• Report: #520009

Complaint Review: Portfolio Recovery Associates - Collection Agency

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  • Submitted: Thu, November 05, 2009
  • Updated: Tue, November 24, 2009

  • Reported By: W. — West Virginia United States of America
Portfolio Recovery Associates - Collection Agency
120 Corporate Blvd Norfolk, Virginia United States of America

Portfolio Recovery Associates - Collection Agency - Illegal Debt Collection Practices - Norfolk, Virginia

*Author of original report: Update-some success already

*Author of original report: I appreciate the kind advice

*Author of original report: I appreciate the kind advice

*Consumer Comment: I Understand..

*Author of original report: Response to Robert

*Consumer Comment: Agreed

*Consumer Comment: Comments...

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Portfolio Recovery Associates contacted me in 2007 to collect a debt
for a utility bill I don't owe (from apparent ID theft). The bill is
from 2006 at an address I moved from back in 2004. In other words, I
was not there to run up the utilities. I have been at my current
residence since 2004.

I cooperated initially, thinking this would be easily cleared up--the
landlord confirms we left in 2004, the deed for our house closed in
2004 and is available at the courthouse. We provided copies, and all
documentation they asked for. In retrospect, my faith that a collection
agency would be willing to clear up a mistake was pretty naive, but I'd
never had any dealings with collection agencies before.

As it turns out, they have screamed at me, called me names, called me a
deadbeat--all this is against state law: West Virginia Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act 46A-2-125, Oppression and abuse.They even
told me to pay the money even though it is not my debt because it will
be the only way they will leave me alone. I don't know if this is
strictly against the law or not, but it probably made me madder than
anything else they have done. Pay money I don't owe?!! I am far more
likely to sprout wings and poo on their heads.

They have threatened to garnish my wages (I don't get wages, so this
would indeed be a trick.) Also, that threat is against state law, as
well: West Virginia Fair Debt Collection Practices Act 46A-2-124.

In addition, they frequently refuse to identify themselves when they
call--this is also against state law: West Virginia Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act 46A-2-127, Fraudulent, deceptive or
misleading representations. They call, but won't state where they're
calling from--they only give a name and number, but not a business.
They insist, "It's personal!" The number, naturally, Googles as
Portfolio Recovery Associates.

They have also threatened to come to my house and take things. They
have threatened to sue me. And so on. Keep in mind, that all this would
be very, very illegal even if I actually owed the money, which I DO NOT.

I had an attorney write a cease communication letter to them in January
2008, and they STILL continue to contact me, against state law. After
that, they did stop calling until October 2009--I thought it was over--
but for some unknown reason have begun again. I have not spoken with
them for this go around: they have instructions to contact my attorney,
and they can do that. I don't need to be abused again.

Currently I have complaints pending at the VA BBB and with the WV state
Attorney General. (I am in WV, and they are in VA.) Our attorney
General in WV doesn't seem to have patience for this sort of thing, so
I have hopes that this will finally be resolved for me. If this is
happening to you, please contact your state Attorney General's office.
It was hard to get anyone else to listen. People had sympathy, but everyone from the police to the FTC told me to sue. I'm not litigious, and can't afford to sue, anyway. I also don't think it's fair or right that only people wealthy enough to take someone to court can have justice, even with something as simple and clear cut as this.

Ironically, their motto is "Giving debt collection a good name."

Portfolio Recovery Associates operates illegally, but they can't be
forced to stop if your attorney general doesn't get reports from people like you that they are abusing. They know that people mostly don't know what to do in these situations, even when they're in the right. Even if you do actually owe the money they are trying
to collect, THERE ARE LAWS THEY HAVE TO FOLLOW, and this outfit does
NOT follow them.

Find your state's Fair Collection Statutes here:

http://www. attorneysforconsumers.com/ state-debt-collection-laws. html

Please, call your state AG, so companies that operate illegally like this can be put out of business so they don't abuse anyone else!!!

