Houston-based debt collector shut down

By Amy Davis, Investigative Reporter/Consumer Expert, adavis@kprc.com
Published On: Feb 01 2013 06:00:21 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 01 2013 06:02:14 PM CST

Feb. 1, 2013: Bullying, lying and harassing -- that's what federal investigators say one Houston man and his debt collection company were doing. Amy Davis reports.

HOUSTON -

Bullying, lying and harassing -- that's what federal investigators say one Houston man and his debt collection company were doing.

The Federal Trade Commission has shut the business down and seized all of its assets.

The company used several different names including Cole, Tanner & Wright, Debtcom, Inc, Goldman, Schwartz, Leiberman & Stein and Harris County Check Recovery.

Consumer expert Amy Davis first exposed the company last year.

Representatives of Cole, Tanner & Wright told consumers they would be arrested or their wages would be garnished if they didn’t pay up.

Charisma Anderson recorded one of the calls she received from the collection company.

"There is currently an affidavit being filed against your Social Security number," said the man on the recording.

"I felt very threatened. I felt stressed," Anderson told Davis.

She said the man calling her told her she could lose her job or go to jail if she didn't pay $1,400.

"I think they wanted me to panic. I think they wanted me to say, 'Here, take all the money I have.'"

Anderson called consumer attorney Dana Karni.

"With this particular collection agency, I've had quite a few consumers call my office with that sort of complaint," Karni said.

It is against the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for collectors to harass consumers or misrepresent who they are.

"A lot of the consumers who called me didn't know it was a collection agency. They thought it was the authorities," said Karni.

The company’s owner, Gerald Wright, lives in Houston. He is named as a defendant in the FTC's suit along with company director Starlette Foster. A temporary restraining order bans them from collection activities until the case is resolved. The FTC has also frozen the company’s assets.

If you get a call from a debt collector about a debt you don't recall, ask the company to put something in writing and send it to you to prove you owe that amount.

You should file complaints about abusive debt collectors with the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau and the Texas Attorney General's Office. All of those agencies helped in this investigation.

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