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Debt collector heavily penalized for illegal actions

For anyone in Florida or elsewhere who might be wondering why financial regulators need to retain a laser focus on the collection agency industry, we submit the following tale, which culminated last week in a $1 million settlement with a debt collector that just went too far.

Stories evolving around excess in the collection agency are so common as to be almost trite, but the following tale is one of creditor harassment and illegal tactics that seem egregious by even industry standards.

Archie Donovan ran two companies out of California with names that certainly seemed to indicate a lawyerly presence: National Attorney Services and National Attorney Collection Services. Under those banners, Donovan’s staff sent threatening texts, emails and letters to Spanish-speaking persons across the country in pursuit of debt repayment. The communications were aggressively phrased -- mentioning both incarceration and litigation -- and included case numbers.

The problem: Donavan’s firms employed no attorneys and the case numbers were false.

“The FTC has a zero tolerance policy for deception,” noted a commission principal responding to Donovan’s ruse and announcing the million-dollar settlement.

Agency officials say that Donovan broke a number of laws pursuant to his communications. Foremost, his companies deceived consumers through failure to identify themselves as debt collectors. Additionally, they illegally contacted debtors’ employers and co-workers.

The settlement outcome is the first to focus upon collectors’ use of texts to collect money.

As clearly evidenced by this story, continued vigilance is needed against unscrupulous operators in the collection industry. Persons feeling harassed or unduly pressured by debt collectors can contact a proven debt relief attorney for a knowledgeable and aggressive response that fully promotes their legal rights.

Source: The Washington Post, "FTC hits debt collector with $1 million fine for sending threatening texts to Spanish speakers," Cecilia Kang, Sept. 25, 2013

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