Attorney General Cuomo Stops Debt Collector From Wrongfully Seeking Consumer Debts In New York State

BUFFALO, N.Y. (May 19, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced his office obtained settlements with a Nebraska-based debt collection agency and an Amherst business owner who wrongfully attempted to collect money he wasn’t entitled to from hundreds of Western New York consumers.

Attorney General Cuomo’s Office has barred Neon Claims Advantage, LLC of Nebraska from collecting consumer debts in New York state after it failed to include required language in the letters it sent to consumers in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

In a related settlement, the Attorney General’s Office permanently barred Alan Moore of North French Rd. in Amherst, doing business as Quality First Auto Glass, from attempting to collect more than $233,000 from 424 Western New York consumers. The amount sought was the price difference between the amount Moore billed to insurance companies for automobile glass replacement, and the amount he received in return (known as a deficiency amount). Moore contracted with Neon Claims Advantage to attempt to collect the money.

“New York’s families cannot afford to be targeted by unscrupulous debt collection agencies acting on behalf of defunct companies attempting to recover funds that don’t rightfully belong to them,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Insurance companies and the auto repair industry have established processes for reimbursing service providers for automobile glass replacement. Fortunately, my office discovered the business’s and its debt collector’s attempts to illegally collect the difference before they actually defrauded Western New York consumers.”

From 1993 to 2006, Moore repaired and replaced windshields and windows on motor vehicles. He billed the consumer’s insurance company for services and accepted the lower amounts paid by the insurance company. However, after going out of business in February 2006, Moore sought to collect the deficiency amounts from consumers.

For example, Moore submitted a $1061.69 claim to a Sanborn man’s insurance company. The company paid Moore $476.19. After going out of business, Moore sought to collect the deficiency amount of $585.50 from the consumer.

Moore provided 424 accounts – some that were several years old – worth a total of $233,000 to Neon Claims Advantage. The Attorney General’s Office found that Neon made misleading claims and failed to validate the amount of the debt in letters to consumers, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. After receiving complaints from consumers, the Attorney General’s Office immediately intervened stopping Moore and Neon Claims Advantage from collecting any money from New York state consumers.

Under federal law, debt collection agencies are allowed to contact individuals by various means, but they are restricted from contacting debtors at inconvenient times or places (e.g. before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.). The Federal Fair Debt Collection Law prohibits agencies from contacting individuals at their place of employment if the agency knows that the debtor’s employer disapproves. Debt collection agencies are barred from engaging in abusive and unfair tactics and misleading representations, including:

  • Repeatedly or continuously calling with the intent to annoy or harass
  • Placing telephone calls without meaningful disclosures of their identity
  • Falsely implying that collectors are attorneys or that there is the involvement of an attorney in collecting a debt
  • Falsely claiming that they are government representatives
  • Falsely claiming that an individual has committed a crime or threaten arrest or imprisonment
  • Falsely implying that the debt collector is employed by a credit bureau
  • Collecting an amount greater than what is owed

New York State’s Debt Collection Procedures Law offers additional protections such as prohibiting:

  • Communicating the nature of a debt with an individual’s employer prior to obtaining a judgment against the debtor
  • Threatening to collect a fee over and above the owed debt
  • Contacting an individual or family member with such frequency or at such unusual hours as can be reasonably considered abuse or harassment.

More information about debt collection and relevant state and federal laws can be found online at Debt Managment Consumer Tip Publication.

Attorney General Cuomo urges consumers experiencing credit-related financial problems or debt collection phone calls to consider seeking assistance by contacting a not-for-profit credit counseling agency licensed by the New York State Banking Department (www.banking.state.ny.us/).

This case was being handled by Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey of the Buffalo Regional Office and under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General-In-Charge Russell Ippolito.

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