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 11/05/2009 10:46 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Portfolio-Recovery-Associates-Collection-Agency/Norfolk-Virginia-23502/Portfolio-Recovery-Associates-Collection-Agency-Illegal-Debt-Collection-Practices-N-520009. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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4Author 3Consumer 0Employee/Owner
Updates & Rebuttals

#1 Author of original report

Update-some success already

AUTHOR: Winnie - (United States of America)

As an update--and more reason to ALWAYS report issues like this to your Attorney General--I got a letter from the office of the WV attorney General last week, letting me know they had already assigned someone to advocate for me. That in itself was somewhat surprising to me, just because the response came so quickly, about a week after I had submitted the official report and sent my documentation. I had the impression that it would take them time to evaluate my complaint, even though it is quite straightforward. But they responded right away. Who would have guessed government could work so fast? I love West Virginia.

A week after that, I had a call from the gas company, the "original creditor." Mind you, I had spoken with them originally in 2007 about this issue, and was told they had no record of my having called to turn off the gas. That they didn't show a record didn't surprise me terribly. The natural presumption was that if they'd had a record of my request, it would have been turned off properly. Portfolio Recovery Associates was meant to have "investigated" my dispute, so presumably Hope Dominion Gas would have checked again (but I don't believe PRA did any sort of a real investigation with the gas company). Then I spoke to the gas company again recently, asking them for a record of the account. Always pleasant and polite (unlike the abusive PRA), still they said again they had no record of the request. I simply thought it somehow hadn't been recorded or saved when I called to have the gas shut off.

When I got the call from Hope Dominion Gas this past Friday, though, they told me the AG had already been in contact with them. (How's that for fast work?) They added this nugget: they did, after all, have a record of my order to shut off the gas. They found the record on a work order when they did an investigation. Apparently, someone had gone to the rental house to turn off the gas, but couldn't get in (internal meter) to take a final reading. So, inexplicably, it was left in my name. They don't have an explanation as to why that happened rather than, say, making an estimate for the last bill or something else reasonable. Nor do they have any explanation as to why this would have been let go to run a bill in my name for two years. I am also not clear as to why they couldn't find the record of this earlier... and I'm not sure they are, either. However, there you have it: that's how it began.

This was not illegal on the part of the gas company (so far as I know), but it was certainly sloppy and bad practice. The  person I spoke to at the gas company--Tammy--commented that this was the second time they had discovered something like this in the last 6 months. I think I understood her to say that they are going to try to pursue the bill with the people who actually did run it up, although I'm not sure how easy that will be. I wish them luck. They did tell me that they were "recalling" the debt from the collection agency, and that it would be removed from my credit report. (However, PRA reported it a second time to my credit report, so they will have to remove it as well.)

As to Portfolio Recovery Associates, I presume the AG's office is now investigating the way they repeatedly broke the law by contacting me after they had been directed not to, threatening me, refusing to identify themselves and on and on. That remains. I think reporting a single debt twice is also illegal, but I could be wrong about that. Again, the thing that makes me probably maddest is when they told me that they believed me that the debt wasn't mine (after having seen my documents), but they wanted me to pay, anyway. Isn't that simply admitting you're a fraud? Isn't that some terrible sort of hubris, suggesting that they can simply force people to pay them money via intimidation, threats of wage garnishment and other strong arm tactics too bountiful to ennumerate here? Outrageous.

PRA's response to my complaint at the BBB was this: "Given that this matter is the subject to multiple complaints with other regulatory bodies, for the purposes of this complaint, I will simply confirm that PRA's collection attempts on this account will cease." They missed the first deadline to respond, but did barely make the extended deadline (after the AG was on the case).

I "did not accept" this response, since they must also agree to remove it from my credit report AND they must agree not to resell the debt. I presume this will be an easy thing to agree to since the gas company is recalling the debt. I also hope they are required to pay fines for having broken the law. In fact, I hope the AG can put them out of business in our state. This wasn't a simple case of a (bad) error, as it was at the gas company. This wasn't just one jerk, or two or three. This wasn't sloppiness. It was pervasive abuse, criminal behavior, by everyone I dealt with at that company. Shameful, shameful!

Report abuses like this to your attorney general so companies like this are put on notice that they can't simply ignore the law to collect, not even if the debt is real. NO ONE deserves to be screamed at, called names and terrorized by these bottom feeders.



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#2 Author of original report

I appreciate the kind advice

AUTHOR: Winnie - (United States of America)

... however I will not sue them not only because I don't have money to spend, but ALSO because I don't think it's right to have to spend money to get justice. I don't want simply to win a payoff--I am utterly uninterested in their dirty money. I want to shut them down. To me, it would be unethical to take them to court and accept their money (that they stole from some poor grandmother or a young family). Understand, I KNOW people like that--these could be my neighbors who are being abused and stolen from. These could be my aunts.

