BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has shutdown a consumer debt collection agency in Lockport accused of using illegal tactics to make consumers pay up.
Sean Millard, owner of Swanson Walker & Associates, has agreed to close his business at 556 South Transit Road and pay a $10,000 fine.
Schneiderman says state investigators, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission received dozens of complaints about the tactics workers at Millard’s agency were using while trying to collect debt payments.
“Attempting to get out of debt is a stressful and overwhelming process that countless consumers struggle with every day,” Schneiderman said. “To threaten and bully these individuals is unacceptable and wrong, and my office will keep fighting to hold those who employ these tactics accountable.”
“We were contacted by consumers who called us, afraid that the sheriff was going to be at the door in a few minutes, executing an arrest warrant, or subject to imprisonment,” said Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey.
Schneiderman says debt collectors from Swanson repeatedly broke the law by calling consumers at their place of work, threatening them with arrest or imprisonment, and threatening to freeze bank accounts and garnish wages if they did not make payments.
Morrissey said, “According to the complaints that we had they said they had already sued the consumer, when in fact that was not true. But they also threatened to sue consumers, and we knew that was an empty threat, too, because they had never sued a consumer in the history of the organization.”
Morrissey says not only did the debt collection agency call consumers at work, calls were made to neighbors and family members.
The phone number for Swanson Walker & Associates is already out of service, and its website has already been taken down.
The Better Business Bureau has nearly 100 complaints on file for the company. Peggy Penders says the company deliberately avoided local scrutiny, by going after out-of-state consumers.
“They don’t want to deal with consumers that are in their own backyards, so they remove any information that actually has to do with consumers in the Western New York area.”
Know your rights, when a debt collector calls. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is there to protect you, and the Federal Trade Commission offers this guide to help you understand the law.
If you have been harassed by an abusive debt collector or collection agency, you can call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 853-8404.