Federal courts in New York and Georgia have halted three debt collection operations that allegedly broke federal law by both tricking and threatening consumers via emails, text messages and phone calls.
The defendants in the law enforcement sweep called "Messaging for Money" are known as Unified Global Group, Premier Debt Acquisitions and The Primary Group.
The defendants used the communication channels to falsely threaten to arrest or sue consumers, according to the Federal Trade Commission. They also illegally contacted friends, family members and employers, withheld information consumers needed to confirm or dispute debts and did not identify themselves as debt collectors. The FTC has charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The complaint against Unified Global Group names several agencies operated by the defendants. The companys text messages allegedly included false statements such as, "YOUR PAYMENT DECLINED WITH CARD ****-****-****-5463 . . . CALL 866.256.2117 IMMEDIATELY," even though consumers had never arranged to make payments to the defendants. The texts failed to identify the senders as debt collectors.
In the complaint against Premier Debt Acquisitions, the FTC alleged that the defendants impersonated state or law enforcement officials, falsely threatened consumers with a lawsuit or arrest and even falsely threatened to charge some consumers with criminal fraud, garnish their wages or seize their property.
In texts, they stated they would sue the consumers and threatened to seize their possessions unless they paid. In voicemails, the defendants also falsely claimed a "uniformed officer" was on the way to the consumers home and asked them to "secure any large animals or firearms" before the officer arrived.
Premier Debt Acquisitions also sent deceptive emails claiming that making a payment would help a consumers credit report, but the defendants had no ability to make good on that claim. They also kept trying to collect after consumers challenged the debt or its amount, without investigating the dispute. In one instance, they persisted despite written evidence that the debt was a result of identity theft and a prior debt collector had marked it fully paid. In other instances, the defendants tried to collect a payment even after they had received it, and hounded one person for two years about someone elses debt.
The FTCs complaint against the Primary Group alleged that the defendants sent consumers a series of text messages, typically not disclosing that the company is a debt collector. The defendants threatened consumers with false statements such as Im a process server with Primary Solutions, appointed to serve you papers for case [eight-digit number]. . . and Please have proper ID and a witness present who can provide a signature. If theres no reply Ill have to bring the document to your employer.
The Unified Global Group defendants are: Unified Global Group LLC; Accredited Receivables Management; Audubon Financial Bureau; Domenico DAngelo; and Anthony Coppola.
The Premier Debt Acquisitions defendants are: Premier Debt Acquisitions LLC; Prizm Debt Solutions LLC; Samuel Sole and Associates LLC; Imperial Processing Solutions; Charles Glander; and Jacob E. Kirbis.
The Primary Group defendants are: The Primary Group Inc., formerly known as A Primary Systems Group Inc.; Gail Daniels; and June Fleming.
"Legitimate debt collectors know the rules, said Jessica Rich, director of the FTCs Bureau of Consumer Protection. "They cant harass or lie to you, whether they send a text, email, or call you."