If it takes years to shut them down, so be it, but I don't think it will be that long. I think they can intimidate most people into settling because most people are worried about bad credit. We just don't use credit. We use cash. I couldn't care a whit about their money. They are breaking the law, so they must be shut down.

The Missouri Attorney General is already investigating them:

http://ago.mo.gov/newsreleases/2009/Fradulent_debt_collectors_scam_gets_busted/

And my own AG has a history of successfully cases against illegal collection practices/junk debt buyers. One example:

http://www.wvago.gov/press.cfm?ID=490&fx=more

I have already spoken to his office and am quite encouraged. On the other hand, PRA has not even bothered to respond to the BBB complaint which doesn't surprise me--the deadline is tomorrow for their response, so possibly it will come at the last minute. even if it doesn't I don't have particular hopes of anything happening from that end. I don't know that there is much the BBB can do.

Again, thank you all very much for the advice, but I posted the complaint here so people would know how to find their state statutes and what the best way is to put the company out of business for their illegal operations--to seek JUSTICE without having to buy it in a courtroom.
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#3 Author of original report

I appreciate the kind advice

AUTHOR: Winnie - (United States of America)

... however I will not sue them not only because I don't have money to spend, but ALSO because I don't think it's right to have to spend money to get justice. In addition, I don't want simply to take their money--I am utterly uninterested. I want to shut them down. To me, it would be unethical to take them to court, take money (that they stole from some poor grandmother or a young family). Understand, I KNOW people like that--these could be my neighbors who are being abused and stolen from.

If it takes years, so be it. I think they can intimidate most people into settling because most people are worried about bad credit. We just don't use credit. We use cash. I couldn't care a whit about their money. They are breaking the law, so they must be shut down.

The Missouri Attorney General is already investigating them:

http://ago.mo.gov/newsreleases/2009/Fradulent_debt_collectors_scam_gets_busted/


And my own AG has a history of successfully cases against illegal collection practices/junk debt buyers. One example:

http://www.wvago.gov/press.cfm?ID=490&fx=more

I have already spoken to his office and am quite encouraged. On the other hand, PRA has not even bothered to respond to the BBB complaint which doesn't surprise me--the deadline is tomorrow for their response, so possibly it will come at the last minute. even if it doesn't I don't have particular hopes of anything happening from that end. I don't know that there is much the BBB can do.

Again, thank you all very much for the advice, but I posted the complaint here so people would know how to find their state statutes and what the best way is to put the company out of business for their illegal operations--to seek JUSTICE without having to buy it in a courtroom.
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#4 Consumer Comment

I Understand..

AUTHOR: Robert - (U.S.A.)

I will tell you that unfortunately all your inquiry to the AG will do is get them to note it.  I have never heard of an AG taking action on individual cases.  It could be years and hundreds of complaints before they take any action.  During this time they are going to continue business as usual, which may including continuing to contact you.

My first estimate of $100 to file was just that.  I actually did a bit more research and if your State WV is correct here is some additional information that may help.  In WV this appears to be the Magistrate Courts since it is less than $5,000.  The latest fees I could find would be $35 to file and about an additional $20 to actually "serve" the suit.  However, if you can not afford these fees you can apply for a fee waiver through the court clerk.  It is good that you have a friend that is a lawyer and perhaps they may look into this for you, or at least get you on the right path to file for yourself.

Again I know you don't want to sue because they don't "owe" you any money.  But if they are breaking any regulations, this is really the only way you are going to hit them where it hurts and get them to stop.

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#5 Author of original report

Response to Robert

AUTHOR: Winnie - (United States of America)

Robert--no problem; it was not taken personally. However, let me address your issues. My lawyer is a friend of mine that wrote the letter pro bono when I explained what was happening. Going to court requires fees. I don't have those fees, and I don't expect her to pay them for me. Sometimes it is difficult to imagine what it's like not to have a lot of money, but right now I'm saving for new socks. I'm not spending my sock money on court fees. That sounds facetious, but I'm being perfectly honest.

