Portfolio Recovery Associates, located in Norfolk, Virginia, is one of the largest publicly traded debt buying companies in the U.S. They refer to themselves as the “best behaved child” among other debt collectors.
Address: 120 Corporate Boulevard, Norfolk, Virginia 23502
Phone: (800) 772-1413
Portfolio Recovery Associates (PRA) was started in 1996 by two former bankers. The company boasts technological advancements and sophisticated analytics teams that allow them to make pragmatic purchases of old debt as well as figure out which consumers will likely pay their debts.
In a 2013 article that ran in The Virginian-Pilot, PRA claimed that its progressive processes allowed them to “scrub” data and point out the consumers who are financially better off (i.e., have a job and own a home). These are the people, PRA claimed, that they target. However, many consumers have complained online that they receive endless phones calls from PRA despite the fact that they have no job or are retired, on social security, or on disability. Consumers say they are hounded about debts that are decades-old and only amount to a couple hundred dollars.
PRA has encountered its fair share of complaints on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website as well. In the past three years the company has racked up 1325 complaints. In 2014, the BBB posted an “Alert” on PRA because the company signed an Assurance of Discontinuance with the New York Office of the Attorney General for “alleged violations of New York Executive Law, New York General Business Law (GBL), and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).” The OAG found the company in violation of consumer laws that prevent deceptive acts in business and laws against threatening to enforce a right that they don’t have (such as allowing consumers to think PRA can bring action against them if they do not pay, when in reality the debt is so old that the statute of limitations to sue has expired.) PRA paid $300,000 in fines to the OAG.
Perhaps the biggest blow to PRA’s reputation and wallet occurred just last year, when a jury awarded $83 million to a woman named Maria Guadalupe Mejia after PRA mistakenly targeted her as a debtor. When she was first contact by PRA about a $1,000 credit card debt she allegedly owed, Ms. Meija told PRA callers that she never had the card and that they must have been mistaken. PRA, however, relentlessly pursued her for payment for 15 months before suing her for the debt. It turned out that Ms. Meija had, in fact, been mistaken for the actual debtor, a man whose name was similar to hers. A jury awarded damages against the company of “$250,000 for violating the Fair Debt and Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and punitive damages of $82,990,000 for malicious prosecution.”