Debt Collector Spotlight: Portfolio Recovery Associates

Debt Collector Spotlight: Portfolio Recovery Associates

Being a debt collector is a tough job, especially if you specialize in collecting very old debt. So today we’re taking a look at Portfolio Recovery Associates, an infamous debt collector who often calls people out of the blue regarding long-forgotten debt.

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Portfolio Recovery Associates specializes in recovering old debt, as their website states:

They purchase consumer and small business accounts that have been charged off from the books of major banks, retailers, credit unions, consumer and auto finance companies, telecommunications, utility providers, student loan lenders, and other businesses.

This particular business calls from a variety of numbers (see list below). This allows them to avoid having their number blocked, and helps mask their identity to the unsuspecting person who answers their call.

As we’ve stated in past articles, if you talk to collectors such as this, they may tell you that they’re looking for a friend or relative that you haven’t seen for years. They may try to make you believe they are calling from an attorney’s office. These types of debt collectors purchases old debt for pennies on the dollar in hopes they can collect it to make a profit. They are racing against the clock to collect as they only have 7 years from the time of the original delinquency to legally come after you. In most cases, after 7 years they cannot pursue a bad debt in the courts, but they can call and write to you about it as long as they want – and they probably will. If you made payments on this old debt, it is possible they will have 7 years from the time of your last payment. Just because they purchased the debt recently does not mean they have 7 years to collect. The 7 year time frame begins on the date of the original delinquency.

Portfolio Recovery Associates are headquartered in Virginia, but operate in 10 states and in the UK, and claim to employ over 3000 people (the website claims 3000, but their BBB profile claims 1400). They have been accredited with the BBB since 12/27/1996. Despite the fact that there have been nearly 1200 complaints in the past 3 years, they retain an A+ rating with the BBB.

What to do?
Some people choose to ignore debt collectors, while others prefer to try and clear things up. That’s up to you. Chances are this is an old debt that someone has already attempted to collect and failed. We’ve heard from people who claim they’ve been called about debt nearly 20 years old. If you choose to talk to them, tell them that under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) section 809, you request validation of the debt (this should be done in writing), and give them no other information until they comply. If you choose not to talk to them, watch your mail carefully. Should they decide it’s in their best interest to sue you, you may receive a letter to that effect. Should you receive such a letter, you will want to send a certified letter to them requesting validation of the debt, as required by section 809 of the FDCPA. Below is a link to a much more in-depth article about how to deal with debt collectors.

A good option is to invoke section 805 of the FDCPA, notifying the collector that they are to cease all communications regarding this debt, outside of any legal notifications, such as a lawsuit.

BBB Profile Info:

BBB file opened: 12/27/1996
Business started: 03/01/1996
Type of Entity: Limited Liability Corporation

Contact Information
Principal: Mr. Christopher Lagow (Senior Counsel)
Ms. Judith Scott (General Counsel)
Number of Employees: 1400

Business Category
Distressed Debt Purchaser

Alternate Business Names
PRA III, LLC, Anchor Receivables Management

Phone Numbers Associated with Portfolio Recovery Associates
Here is our working list of numbers for this organization. Please advise of any corrections or additions, as this is not a complete list, and phone numbers change constantly.

Have you heard from Portfolio Recovery Associates?
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  • Karen

    Just got a letter from them in UK not in my name or in one I know and I’ve lived here over ten years not sure if this is some new phishing ploy, they say sub client is I have never borrowed money from this or any other company, phone number on letter 01563 503 836

  • Redhead

    Be very, very wary of these people. Once you’re “in the system” it’s a heck of a lot easier to pay them than to get yourself extricated. Portfolio Recovery called me on a number of occasions trying to trace someone with the same last name as mine. I didn’t, and still don’t know that person. They gradually got more and more information out of me — my address, date of birth, etc., and they were very sympathetic about the fact that the debtor couldn’t have been me. BUT — lo and behold, Portfolio RC placed the account in collection under MY name and SSN. I can’t get rid of this debt that ISN’T EVEN MINE!!! Even got an attorney involved, and the debt disappeared from my credit report for two months. Now it’s back. Don’t let these people trick you!

  • Theresa

    Portfolio people have driven me up the walls for about three years now. I refuse to pay something that I paid years ago. The problem is that the account is so old that I don’t have the receipts for payments any longer. I only hold onto those things for the 7 years the IRS recommends.

    BUT – they aren’t bothering me any longer. I hired an attorney. Just spoke with him, and PR has offered to wipe the debt and pay me a small amount of money to keep it from going to court. Too little for the trouble they’ve caused me, so we’re filing the suit.

