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FTC Settles End of Largest-Ever Case Against Unfair Debt Collection Business

January 20, 2010

As San Bernardino County debt collection abuse lawyers, we were interested to read about the conclusion of a major enforcement action against an abusive collection agency. The Federal Trade Commission announced on Jan. 7 that it had settled with two individual employees of Academy Collection Service, Inc. The company itself and its owner, Keith Dickstein, had already paid $2.25 million to settle their part of an FTC lawsuit accusing them of using lies, threats and harassment to compel payments. The new settlement order is against employees Albert Bastian and Keith Hurt III, who oversaw the company's Las Vegas office.

The FTC lawsuit alleged that Bastian and Hurt participated in, or directed and allowed, debt collection practices that violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act. According to a Jan. 14 column in the Washington Post, they and the other defendants in the case are accused of improperly calling debtors' neighbors, children and co-workers; calling at work after being told the employer wouldn't allow it; and making illegal and unauthorized withdrawals from victims' bank accounts. They also allegedly threatened victims with violence, arrest, legal action and wage garnishment, even though they couldn't legally do those things, or didn't intend to. The judgment fines Bastian $375,000 and Hurt $300,000. They were also barred by the court from engaging in the same illegal practices alleged in the lawsuit.

Our Garden Grove FDCPA attorneys are pleased to see the FTC taking major enforcement action against an abusive debt collector. That's especially important right now, because when the economy is bad, debt collectors get more desperate -- and some are happy to break the law. Unfortunately, far too many consumers don't realize that many of the practices the FTC mentioned are even illegal, so they never complain. In fact, the FDCPA restricts debt collectors from using a variety of unfair and deceptive practices, including calling someone other than the debtor, his or her spouse or attorney; calling constantly; threatening actions they can't legally take or don't intend to take; and using profanity. Collection agencies accused of these and other unfair practices can be sued and fined by the FTC, state regulators or individuals.

Howard Law PC represents people with complaints against a debt collector that government agencies can't or won't investigate. Unfortunately, the FTC and state consumer agencies don't have the resources to investigate and penalize every company that breaks the law, in part because law-breaking is so common. When this is the case, victims may still bring lawsuits as private individuals, with help from an attorney. Our Chino Hills unfair debt collection attorneys are proud to represent clients seeking to enforce the law and hold collection agencies accountable for their illegal actions. Best of all, the FDCPA and a similar state law allow victims of abusive practices to collect up to $1,000 in damages, plus attorney fees and court costs, in a successful lawsuit. In cases of severe wrongdoing, plaintiffs may also be able to collect punitive damages.

If you believe a debt collector broke the law in dealing with you, don't hesitate to call Howard Law to learn more about your legal options. For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, you can reach us through our Web site or call 1-800-872-5925.