Debt Collector Nelson, Hirsch & Associates Enters into $4.3 Million Settlement with the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection
ATLANTA, GA – Nelson, Hirsch & Associates, Inc., a Georgia debt collections company, and its owner, Tanya Santiago, have entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP), resolving charges that the company committed multiple violations of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act. OCP’s investigation stemmed from a series of reports from consumers that Nelson, Hirsch & Associates harassed and deceived them by:
- Failing to disclose that it was a debt collector attempting to collect a debt;
- Threatening consumers with arrest, imprisonment or charges of fraud if they did not pay the debt;
- Refusing to send consumers written proof of the debt owed;
- Collecting more than the amount owed or authorized;
- Threatening to call the consumer’s employer and have the consumer’s wages garnished;
- Falsely representing to consumers that it was affiliated with a law firm and/or that the caller was a fraud investigator;
- Continuing to contact consumers even after they told the company to stop calling them;
- Calling consumers at unusual hours (e.g. before 8:00am or after 9:00pm);
- Calling consumers at work when they knew their employers prohibited such contact;
- Speaking to consumers in a harassing and abusive manner;
- Threatening consumers’ family members;
- Calling repeatedly (sometimes as much as 50 times a day)
Under the Assurance, Nelson, Hirsch & Associates and Ms. Santiago are required to cease business operations. Further, Ms. Santiago must refrain from engaging in any aspect of debt collection activities in Georgia or in connection with Georgia consumers for a period of at least five years. In addition, the company and Ms. Santiago will forego collection of 5,809 consumer accounts that they had purchased from creditors who had previously written off the debts. These accounts total $4,307,658. The company must also pay a $26,000 civil penalty and reimburse OCP for investigative and legal expenses in the amount of $24,000.
“We are sending a strong and clear message that this kind of abuse and harassment of consumers, and the egregious disregard for the law that these practices typify will not be tolerated,” says John Sours, Administrator of the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection.