Can you really profit off your debt collector? This woman did!

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A woman named Maria Guadalupe Mejia has gone from being harassed by a debt collector to collecting $83 million — from that same debt collector.

Mejia was pursued by one of the nation’s largest debt-collection firms, Portfolio Recovery Associates. The reason: PRA wanted Mejia to pay off a $1,000 credit card debt. The 51-year-old woman said the debt wasn’t hers, and it turned out she was right.

Mejia lives in Kansas City, Missouri, while the person who really owned the debt was a man with a similar-sounding name in Kansas City, Kansas.

Yet according to the National Public Radio affiliate in Kansas City, Missouri, the debt collection firm still came after her.

“This company has gained a reputation for taking no prisoners,” one of Mejia lawyers told station KCUR. “And so, among consumer lawyers, they are known to be very aggressive in litigation and to not stop; even when they’re wrong, they’re just not going to stop.”

They didn’t stop. PRA served a lawsuit at Mejia’s home and pursued the case for 15 months, without either checking into her claim or simply ignoring it. An outraged jury found PRA violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and awarded Mejia $250,000. Then the jury demanded PRA pay nearly $83 million for “malicious prosecution.”

That amount is likely to be overturned on appeal, which PRA is definitely doing, because that huge amount represents half of the company’s income from last year.

Still, Mejia will be compensated for her stress (she cried as the jury verdict was read) and time. Perhaps, just perhaps, PRA will reflect on its aggressive tactics, and others will also benefit from this case.

It saddens me that more Americans don’t know the laws that protect them from collector harassment. I wish all of them could read our plain-English piece on what counts as collector harassment. also offers ways to end that harassment if you’re already suffering from it. Simply call us at 1-888-459-5452 to learn more. While we can’t deliver millions of dollars like Mejia received, we can certainly give you the peace of mind she now has, without a collector harassing her.

Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched I’m glad you’re here.

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