Credit Bureau Collection Services, a Columbus, Ohio, collection agency, will pay a civil fine of $1.1 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated federal law by inaccurately reporting credit information and pushed consumers to pay debts they often did not owe, FTC officials said.
The company and two of its officers, Larry Ebert and Brian Striker, illegally tried to collect invalid debts and then reported them to the credit reporting agencies without noting that consumers disputed them, according to the FTC's complaint.
Even after receiving information from consumers that a debt was either resolved or did not belong to the consumer, Credit Bureau Collection violated the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by continuing to claim that the consumer owed the debt — without trying to confirm or dispute the information.
Credit Bureau Collection, which handles accounts nationwide, also is charged with violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act by reporting information to credit agencies that consumers had proved was inaccurate, failing to inform the credit agencies that consumers had disputed the debts and failing to investigate claims after it had received notices of dispute from credit reporting agencies.
Ebert, reached in his office, declined to comment.
Along with the civil penalty, the settlement order, which was announced this week, bars the defendants from making unsupported statements to collect a debt or obtain information about a consumer; prohibits them from making claims that a debt is owed, or about the amount, without a reasonable basis; and requires them — when a debt is questionable or the consumer has challenged it — to either close the account and stop its collection efforts or investigate the dispute.
If the defendants cannot show that the consumer owes a debt, they cannot sell the debt or provide it to any business other than the original client.
The settlement order also bars Credit Bureau Collection from re-reporting information to credit reporting agencies that it had voluntarily deleted from credit reporting before December 2008.