Central Florida Debt Collection Operation Pretending to Be Attorneys & Collecting on Non-Legitimate Debts Being Shut Down
On July 10, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida for a permanent injunction and other equitable relief against Hardco Holding Group LLC (“Hardco”) and its related entities and officers. Federal Trade Commission v. Hardco Holding Group LLC et al., case number 6:17-cv-1257. On the same day that the complaint was filed the Court granted FTC’s request for a temporary restraining order, halting the operation and freezing all of Hardco’s assets.
The allegations in the complaint are incredibly troubling and paint a picture of a debt collection operation that preyed upon consumers in collecting on debts that were not legitimate or well outside of the applicable statute of limitations.
Hardco has been scheming unsuspecting consumers out of their money for non-legitimate debts since June of 2015 and was able to collect just under $700,000.00 in non-legitimate debts. Hardco’s modus operandi in scheming consumers is nothing new and has been done many times in the past and will probably be done again in the future.
Hardco typically had a two-step approach in their scheme. First Hardco would call a consumer and tell them that a civil lawsuit is impending against them and suggest that there may also be criminal charges. During this time Hardco would purposely fail to inform the consumer that they were a debt collector seeking to collect a debt. Hardco would then provide the consumer with a telephone number for the consumer to contact in order to correct this alleged issue. In the second step, the consumers call the provided telephone number and speak with an individual that represents him/herself as an attorney with a law firm, using deceptive names such as Alliance Bryar & Associates and Freedom Law Firm. After informing the consumer of alleged prospective legal action the debt collectors would inform the consumer that they could resolve the issue by submitting payment over the phone. If the consumer hesitated about submitting payment then the debt collectors would then regularly threaten arrest of the consumer.
Hardco’s fraudulent scheme violated several consumer protection laws, including the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (“FDCPA”). The FDCPA prohibits the following types of conduct that was routinely done by Hardco while perpetrating its scheme:
The false representation of the character, amount, or legal status of any debt; or any services rendered or compensation which may be lawfully received by any debt collector for the collection of a debt. 15 U.S. Code § 1692e(2)(A), (B).
The false representation or implication that any individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney. 15 U.S. Code § 1692e(3).
The representation or implication that nonpayment of any debt will result in the arrest or imprisonment of any person or the seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of any property or wages of any person unless such action is lawful and the debt collector or creditor intends to take such action. 15 U.S. Code § 1692e(4).
Steps Consumers Can Take if Contacted by a Debt Collector
If you have been contacted by a debt collector then the following items need to be determined:
- The identity of the debt collector, including name, address, and phone number.
- The amount of the debt, including any fees such as interest or collection costs.
- What the debt is for and when the debt was incurred.
- The name of the original creditor.
- Information about whether you or someone else may owe the debt.
Do not ever pay a debt collector on a debt if you are not able to determine the above information.
Do Not Ever Provide the Following Information to a Debt Collector
- bank account numbers (unless you are actually making a payment on a debt that you have determined to be yours and legitimate).
- your social security number, or
- discuss the amount or value of the property that you own.
If you have been contacted by a debt collector seeking to collect a debt then please contact Sweeney Law, P.A. immediately to protect your rights. Sweeney Law, P.A. regularly represents consumers in debt collection matters. Including defense of debt collection matters as well as prosecution of affirmative claims against debt collectors.
Sweeney Law, P.A. Regularly Consumers in Debt Collection Matters
Brendan A. Sweeney, Esq., of Sweeney Law, P.A., The Florida Debt Warrior, regularly represents consumers in debt collection matters. Brendan A. Sweeney, Esq., has been recognized as a Florida Legal Elite Rising Star Attorney in Consumer Law in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. If you have been contacted by a debt collector then please contact Sweeney Law, P.A. at 954.440.3993 immediately to protect your rights. www.sweeneylawpa.com