ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Department of Commerce took action this week against 49 debt collection agencies nationwide that are owned and operated by NCO Financial Systems Inc.
According to a news release from the department, an investigation revealed that the company allegedly employed known felons.
In a consent order signed Thursday, Commissioner Mike Rothman ordered NCO Financial Systems Inc. to overhaul its employee screening process and pay $250,000 in civil penalties to the state.
"Turning loose convicted felons on vulnerable Minnesota consumers is a dangerous recipe for fraud and financial abuse," Rothman said in the release. "Employing convicted criminals to collect sensitive personal information from financially stressed consumers is against the law -- and it cannot be tolerated."
The company has complied with a number of orders from the commission and agreed to ongoing compliance checks and audits.
"If you think you are a victim of one of these scams, hang up the phone and call the Minnesota Department of Commerce," Rothman said. "We are here to help and we can answer your questions."
Contact the department's Help Line at (651) 296-2488 or (800) 657-3602. Complaints may be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 Seventh Place E., Suite 500, Saint Paul, MN 55101.
The Commerce Department offered tips to help Minnesotans avoid becoming victims of debt collection scams:
- Protect your identity. Do not give away or verify any personal financial information.
- Protect your money. Ask your bank to put an "alert" on your account as scammers often have a consumer's bank information before they begin calling 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 involved parties to clear up inaccuracies on your credit report. Write a detailed letter and include supporting documents to prove your case.
- Know your rights. Know that debt collectors may not make false or deceptive claims; are not allowed to threaten or use abusive language; should not discuss consumers' accounts with unauthorized third parties; may not pressure consumers to pay debts they do not owe; and must investigate the validity of a dispute over a debt.