The following words and terms as used in this article shall be construed as follows:
(a) "Claim" means any obligation for the payment of money due or asserted to be due to another person, firm, corporation or association.
(b) "Collection agency" means and includes all persons, firms, corporations and associations: (1) Directly or indirectly engaged in the business of soliciting from or collecting for others any account, bill or indebtedness originally due or asserted to be owed or due another and all persons, firms, corporations and associations directly or indirectly engaged in asserting, enforcing or prosecuting those claims; (2) which, in attempting to collect or in collecting his or her or its own accounts or claims uses a fictitious name or names other than his or her or its own name; (3) which attempts to or does give away or sell to others any system or series of letters or forms for use in the collection of accounts or claims which assert or indicate directly or indirectly that the claims or accounts are being asserted or collected by any person, firm, corporation or association other than the creditor or owner of the claim or account; or (4) directly or indirectly engaged in the business of soliciting, or who holds himself or herself out as engaged in the business of soliciting, debts of any kind owed or due, or asserted to be owed or due, to any solicited person, firm, corporation or association for fee, commission or other compensation.
The term "collection agency" shall not mean or include: (1) Regular employees of a single creditor or of a collection agency licensed hereunder; (2) banks; (3) trust companies; (4) savings and loan associations; (5) building and loan associations; (6) industrial loan companies; (7) small loan companies; (8) abstract companies doing an escrow business; (9) duly licensed real estate brokers or agents when the claims or accounts being handled by such broker or agent are related to or in connection with such brokers' or agents' regular real estate business; (10) express and telegraph companies subject to public regulation and supervision; (11) attorneys-at-law handling claims and collections in their own names and not operating a collection agency under the management of a layman; (12) any person, firm, corporation or association acting under the order of any court of competent jurisdiction; or (13) any person collecting a debt owed to another person only where: (A) Both persons are related by wholly-owned, common ownership or affiliated by wholly-owned corporate control; (B) the person collecting the debt acts only on behalf of persons related as described in paragraph (A) of this subdivision; and (C) debt collection is not the principal business of the person collecting the debt.
(c) "Commissioner" means the State Tax Commissioner or his or her agent.
(d) "Customer" means any person, firm, corporation or association who has filed, assigned or sold any claim or chose in action with or to a collection agency for collection.
(e) "Licensee" means any person holding a business franchise registration certificate under section two, article twelve, chapter eleven of this code and under the provisions of this article.
(f) "Trust account" means a special account established by a collection agency with a banking institution in this state, wherein funds collected on behalf of a customer shall be deposited.