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Amherst firm to pay state $85,000
BusinessDebt agency pays to settle abuse charges
By Fred O. Williams
The Buffalo News : Business TodayTuesday, January 15, 2008
Updated: 12/19/07 6:45 AM
National Action Financial Services, a debt collector in Amherst, has agreed to pay $85,000 to settle charges of using outlaw pressure tactics, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.
The company, called NAFS, was the subject of 90 complaints within the last three years, about one third of them from within the state.
One woman said that a fax was sent to her employer 20 times during a span of 2 1/2 hours. NAFS fired the collector responsible, Cuomo's office said.
"This company's alleged tactics went far beyond legal or even normal methods of debt collection," Cuomo said in a statement.
Other complaints said that collectors falsely claimed to be calling from an attorney's office.
Some complaints came from people who didn't owe money. People were contacted repeatedly for information on the whereabouts of the supposed debtor, despite requests that the calls stop.
The agreement, in addition to the $85,000 in fines and costs, requires NAFS to reform its collection practices in line with state and federal laws. The filing was made in Erie County Court dated Dec. 7.
However, NAFS denied that it violated any laws. It agreed to the settlement so as to avoid being tied up in litigation, spokesman Michael Farber said. The company has more than 350 jobs in Western New York, he said.
NAFS is a unit of Sitel Corp., a global call center company based in Omaha.
Under the U.S. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, collectors are prohibited from repeatedly calling with intent to harass, falsely implying they are from an attorney's office or credit bureau, or falsely threatening arrest and prison.
In addition, New York's Collection Procedures Law bars threats of collecting fees beyond the debt owed. It also forbids communicating with an employer about the debt, unless there's a court judgment against the debtor.
"While companies indeed have a right to collect money owed, debt collectors do not have a right to abuse and harass consumers and prey on those who may find themselves in over their heads," Cuomo's statement said.
The case was handled by investigators in the Law Department's Buffalo office.
For more information about protections against abusive debt collection, check the Web site at www.oag.state.ny.us/ consumer/tips/ d e b t _ c o l l e c - tors.html. Consumers having trouble with debt can find a list of notfor- profit credit counselors at the state Banking Department Web site: www.banking.state.ny.us. State business records identify NAFS as a Georgia-chartered corporation with its principal office at 165 Lawrence Bell Drive in Amherst and headed by president James P. Rich Jr. It was acquired by Sitel in 1996.
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