AG Healey reaches $ 4 million settlement with debt collector

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Attorney General Maura Healey’s office struck a multi-million dollar deal with a debt collection company that it said illegally targeted seniors, people with disabilities and others whose incomes are exempt from collection obligations of receivables.

The portfolio recovery assets “lied to consumers,” Healey said. “He knew they were on Social Security, he knew they were receiving disability benefits, and instead of not collecting that, [the company] pressured these people to pay these debts, using this exempt income, using their social security money, their money for the disabled.

“It is a problem.”

The Delaware-based company does not admit to any violation of consumer protection law, according to court documents. But he has agreed to pay $ 4 million that will go to thousands of consumers who officials say were subject to the company’s collection practices.

Although it is legal to collect debts, Healey said that “aggressive pressure and intimidation from consumers” is not. Healey said the company tried to collect debts so old that they were unenforceable and failed to inform consumers that Social Security and disability benefits, as well as retirement income and child support , could be exempted from paying debt collectors.

Portfolio said in a statement that he had fully cooperated with Healey’s office.

“We deny that [Portfolio’s] the practices violate Massachusetts or federal law, as well as any notion that we are targeting vulnerable customers, ”Kevin Stevenson, president and CEO of the company, said in the statement. “While we were both surprised and disappointed to see some of the public comments and characterizations from the Attorney General on this matter, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that provides for improved communication and disclosures with our clients. “

Under the regulations, Portfolio Recovery Assets agrees to stop targeting people whose only income is exempt from debt collection. The company also agreed that it would not attempt to collect if it cannot prove a debt is valid.

Julia Jones of Boston said Portfolio Recovery Assets sued her for less than $ 1,000, and when the company could not document the original source of the debt, it turned to the attorney general.

Jones said having debt collectors after you is like having a weight around your neck.

“It’s hard to have limited resources initially, but then when you get these constant reminders [that] you’re no good… it kind of erodes your dignity, ”Jones said.

Healey said she hoped other companies engaging in questionable collection practices would take the settlement as a warning.

“I hope today we clarify, and it may reduce bad behavior, that we are going to sue you if you engage in abusive debt collection in the state,” Healey said.



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