Anyone who has ever been bullied by a debt collector will be happy to hear that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently brought the gavel down on yet another unscrupulous agency. American Municipal Services Corporation and its owners, Lawrence Bergman and Gregory Pitchford, have been slapped with a $350,000 penalty for engaging in illegal collection tactics.
And this just goes to show that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is highly effective when it comes to regulating debt collection practices. Also, the FTC will NOT hesitate to invoke the law when consumer rights are clearly being violated. Of course, this particular agency doesn’t operate in Arizona, but the FDCPA is federally mandated, so it protects consumers in all states.
How the FDCPA Protects Consumers against Shady Debt Collectors
In their attempts to collect on debts, agencies have been known to use aggressive tactics. Some have even gone so far as to embarrass and humiliate consumers, while others have actually made deceptive threats and lied about their identity. None of these practices are acceptable.
The FDCPA was enacted in 1977 to make abusive debt collection tactics illegal. Under the Act, debt collectors are not permitted to embarrass, threaten or lie to consumers. Any representative from a collection agency is obligated to identify him/herself as a debt collector, and there are strict limits placed on when they can call and how frequently. In fact, any consumer has the right to make a collector stop calling by asking them to do so in writing.
How American Municipal Services Corporation Violated the FDCPA
American Municipal Services Corporation is in the business of collecting debts owed to municipalities. These types of debts include court fines, parking ticket fees, and unpaid utility bills. They are a large agency, collecting on behalf of 500 municipalities in several states. Those who live in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, or Texas may be familiar with the operation. But, because they were misrepresenting themselves, consumers in these states have probably never heard of them.
In the official report from the FTC, it was made clear that American Municipal Services Corporation was going by different, more official-sounding names in order to scare consumers. They used letterhead emblazoned with titles such as “Warrant Enforcement Division” and “Municipal Enforcement Division.” And because this company was falsely associating itself with government agencies, the FTC put a stop to the practice. Here, the defendants were charged with violations of both the FDCPA and the FTC Act (the latter for interfering with commerce).
Even though Arizonians weren’t affected by the violations committed by this debt collection agency, there may be operations that are misrepresenting themselves in the Grand Canyon State too. If you receive a letter that looks official, but you have doubts, you should definitely do some research before acting on what the letter says. And if you find out that a collector is impersonating a government agency, report them immediately. As this recent event illustrates, the FTC does NOT tolerate collection agencies that practice deceit.
You Don’t have to Tolerate Illegal Debt Collection Tactics
If you’re being harassed by a debt collection agency that has overstepped its boundaries, the law is on your side, and you can make them stop. At Credit Repair Lawyers of America, we’ve been helping consumers deal with agencies that are in violation of the FDCPA since 2008, and our clients pay nothing out of pocket for the legal services we provide.
Let’s get the conversation started, for free. Just call Attorney Gary Nitzkin at (888)293-2882 or email him at [email protected] for a free no obligation, consultation