The Department of Commerce offers these helpful tips to help Minnesotans avoid becoming victims of debt collection scams:
Call us first. Do not send money to a “debt collector” you think may be perpetrating a fraud – call the Department of Commerce to see if the person is, in fact, a licensed debt collector.
Protect your identity. Do not give away or verify any of your personal financial information.
Protect your money. Ask your bank to put an “alert” on your account (often these scammers have a consumer’s bank account information before they begin harassing them).
Avoid phony calls. Be wary if the debt cannot be verified or if no documentation is received. At that point, ask the callers to stop contacting you and register with the National Do Not Call Registry at www.DoNotCall.gov or 888-382-1222.
Contest errors. If no debt is confirmed, contact any involved parties to clear up inaccuracies on your credit report, such as: the debt collector; the creditor or company claiming unresolved accounts; and the major credit bureaus. Write a detailed letter and include supporting documents to prove your case. The Federal Trade Commission provides additional resources for reporting errors.
Know your rights. Review the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which sets standards for collection agencies and prohibits abusive tactics. The FDCPA is enforced by the FTC and violations should be reported. Debt collectors:
a. May not make false or deceptive claims.
b. Are not allowed to make idle threats, express or implied, or use abusive or profane language.
c. Should not discuss consumers' accounts with unauthorized third parties.
d. May not inaccurately report credit information or pressure consumers to pay debts they do not owe.
e. Must investigate the validity of a dispute over a debt.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce Consumer Help Line can be reached by phone at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602. Complaints can also be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 500, Saint Paul, MN 55101.