As part of his ongoing commitment to hold debt collectors accountable for their actions, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed felony charges against the owner of a Buffalo-area debt collection agency for allegedly targeting military servicemembers and their families. Cuomo also filed a civil suit in order to shutter the debt collection agency and collect restitution, penalties, and costs.
Many Americans are subjected to harassing and threatening debt collection calls, and all such illegal behavior is wrong. But there is something especially outrageous about a debt collection agency that makes it a point to go after our men and women in uniform, and to ratchet up the anxiety levels of their already-vulnerable families.
According to Cuomo’s press release, debt collection agency Stephanie Lowinger allegedly “instructed employees to find out where military members were stationed and identify their commanding officers. Lowinger had employees threaten to call and, in some cases, actually did call the commanding officers.”
Like many shady debt collection agencies, Lowinger’s debt collection agency went by many names, such as Neimen, Rona & Associates; Morgan, Stone & Associates; and Gordon, Cappolli & Associates.
Cuomo’s allegations against Lowinger include falsely claiming to be lawyers, investigators, detectives, and mediators; threatening consumers with arrest, jail, and lawsuits; threatening to seize assets; inflating the amount owed; attempting to collect debts without knowing whether or not they were valid; attempting to collect debts from family members; disclosing the existence of alleged debts to family members; harassing and abusive phone calls; and unauthorized charges to consumers’ credit cards.
The Attorney General’s press release says, in part:
Military service members can be vulnerable targets for abusive debt collection practices since their status, rank, or security clearance can be adversely affected. Complaints already received and evidence uncovered during the investigation show that military service members and their families were subjected to wrongful practices, including:
- Unauthorized calls to commanding officers
- Threats of arrest by military police
- Threats of a dishonorable discharge
- Threats of loss of security status
- Threats of court martial
Kudos to Attorney General Cuomo continuing to shine the spotlight on shameful debt collection practices.