    If anyone wants to pursue this, my attorney is with LEMBERG & ASSOCIATES L.L.C., and there are so many people being abused by Portfolio that they have attorneys who do nothing but sue Portfolion.

  • Fighting with PRA

    I am disputing a balance from an utility account at an address which I had never lived. Because of PRA’s relentlessness collection efforts, my credit scores went down from 840+ to ~690.

    If you were targeted wrongfully by PRA, make sure to file a complaint with BBB and Attorney General of Virginia (PRA based in that VA).

    I am currently in the middle of trading emails and letter with Brian Pearson (dispute counsel), BBB and the Dispute Resolution Specialist from the AG office of Virgina. It is the ONLY way I was able to receive get responses from PRA.

  • S Pike

    Received more than one call from this company. They asked for someone else. I pay my bills. When I stated I was not the person they were looking for I asked who this was and they hung up on me. I called back the number to find out which company was calling my cell phone. I have had the same phone number for 15 years and it was not assigned to anyone else before I received it since it was a new area code.

  • R.M.

    I like to read up on complaints about collection agencies as I feel it gives me something to compare my own experiences with.

    That being said, PRA has been nothing if not very cordial and willing to work with me to resolve my capital one debt. Yes they would call my home phone constantly(it always showed Portfolio Recovery on the ID so they were never able to be “sneaky”), but they never went crazy or “thuggish”. I never received a single threatening letter from them and just to point out, when you get a letter that says “due to the age and amount, we won’t sue you”, that really is just them letting you know they can’t take legal action.

    I’ve been unable to pay this debt for a few years due to being unemployed, however I have sense taken a settlement offer from PRA and they were super nice and helpful in setting me up. To go even further, there was an issue with my debit card that caused me to miss my last payment, instead of making a big deal out of this, they informed me I would not be punished for technological mistake and re-setup a payment date, allowing me to settle the account with no problem.

    So while not everyone will have the same experience with a collection agency, my experience has been one of the better ones that I have faced.

  • Graciela

    What about if they sue you, what you need to do?

  • Yolandra Brown

    It’s actually a tactic used by the majority of debt collection agencies. PRA is one of the biggest agencies in world. With the amount of money they bring in, the other agencies who aren’t using that initial approach will probably start implementing it very soon.

  • Yolandra Brown

    They’re licensed to collect in the majority of the states as well as Puerto Rico and other territories. They’re are very states that they can’t collect in.

    • Yolandra Brown

      There are very few states that they can’t collect in. I don’t know why that other sentence came out like that ^_^

  • Yolandra Brown

    Most people who say that don’t give them a chance to verify the correct information before becoming irate and hanging up. It’s a disadvantage to you because nothing was resolved on the initial call. Therefore, you will receive a follow up call.

  • Yolandra Brown

    That’s not true. They were simply educating you about your debt and following the laws of the FDCPA. They’re required to give you that information. It doesn’t mean the debt is invalid, it just means that they can not pursue legal action. However, no one should be forced to pay their debt. It should be an obligation because you used the money. You would think adults would want to pay their debts without the possibility of having legal action pursued, but that isn’t the case. By the way, I’m an employee who spelled every single word right. Also, I’m going to be a physicist who majors in quantum mechanics. Don’t think that anyone can be a debt collector. You have to be smart and witty. Idiots couldn’t collect millions of dollars. If that were the case, half of America would be millionaires. ^_^

  • Yolandra Brown

    They do. Send it certified. They take letters very seriously.

  • Yolandra Brown

    They’re only required to send you one notification letter. They’ve done their end of the bargain when they send it out upon the initial purchase of the debt.

  • stephen

    I know you dont want any “childlike arguments” but you used the free country defense to put your opinion and now im putting mine. Do you understand that credit agencies target children right out of high school who don’t even have jobs and give them a pre-approved credit cards then after they rack up a 300 dollar debt they pay 8% interest on right from the get go (the advertisement states “with the incredibly low rate of only 8% interest” how the heck are kids supposed to know the difference?) then when they can’t pay or go default because they didn’t have a job in the first place suddenly with interest and penalties you owe 1100 dollars… the credit card companies know this, they do it on purpose so they can collect 800 bucks of kids now in college, and get them started on a lifelong habit of being in debt and owing creditors, being their slaves forever… usually they expect for you to follow this mundane problem forever, but when you stop paying, they sell the debt to PRA for 500 bucks (oh you poor baby you mean you only made 200 dollars for stealing from children) and PRA will still collect the debt in full meaning they make 600 bucks for harassing people… they prey on people who can’t afford their bills and try to turn $100 debts into $1000 debts and then you want to claim its all the borrowers fault? the creditors specifically aim for naive young people and thereby ruining that young man or woman’s dreams of ever owning a home, forcing them to rent and feeding more money into the machine by bleeding it from the underdog american… DUDE, I’M A FREAKIN REPUBLICAN AND I DONT EVEN BELIEVE IN THIS PRACTICE… IT’S WRONG!!

