We ended 2015 by announcing Operation Collection Protection, a massive, nationwide enforcement initiative, targeting illegal debt collection practices at the federal, state, and local levels. Since then, the FTC and its partners have been busy bringing more actions against debt collectors who are unlicensed, deceptive or abusive. As Operation Collection Protection comes to a close, here’s a look back at what was accomplished.
During 2015-16, the FTC and our 70 law enforcement and regulatory partners brought more than 165 actions against illegal debt collectors. For our part, the FTC went after 20 unlawful debt collection enterprises. We added 44 collectors to the banned debt collectors list in 2016 alone, and won three important summary judgements. Judges award summary judgements when the facts of a case aren’t in dispute. In these cases, the facts included collectors lying about the consequences of not paying a debt (they threatened lawsuits, arrest, seized property), illegally peppering people with deceptive emails and text messages, and pretending to be from the government. In all three cases – Commercial Recovery Systems, The Primary Group, and Federal Check Processing – they were banned from the industry.
The FTC’s state partners also kept going after debt collectors who break the laws. For example, the Ohio Attorney General sued Rotech Holdings over bad collection practices – and that company is now banned from collecting debts in Ohio and has to pay $34,900. In Massachusetts, the state Attorney General got a settlement making Family Dermatology of Pennsylvania write off $1 million in supposed debts and repay Massachusetts consumers who paid money they didn’t owe. And the New York Department of Financial Services got an order that means National Credit Adjusters – which had collected on illegal payday loans – has to refund nearly $725,000 to 3,000 New Yorkers, discharge $2.26 million in debts, and pay the state $200,000.
While Operation Collection Protection is winding down, work against illegal debt collection continues, as does coordination among law enforcement partners from the operation. And we still want to hear from you. If you spot a debt collector breaking the law – making threats or harassing calls, tell the FTC. Every story helps us investigate and stop illegal debt collection.