The bottom line is that time I have; money I do not. I spent yesterday posting this experience everywhere, since this Junk Debt Buyer has started harassing me again. Yes, I have spent a good deal of time recently trying to find the right way to deal with the way they have broken the laws. Frankly, I had no idea at first that what they were doing was against the law--probably most people don't, which is why zombie debt buyers can continue to do this. They take advantage of the fact that people don't know what they are doing is illegal. I don't like the harassment, but I can hang up on them. There is nothing they can do to me. Getting money from them is not my goal.

I want them to stop, stop entirely, stop victimizing people who may not know the laws or how to look them up, who may be elderly and scared, who may be in very dire straights. No one-- NO ONE-- should be treated like that, even when they may actually owe money. It is against the law. This company needs to follow the law, and frankly if they offered to stop harassing me, offered me money to shut up about the case if I stopped pursuing it with the AG, I wouldn't do it, even as much as I need the money. This is wrong and needs to be stopped.

For instance, several times they implored me to make a payment--just a token payment!--to show I was approaching the dispute in good faith on my end, they said. They would take the token payment and stop calling while they were trying to get the fraudulent debt cleared from my record. I did not send them any money, because it is not my debt. I never considered it. My overactive sense of justice doesn't always serve me particularly well, but it did in this case. I learn, now, that if I had been duped into doing that, it would have been considered an admission from me that I actually owed the money.

Robert, please don't take this the wrong way, either, but just because someone doesn't have money to sue doesn't mean that the particular someone can't also be an educated, intelligent person capable of looking state statute up on the Internet. We live sustainably by choice. Money and intelligence (or diligence) frankly don't have anything to do with one another, although it seems to be a correlation many people make. It is correlation without causation.

My goal is not to get money from them. They don't owe me money (and I don't owe them money). They just need to stop abusing people, and they need to stop abusing the law. The way to pursue my goal will be through the Attorney General's office. I don't want their money. They probably stole it from some other poor person, and I don't know if I could bear the idea of buying siding for my house or fixing my plumbing or installing a garden fence from a payoff stolen from some struggling student, or from a grandmother on a fixed income. They couldn't offer me enough money to cause me to ask the AG not to prosecute them.




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#6 Consumer Comment

Agreed

AUTHOR: Tim - (U.S.A.)

None of the laws you mentioned, nor the FDCPA, can do consumers ANY good if they aren't enforced by the consumer. And the only way the consumer can enforce these laws is through the courts.

Don't be intimidated by a small claims action. You can get the ball rolling by simply heading down to your local courthouse and asking for the paperwork to initiate a small claims action. The paperwork itself will likely instruct you as to how to proceed.

Then, round up any and all evidence you have to substantiate your claims, and any witnesses that may substantiate your allegations. When you have your court hearing, the judge will recognize that you are not an attorney and should basically lead the show for you.  

As Robert stated, the FDCPA alllows for an award of up to $1000 (per consumer, not per violation) when it is violated, whether or not you suffered any actual losses. 

However, I have to correct this statement: " You can sue them for $1000 plus any damages and legal fees."

Actually, the $1000 are an alternative to actual damages, not an addition. You can get actual damages OR up to $1000.

Best regards!

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#7 Consumer Comment

Comments...

AUTHOR: Robert - (U.S.A.)

Please know that I am not coming down on you.  Just making some observations and suggestions as to what you can do.  Which right up front I am saying you should sue them.

But I find it interesting how you say you can not afford to sue.  Yet you seem to have quoted several State Laws and actually had an attorney send them a Cease Communication Letter.  Not to mention how much time you have spent talking to just about everyone else, who also gave you the advise to sue. 

In all of this you don't seem to realize that you can handle all of this in Small Claims.  You also didn't mention the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act(FDCPA) which is the Federal Guidelines.

You mention you are not litigious, and in general I agree that this is a good thing to not sue at the drop of a hat.  However, there are cases where your only choice is to sue.  You appear to have grounds to sue them just by the fact that you sent them a Cease Communications Letter and they have still contacted you.  You can sue them for $1000 plus any damages and legal fees. If WV has additional State Laws this amount may be different.  For Small Claims it should not cost you more than $100 to file, and that you would get back if you get a judgment against them.  Since it is Small Claims you don't need a lawyer.

You may even find that once you file a suit they will just settle and pay you the money without even going to court.

Good Luck

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