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Western New York Becomes Center for Sometimes Unethical Debt Collection

January 11, 2010

Our Los Angeles County fair debt collection lawyers wrote back in October about a Buffalo, NY collection agency whose employees were actually arrested for posing as law enforcement officers. A Jan. 5 article from the Associated Press put a spotlight on Buffalo's surprisingly large debt collection industry. The article starts by discussing the owner of the business that sparked the arrests, Tobias Boyland, a former felon who is himself being prosecuted for unlicensed possession of a firearm. But even aside from Boyland's nine companies, the article says, the Buffalo area has become a center for debt collection agencies that break the law with their aggressive collection attempts.

Western New York is a former industrial area whose job-hungry workforce and low cost of living make it attractive for call centers. Grants from the state have helped create 110 collection agencies around the city, employing 5,000 to 6,000 people. But along with the growth of jobs came a growth in complaints from consumers who claim the companies violated state and federal consumer protection laws with aggressive and abusive debt collection tactics. The Better Business Bureau for the region gave 104 of 213 debt collection companies in Western New York an F grade, and a Buffalo company is the subject of one in 10 complaints about debt collectors to the national BBB. And at least 20 individuals in the industry have been arrested or sued for threatening, harassing or otherwise abusing consumers. Among the victims was a woman who was scared into paying a debt she didn't owe by a caller who said she would be arrested and her children put in foster care if she didn't hand over her bank account information.

As Redlands debt collection abuse attorneys, we know very well that debt collectors can't have people arrested. In fact, threatening someone with arrest or another legally impossible action is illegal under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and numerous state laws. Unfortunately, many consumers don't know their rights -- which is why so many collection agencies get away with abuses like these. Arrest and criminal prosecution for abusive debt collection employees is very unusual, but the law gives consumers another option for dealing with abusive debt collectors: a civil lawsuit. Both state and federal laws allow consumers who are victims of debt collection abuse to sue the perpetrators for financial damages.

Howard Law LLP is proud to represent debt collection abuse victims, in both individual and class-action lawsuits. Our Brea illegal debt collection lawyers help Californians enforce their rights under both the FDCPA and California's consumer protection law, the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. These laws provide strict guidelines about what collection agencies may not do, as well as things they must do. This includes an obligation to prove in writing that the debt exists, when asked; restrictions on when and how often they may call; and a prohibition on telling anyone about the debt but the debtors themselves, their spouses and any attorneys they might have. In a lawsuit, consumers can win up to $1,000 as well as payment of any actual damages, such as the cost of changing a phone number.

If you believe a debt collection company has broken the law in dealing with you, you're far from alone. Don't hesitate to call Howard Law to tell us about your case and learn more about how we can help. To set up a free consultation, you can call us toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or send us a message online.