue. He provided proof, but the calls kept coming.

The article notes that Cuomo's office has made abuses by debt collectors in New York state a priority, and our Pomona debt collection harassment attorneys are glad to hear it. The abuses listed in the article are flagrant violations of the laws -- multiple violations in cases like the Oswego woman's -- but a certain kind of collection agency routinely breaks those laws because it believes breaking the law works. All too often, they're right -- these illegal tactics scare consumers into believing they must pay up now. Before they have time to think about whether and what they might truly owe, they have sent checks or authorized the crooked debt collector to pull money from their accounts. This is easy money for the debt collector, but it is an illegal and exploitive practice victimizing consumers who may not understand their rights.

At Howard Law PC, we want all consumers to understand those rights, because we believe it can help them avoid becoming victims of these illegal practices. Under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors may not call continuously or repeatedly, call you late at night or early in the morning, call at work after learning that the employer will not allow it, or try to collect using statements that are false or legally impossible. (For example, debt collectors may not garnish your wages or have you arrested without first suing and winning.) They also must validate the debt on the consumer's request and quit calling if they find that it's not valid. California state law has similar protections. Our Costa Mesa debt collection abuse lawyers help clients who are victims of these and other illegal practices sue the unethical debt collector. You can claim damages of up to $1,000 in a lawsuit, plus attorney fees, court costs and reimbursement of any actual financial losses related to the illegal behavior.

If you believe you are a victim of unfair and illegal debt collection, you should call Howard Law to learn more about your rights and your legal options. For a free consultation, call us toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or send us a message online.