  • Beat Portfolio T-W-I-C-E!!!

    These clowns are easy to beat in court, just takes a little bit of work.

    Also, this article to totally wrong on how long they have to sue you. It’s different for each state, for example in California it’s 4 years (unless the underlying debt is from Cap1, Chase, or Discover which chooses to put in a different state’s governing law…usually Delaware, but Cap1 uses Virginia which is also 3 years. Look up Resurgence v Chambers, a 9th district published decision in which the appellate court found for the debtor because the original credit card specifically stated it was governed by Delaware law which has a 3 year SOL.) Then, you can sue them for suing past the SOL. FDCPA claims are only good for a year, so file your suit to toll the SOL.

    They have 7.5 years to report the debt on your credit report, from the closure of the account with the original creditor. That means if these junk debt buyers purchase your debt, they don’t get another 7.5 years to report you to your credit reporting agencies. If they reage your debt, sue them. Oh and guys, the FDCPA is only $1,000 for each lawsuit, not for each violation. But, if multiple people violated, add more defendants and then you can sue for more than the statutory $1,000.

  • sherry

    What happens if you make a payment to one of these credit scammers and find out the debt has been discharged long ago from the original creditor? Thank you

    • Phoenix Resident

      Yes, I would like to know the same thing. I had a credit card for a whopping 300 dollars when i was 18. Lo and behold, by paying minimum payments, the debt racked up to 1200 dollars, and I refused to pay it at that outrageous amount.
      Well… 5-8 years down the line, these guys get ahold of it and offer me to pay 350 dollars to “pay it off.” Naively, I take it. But it’s been bothering me for months so I look them up and try to make sure I wasn’t scammed.
      I’m brought to this page. Did I make a mistake paying them? What will happen to that part of my credit report? Will it say paid in full?

      I hate credit cards I never got another one after that because I saw the evil of it. I tell everyone i know younger than me to avoid credit cards like hell.

      • Beat Portfolio T-W-I-C-E!!!

        Paying it means that it is now paid, and I would demand something in writing saying that you have paid it in full. They are sneaky, and if you’re not clear on that part, they can and most likely will sell the remainder of the debt to another bottom feeder. For that small amount, and I mean the inflated amount, I would have demanded arbitration. They would have left you alone. Also, for your credit, settling a debt does NOT make your credit better. Unless you demand a pay-for-delete, having a settled account is just as bad as never paying. Oh, and settling also means they can issue a 1099 for the remainder and the IRS will haunt you for not claiming that amount as income…from the time you last paid it. This happened to me and I had to pay $2,000 to the IRS. I will never settle again. Never. Court is easy, just answer the lawsuit, demand proof during the discovery portion of the lawsuit, and watch them disappear into the night.

      • Yolandra Brown

        Not at all. The agency isn’t a scam. They give people opportunities to close out accounts for low prices. It’s a courtesy.

    • Beat Portfolio T-W-I-C-E!!!

      If by discharged you mean bankruptcy, you can sue the collector. If you mean charged off by the OC, then you’re screwed. Anytime you make a payment to these clowns you restart the statute of limitations. I would immediately consult an attorney because trying to rewind making a payment is going to be very hard. Also, the OC charging it off does NOT mean you don’t owe it still. It’s an accounting thing where they clear the books, it never means they forgave the debt. Sorry.

  • Gunnar

    I am 18 years old, and have never had any debt due to the fact that I have never had credit cards, loans etc. They call just about every two or three days or so. What could they possibly want from me?

    • waffles

      Are they asking for you by name, or just leaving a generic message? It could be that they have an old number, or perhaps you have the same name as someone else. Both have happened to me more than once.

    • Yolandra Brown

      You could be a wrong number or wrong name.

  • Irritated

    Maybe you should consider that concept that it isn’t a valid debt in the first place.

    They are contacting me about a cellular account from 15 years ago that I do not and have not owed anything on since it was closed… My responsibility was taken care of and now I am being harassed. Where is the justice in that?

  • mary smith

    Do you have a proof reader or perhaps some one who can go over your posts?

