Is Cook & Associates, LLC calling you? Here's what you need to know.
Few things are as annoying and stressful as constant calls from a debt collector, especially if you can’t afford to pay what they’re demanding. If you’ve already indicated that you can’t remit the entire amount and they refuse to agree to a payment arrangement, is there anything you can do to make them stop calling you at work, talking to your co-workers, and using rude, abusive language?
In 1977, the US government passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, in response to ongoing consumer complaints about rude, aggressive, collection agencies. The FDCPA gave consumers the right to dispute a debt and tell the collector to stop calling them and made it illegal for third-party debt collectors to use tactics like those below.
- Calling you outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. your time
- Discussing the debt with anyone except you, your spouse, and your attorney
- Making threats they cannot legally carry out or have no intention of carrying out, such as seizing your assets
- Telling you that you have committed a crime and will be arrested if you don’t pay
- Swearing and using profane racist/sexist language
- Calling you at work after you’ve told them that your boss doesn’t allow such calls
Although these abuses and others like them are illegal, some debt collectors persist in using them because people become frightened enough to pay.
Cook & Associates, LLC is a debt collection agency located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It was established around 2006 and is a smaller company with less than 10 employees. Records archived at the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) website confirm that Cook & Associates, LLC has been accused of frequently violating the FDCPA during its collection attempts.
According to PACER**, in October 2009, Cook & Associates began calling a Mississippi resident, attempting to collect a delinquent medical debt. She believed that the debt they were trying to collect had been placed with another collection agency and explained that she was already making payments to that agency.
She also requested that Cook & Associates send her some information showing that the debt they were attempting to collect was not the same one she was currently paying. Cook & Associates' agents were allegedly rude and abusive and refused to provide her with any information.
During the second week of November 2009, Cook & Associates representative Pam Street called the the plaintiff's residence and allegedly spoke to Ms Snyder's minor son, who answered the phone. Ms. Street allegedly told the boy that she would file suit against his mother if she did not pay the debt by 4:00 pm the same day.
The plaintiff called Cook & Associates, LLC to ask why they had spoken to her son regarding her private affairs and made threats of a lawsuit. She was connected to Pam Street, who allegedly admitted speaking to her son and making said threats. Ms. Street also allegedly said that "her firm has been retained to represent the creditor in a case they have against you" and that she was "getting ready to go downtown as we speak."
Ms. Street transferred the plaintiff to a man who identified himself as Dan Smith of the "legal department.” Mr. Smith allegedly stated that he was a lawyer and insisted that she tell him, definitively, whether or not she would pay.
The plaintiff hired a consumer attorney and accused Cook & Associates, LLC of the following FDCPA violations:
- Discussing her debt with an uninvolved third party (15 U.S.C. §§ 1692b(1) and 1692c(b)
- Engaging in harassing behavior while attempting to collect a debt (15 U.S.C. § 1692d)
- Using deceptive means to collect a debt (15 U.S.C. § 1692e)
- Using unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect the alleged debt (15 U.S.C. § 1692f)
- Failing to send a 30-day validation notice within five days of the initial communication (15 U.S.C. § 1692g)
A judge later ruled in favor of the plaintiff.
The phone numbers for Cook & Associates, LLC are 1-877-343-2916 and 1-601-450-4368, so if either one appears on your caller ID, be warned that a debt collector is trying to contact you. If they are rude and hostile and discuss your debt with unauthorized third parties, see a consumer attorney.
Any collection agency that ignores FDCPA guidelines when attempting to collect money from you could be forced to pay you $1,000 per violation in statutory damages as well as court costs and attorney fees.
**Case taken from PACER (www.pacer.gov). File number is (Case: 1:10-cv-00017-SA-JAD from United States District Court, Northern District of New Mississippi, Eastern Division)
The content of this article serves only to provide information and should not be construed as legal advice. If you file a claim against Collection Bureau or any other third-party collection agency, you may not be entitled to any compensation.