Have you ever picked up the phone to hear an aggressive voice on the other end demanding payment for a debt you don’t remember owing? You’re not alone. Portfolio Recovery Associates (PRA) makes millions of debt collection calls each year, leaving many consumers confused, scared, and searching for answers.
This guide will unpack key facts about PRA, outline your consumer rights, and provide tips for responding in case these notorious debt collectors come calling. Read on to learn why Portfolio Recovery contacts consumers, what rules protect you, how to spot scams, and where to report collector harassment. Arm yourself with knowledge – and relax, you’ve got this!
Who is Portfolio Recovery and Why Are They Calling?
Portfolio Recovery Associates (PRA) is one of the largest debt buyers and collectors in the country. Headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, PRA purchases overdue debts for pennies on the dollar then aggressively tries to collect the full balance from consumers. They rake in over $1 billion in annual revenue from collecting old credit card bills, medical debts, telecom balances and more.
So why is PRA suddenly calling you years after a debt was due? Most likely they purchased an outdated account from your original creditor then tried to collect by:
- Automatically dialing the phone numbers associated with the debt
- Checking your credit report and calling all contacts
- Tracing your employment information
The debts they target are often 3-6 years past due. The statute of limitations has usually expired but PRA tries to pressure people into repaying anyway.
Do you have to engage with them? How can you confirm whether a call is legit? Let’s cover what rights and protections you have first.
Understanding Consumer Rights and Protections
A federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) regulates what debt collectors can do. Breaking FDCPA rules means Portfolio Recovery faces penalties – but only if consumers like you report violations.
Here are 6 key consumer rights to remember if PRA comes calling:
1. Collectors Cannot Harass You
PRA cannot bombard you with relentless calls or use profane and abusive language. Tactics like calling before 8 AM or after 9 PM, threatening physical harm, or revealing your debt to employers and family count as harassment.
2. Validation Rights
Within 5 days of first contacting you, PRA must provide a written “validation notice” that verifies they have the right to collect on the debt. This includes your balance, their company information, and instructions for disputing the debt.
3. Statute of Limitations
Debt collectors often pursue money past the “statute of limitations” deadline defined by your state – usually around 3-6 years. This means it is too late for them to sue you, although the debt still technically exists.
4. Record Collection Calls
If PRA calls, write detailed notes about what they say or even record the call (if legal in your state). These records help prove FDCPA violations.
5. Report Abusive Collectors
If PRA crosses boundaries, report them to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or Federal Trade Commission (FTC) so the violations are on file. This creates a paper trail in case you decide to sue.
6. Sue for Damages
Under FDCPA, consumers can take violators like PRA to court to recover up to $1,000 in damages plus legal fees. A successful lawsuit also forces PRA to cease collection activity.
Now let’s unpack practical steps to take in case Portfolio Recovery comes calling for you.
Appropriate Responses and Actions When PRA Calls
When an unknown caller claims you owe money, proceeding with caution protects your rights. Follow these tips when engaging with Portfolio Recovery:
Confirm It’s a Legitimate Collector
Many “phantom debt” scams pretend to be collectors. Ask for the full name and company of the representative, then double check that against PRA’s real contact information online.
Do Not Validate Fake Debts
If the collector avoids providing validation notices or asks you to pay a debt you never had, hang up. This signals a potential scam.
Request Validation Notices
Insist PRA mail you a written validation notice proving they have the legal authority to collect on the account. All communication should shift to paper records after this.
Assess If It’s Past the Statute
Review the age and nature of the debts PRA contacts you about. In many cases, enough time has lapsed that the debts are no longer legally enforceable.
Issue Cease and Desist Orders
Send a cease and desist letter clearly telling collectors to stop communicating with you (standard templates available online). This makes any further calls illegal harassment under FDCPA.
Dispute Invalid Debts
If PRA reports unpaid debts to credit bureaus that you don’t recognize or believe are wrong, submit written disputes. This can restore your credit score by triggering debt deletion.
Sue PRA Over Violations
Threats, frequent calls, sharing your info without consent etc. all violate federal law. Keep detailed records then speak to a consumer lawyer about holding PRA accountable in court.
Now let’s shift gears to red flags that indicate an imposter or outright scam instead of legitimate PRA activity.
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Identifying and Reporting Scams and Harassment
While Portfolio Recovery has concerning practices, outright scammers also impersonate collectors and use intimidation tactics to profit. Watch for these signs of phantom debt calls:
- Threats of immediate arrest if you fail to pay
- Refusal to provide verification of the debt
- Requests to pay by odd methods like gift cards
You should cut off contact completely when scam calls display aggressive and deceitful hallmarks. Make sure to report the incidents too – here is who to notify about fake debts or PRA harassment:
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): File a complaint about any harassing behaviors or FDCPA violations
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Report if scammers pretend to be PRA and threaten fake legal consequences
- State Attorney General: Notify the AG’s consumer protection division about unlawful collection incidents in your state, especially those involving intimidation or fraud.
- Private Consumer Lawyers: Discuss suing PRA with attorneys specialized in debt collection cases when violations are clearly documented. They work on contingency fees, meaning no upfront costs to clients.
Arm yourself with the truth about debt collector rights and restrictions! Now let’s recap the key points to remember if Portfolio Recovery Associates contacts you.
Why Is Portfolio Recovery Calling Me? Recapping the Facts
PRA buys severely delinquent debts then tries to collect by bombarding previous customers with aggressive calls and letters. However, federal consumer financial protection laws restrict their conduct.
Key facts to remember include:
- Portfolio Recovery is one of the largest debt buyers attempting to collect outdated credit card bills and other debts consumers have long forgotten about.
- The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits abusive tactics like harassment and failure to verify debts.
- Consumers can issue cease and desist letters, sue PRA over violations, report them to the CFPB/FTC, and should exercise their validation rights.
- If PRA contacts you, proceed with caution and document details. Seek legal advice about enforcing your rights under consumer protection laws.
Times are tough enough without shady collectors adding stress. Hopefully this guide brought some clarity around the situation and your options. Remember to breathe deep before reacting. You know your rights now, so wield them well! We wish you the very best in navigating these rocky financial waters towards calmer shores.