  • San Diego Resident

    I’ve had calls from these vultures for the past few months. They call & hide the company they are calling form. I had a woman call today from portfolio recovery associates & just mention her first name.When I asked who she was & where she was calling from she got upset & was asking me if I knew “such & Such”I told her 1st you need to identify your self…who are you & where are you calling from. You never openly answer questions from someone who you don’t know especially if they are looking for someone you may or may not know until you positively identify the caller. And even then you don’t give them answers…Anyways she got very defensive & was evasive and unprofessional at that.I hung up on her & called the main office & told them the person they are calling for no longer lives here & to remove my number from the call list.

    • Yolandra Brown

      If you aren’t the person they’re looking for, it’s only natural to wonder why you want to know that information. You want to know who they are and they want to know who you are. No one wants to talk to someone who gets irate over the sound of their company. They’re generally polite which is good sometimes. However, keep in mind that it’s not customer service, it’s collections.

  • Patricia Kamhi

    Simply lying about debt collections, sir!
    Persons did take care of their responsiblities and this agency ignores laws in each state.

  • Mike

    These idiots sued me and entered a default judgement in my favor then tried to appeal it. There reason was some made up b.s about their “witness” not being able to show up so they entered it thinking they could get another trial. Baloney, they entered the judgement because I saw through their b.s and called them out on it. They then sent the same photocopied “evidence” and tried to appeal to a higher court so they could run over me and try to get a win off some legal procedure loophole. Their “attorney” who contacted me was Deanna Hackworth, I’m putting here name out there so people see what kind of people work there. She is as dispicable as the rest of their employees. If you are contacted by these ‘people’, MAKE SURE you send a letter to them to get them to verify the debt, and make sure if you go to trial you make sure to tell the judge that you would like to see every transaction, and payment you are said to have made with the original creditor. Don’t allow them to use any of their phony “evidence” and tell the judge it is all hearsay. They only buy the names and account numbers and no real personal information so they cannot prove they own the debts or that they are even the same account that is supposedley yours.

    • cate

      They are such slime, and they do not reply to letters. I wrote in April or May of 2009 to ask them to verify the so-called debt they had first called, then written (unsigned) and then called about. They refused to reply to my inquiry, but kept calling. After about a year, I complained to the state attorney general’s consumer protection office. They wrote and got a reply from a lawyer named Pearson, who wrote to them and to me, and the gist of his letter is that they cannot verify the debt, it is a line in a printout. After the attorney general’s office contacted them, they “decided to cease collection efforts” in Pearson’s words on the letter, and so they sent me a 1099-C, to the IRS, even though the debt is not and never will be verified to even exist, much less that it is mine. Despite their “decision” to “cease collection efforts” at the beginning of September 2010, they have called 303 times since then. The most recent call was Sunday evening. The attorney general’s office had forced them to start identifying themselves on the caller ID three years ago, but recently, they have started calling from 800-772-1413 without any name in the caller ID. Most recent call Sunday night, 3-17-13.

  • Tommy

    In addition to my previous comment:


    If you are in a state where recording a conversation that you are a party in is legal, do so. You could argue that recording is legal since Portfolio often states that they were recording, or tell them “I’m recording this call, if you do not agree, hang up!” CHECK WITH YOUR STATE LAWS FIRST!!!!

    Every record, every piece of correspondence should be used to lay a paper trail for evidence in court.

  • Tommy

    In regards to the judgement they claim to have, you have a right to get a copy of the judgement (if you can find out what jurisdiction) and dispute it with the court that issued the judgement. More than likely Portfolio did not follow proper service of summons making it possible to rehear the case. You probably should seek the advise of an attorney and sue the sh** out of them! At the very least file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and your State Attorney General’s Office. Should it turn out that there was no judgement, then both your bank and Portfolio can be sued. Theft and fraud on the part of Portfolio and gross negligence and violation of federal banking laws on the part of your bank. Should Portfolio have violated the FDCPA there is a stated punitive damage award of $1,000 for each violation in addition to actual damages.

    An attorney specializing in credit law would be an great resource since there are precedents originating from appellate and federal courts in addition to the actual US Code. If you have the time and money you might get great satisfaction out of garnishing their accounts.

  • Dept killer

    Your response is the one that is untrue, Dept collectors are scavengers and the pray on those who can not pay, and just because you purchase a dept for $200.00 dollars and try to collect $5000.00 doesn’t make the borrower responsible, they owe Protfolio nothing! as Profolio purchased there own loss and knew the account was high risk. It is just a numbers game. The real truth is the original creditor hedge the accounts so when you can’t pay they are covered, the banks lose no money that’s why they write it off. And the fact that the paper trail of ownership is so unreliable most dept collectors can’t even prove their case in court.


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