A notorious Buford, Georgia debt collector known as Zenith Financial Group has been forced out of business. It was accused of employing highly abusive practices on a regular basis. A state government agency ordered the firm to cease operations, cancel existing debts and pay a fine. Furthermore, Zenith’s owner must end all debt collection activities until 2020.
Georgia’s Consumer Protection Office has demanded that Zenith Financial Group pay a fine of $15,000. If the company or its owner keeps trying to collect debts, an additional $445,000 penalty will apply. The office also forced Zenith to cancel debt accounts valued at over $3,100,000. This decision frees thousands of Americans from dubious, outdated or predatory debts.
Zenith has the rare distinction of receiving an “F” rating from the local Better Business Bureau. The BBB’s website notes that it has received over 30 complaints and Zenith only responded to 23. It reports that people accuse the company of threatening to use violence or have them arrested. Many of the debts are linked to high-interest payday loans.
There are also numerous complaints about the company’s attempts to collect loans that were already paid off, never existed or expired due to the statute of limitations. PissedConsumer.com users reported that Zenith wanted them to pay off false debts and warned that they would be arrested if they failed to do so.
People who have been targeted by Zenith will be happy to know that the firm seems to be respecting the state government’s decision. It appears to have closed its email and phone accounts. Unfortunately, the company’s business model remains common. Many other collection agencies continue to engage in abusive practices and try to collect illegitimate debts.
In a typical year, the federal government receives more than 150,000 complaints against collectors who harass and threaten citizens across the nation. Some of their most extreme threats have made news headlines. One agency’s staff even warned a woman that they would kill her pet dog and exhume her daughter’s body, according to the AARP.
Zenith Financial Group isn’t the only collection firm that government officials have had to shut down. A New York agency known as Swanson Walker & Associates was closed by the state’s attorney general in 2014. It also had to pay a $10,000 penalty for making false accusations and threats. The firm disobeyed laws about contacting people at their workplaces and maintaining the privacy of debt information.
A Texas firm met a similar fate in early 2013. The district court froze its assets and barred it from conducting business in the collection industry, according to the FTC. This company had misused private information, threatened payday loan debtors with arrest and even warned some people that their children could be detained.
These closures show that abusive debt collectors can face real consequences when the public reports their behavior to the government. Some people have also succeeded in taking private legal action against firms that violated consumer protection laws or persistently tried to collect nonexistent debts. When a collection agency contacts you, it’s best to start by demanding written proof of your financial obligation.
Regardless of whether a debt is legitimate or not, collectors don’t have the right to ruin your life. Federal law states that abusive, harassing or oppressive behavior is prohibited. There are also rules about acceptable ways to contact people. For example, collectors must cease calls to your workplace if you tell them to stop.
Collection agencies often exaggerate their legal rights, so it’s important for the public to know what they can actually do. Debt collectors don’t have the power to garnish SSI or Social Security benefits. Likewise, they normally cannot collect debts that were owed by relatives who have passed away. If collectors claim otherwise, these misrepresentations should be reported.
While abusive collection practices remain a serious problem, the demise of Zenith Financial Group is a major victory for the public. It sends a message that such behavior will not be tolerated. By learning their rights, refusing to pay illegitimate debts and reporting misconduct to the government, Americans can ensure that other abusive collectors face similar consequences.
If you are facing a similar situation and you need help fighting off these abusive debt collectors, you may call us today at 866-4-WAY-OUT (866-492-9688) or email us and find out how our professional services can help you.