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Portfolio Recovery Associates: Your Rights and How to Defend Against Them


Portfolio Recovery Associates: Your Rights and How to Defend Against Them

Portfolio Recovery Associates, also known as PRA Group, is one of the largest debt collectors in the country; they buy delinquent debts for pennies on the dollar and then aggressively try to collect. If PRA contacts you claiming you owe a debt, don’t panic – you have rights under federal and state law. This article will provide an overview of PRA, discuss the typical tactics they use, explain your rights in dealing with debt collectors, and provide tips on how to defend yourself if PRA takes you to court over an old debt.

An Introduction to Portfolio Recovery Associates

PRA Group was founded in 1996 and has headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia; they operate in the United States, Canada, and the UK. PRA buys charged-off credit card accounts, personal loans, medical debts, and other consumer debt; they paid an average of 3.2 cents per dollar of face value on debts purchased in 2019. Once PRA buys the debt, they utilize skip tracing and other methods to locate debtors and aggressively try to collect through letters, phone calls, lawsuits, wage garnishments, and other techniques. PRA reports collecting $1.4 billion in 2020; they rely heavily on litigation, filing over 400,000 lawsuits in 2018 alone.

Man on phone looking concerned

Many consumer advocates argue PRA utilizes questionable tactics in pursuing old debt. PRA has faced lawsuits alleging they collect on debts that are inaccurately documented, beyond the statute of limitations, or even non-existent. They have been accused of “robo-signing” affidavits and providing inadequate documentation in lawsuits. PRA will also frequently try to collect the full balance owed, even though they paid only pennies on the dollar for the debt. If PRA contacts you, don’t let them intimidate you – you have rights.

Common Tactics Used by PRA Group

PRA uses aggressive techniques to get debtors to pay. Here are some of their most common tactics:

  • Letters and phone calls demanding payment
  • Calls to your workplace attempting to get contact information
  • Threats to garnish wages or put liens on property
  • Offers of “settlements” to pay a portion of the debt
  • Lawsuits against debtors to obtain judgments

PRA may contact you constantly by mail and telephone at home and work; they often use prerecorded robocalls. Collectors may use threatening language regarding lawsuits, wage garnishments, and ruining your credit. Don’t let them intimidate you – stand up for your rights.

Your Rights Under the FDCPA

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law passed in 1977 that provides protections for consumers dealing with third-party debt collectors like PRA. Here are some key rights the FDCPA provides:

  • Debt collectors cannot call before 8 am or after 9 pm
  • Collectors must identify themselves when contacting you and indicate the debt is being collected
  • Collectors cannot contact you at work if you’ve asked them not to
  • Collectors cannot harass, oppress, or abuse you
  • Collectors cannot lie or mislead you regarding the debt
  • Collectors can’t threaten arrest or legal action that they don’t intend to take

Additionally, under the FDCPA you have 30 days after receiving a validation notice to dispute the debt in writing. PRA must then cease collection efforts until providing proof of the debt. See the FTC’s guide for more info on debt validation rights.

State Law Protections

In addition to federal law, your state likely has statutes providing additional consumer protections:

  • Statute of limitations – Most states limit how long debt collectors can sue you to collect on a debt, usually 3-6 years.
  • State collection laws – Many states have laws regulating collector conduct, location restrictions, and communication modalities.
  • Garnishment exemptions – Your state has protections limiting how much of your wages and bank account funds creditors can seize.

Research your state’s exemptions, and don’t let PRA illegally threaten or pursue garnishment. Services like Debt Payoff Calculator by Money provide information on state laws.

How to Respond to PRA Group

If PRA contacts you demanding payment on a old credit card bill or other debt, here are some tips on responding:

  • Ask for a written “validation notice” to verify the debt details in writing.
  • Review account records and dispute in writing if you don’t recognize the debt or believe it’s invalid.
  • Assert your rights under the FDCPA in writing – collectors may violate the law if you don’t point it out.
  • Never provide personal financial information over the phone.
  • Record calls if legally allowed in your state to document harassment or other violations.

The FTC provides sample debt collection response letters asserting your rights. Send letters by certified mail and keep records of all correspondence.

Defending Yourself if Sued by PRA

PRA files hundreds of thousands of debt collection lawsuits annually. Here are some tips if you get sued:

  • Don’t ignore the lawsuit! Respond properly or you may lose by default.
  • Assert the statute of limitations if the debt is too old.
  • Challenge whether PRA has adequate documentation validating the debt.
  • Negotiate a reduced settlement offer and get any deal in writing.
  • Consider bankruptcy if you have extensive debts.

If you cannot afford an attorney, research low-cost legal aid clinics that assist with consumer cases. Also see the FTC’s advice on defending collection lawsuits. Don’t let PRA intimidate you into paying an invalid or very old debt.

Key Resources on Your Rights Against PRA Group:

In summary, Portfolio Recovery Associates utilizes aggressive tactics to collect on charged-off debts they have purchased for pennies on the dollar. Don’t let them intimidate or harass you – you have substantial rights under federal and state law. Educate yourself on the statutes of limitations, garnishment exemptions, and your rights under the FDCPA. Respond properly in writing, keep detailed records, and don’t provide information over the phone. If sued, mount a vigorous defense with the help of consumer advocates and attorneys. Standing up to debt bullies like PRA helps expose their abusive and often illegal practices.

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Our team is available always to help you. Regardless of whether you need advice, or just want to run a scenario by us. We take pride in the fact our team loves working with our clients - and truly cares about their financial and mental wellbeing.

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