The Houston Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about the owner of two local debt collection agencies who has a record with the BBB of regularly harassing, threatening, and intimidating consumers.
Susan Schade of the Houston BBB told KPRC-TV, the local NBC affiliate, that consumers should be wary of Gerald Wright, the owner of Cole, Tanner and Wright, a debt collection agency that allegedly harassed and intimidated consumers, in one case telling debtor Charisma Anderson that an affidavit was being filed against her and that she could lose her job or go to jail if she didnât pay $1,400 to cover an old debt that she no longer legally owed.
Such statements are in violation of the Federal Trade Commissionâs Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), according to Schade. “They’re told that their driver’s license could be taken away,” Schade said, recalling some of the complaints against the collection company. “The person calling has said they’re from the sheriffâs dept or they’re a federal officer of some sort. Those are totally against the rules. The law says you can’t harass people and you can’t misrepresent who you are” (âLocal 2 Investigates Abusive Debt Collectors,â KPRC-TV, March 23, 2012).
Consumer attorney Dana Karni sued Cole, Tanner and Wright on behalf of Anderson. The debt collection agency has since closed its doors. However, the BBB is warning Houston-area consumers that Wright is now affiliated with another debt collector called Goldman, Schwartz, Lieberman and Stein. âUnfortunately this company tends to move so much that we’ve gotten returned mail from the company,” said Schade.
The most recent address for Goldman, Schwartz, Lieberman and Stein is a post office box at a UPS Store. KPRC-TV said that the woman listed as the Operations Manager at Cole, Tanner and Wright and the Director at Goldman, Schwartz, Lieberman and Stein is a convicted thief who served five yearsâ probation for welfare fraud. In Texas, debt collectors arenât required to pass a criminal background check, KPRC-TV added.
According to the FDCPA, collectors must send consumers something in writing within five days of their first call explaining what you owe and the details of the debt. Karni advises consumers to not pay debt collectors unless theyâre certain they legally owe the debt. “Paying somebody over the phone when you don’t know what you’re paying and what you’re paying for, and you have no confirmation in writing, you might as well take your money and throw it in the trash,” Karni said.
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