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Debt collection agencies hired by government face major penalties

Oct 17, 2011 Mike Garretson

Two firms that specialize in debt collectio have been forced to pay millions of dollars in civil pentalies after using overly-harsh tactics to track down money owed to the Education Department. The Associated Press reports that the Education Department forced West Asset Management to pay a total of $2.8 million, which, according to the Fedral Trade Commission, is the largest penatly every paid to settle a debt collection case. The other firm, Allied Interstate, was forced to pay $1.75 million for similar violations. A spokesman for the Education Department, Justin Hamilton, said that all agencies hired by the government were monitored to ensure that no illegal activity was taking place. “We closely monitor government contractors to ensure they are working in the best interests of students and taxpayers and, most importantly, that they are obeying the law,” said Justin Hamilton in an interview with the news agency. "If we believe a contractor has violated the public trust and broken the law, that case will be referred to the inspector general for investigation." While most debt collection agencies work through legal methods to get the funds owed, some use illegal tactics.