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Minnesota Commerce Department: New fake debt collection scam pretends to be from prominent law firm

12/21/2015 9:46:37 AM

SAINT PAUL – Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman is urging consumers, in Minnesota and nationwide, to be on guard against fake debt collectors who send threatening communications and claim to be with a prominent Minnesota law firm.  

The fraudulent communications—including phone calls, letters, emails, text messages and even Facebook postings—appear to come from Jeff Anderson & Associates PA, a Minnesota-based law firm that is well known nationally for representing victims of childhood sexual abuse.  

Some of the communications insist that the recipient has a debt that must be paid immediately. Others say the recipient is the subject of a lawsuit related to financial fraud.  

In fact, there is no debt or lawsuit, and the law firm has nothing to do with these communications.

The fraudulent letters look official, including the real law firm’s logo. However, the communications show a nonexistent address in Washington, DC, and urge the recipient to call a phone number with a 202 (Washington, DC) area code. The number is likely “spoofed,” meaning the actual number is different.

The Minnesota Commerce Department and other agencies are currently working to identify and track down the individuals responsible for the communications.

“Phantom” debt collection scams come in a number of variations, but they typically resort to threats and intimidation to pressure the consumer to send money immediately.

Earlier this fall, Commerce Department received complaints about another fake debt collection scam involving phone calls and emails that appeared to be from someone affiliated with Advance America Cash Advance or Cash Advance Inc.  Although this is a real company that offers short-term consumer loans, it certified that it was not making the calls or sending the emails.

Rothman offered several tips to help Minnesotans protect themselves from being victimized by fake debt collectors:

  • Be suspicious of anyone who asks you to wire money or load a rechargeable money card as a way to pay a debt. There is no legitimate reason for someone to ask you to send money that way.
  • Ask the caller for his or her name, company, street address and phone number.  If the caller refuses, the call is not legitimate.
  • Research and verify any contact information given to you. For example, if you are told to go to a specific website, it could be fake. Instead of going directly to the website, search for it on Google and see if it is legitimate. 
  • Do not reply to emails, texts or Facebook postings from debt collectors. A legitimate debt collection business would not contact you in that manner.
  • Ask for written proof of the debt, including a written “validation notice” required by federal law. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and information about the consumer’s rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
  • Do not provide or confirm any Social Security, bank, credit card or other personal information. Fake debt collectors are also in the identity theft business.

Report suspected fraud by filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or 877-382-4357. You should also contact the Minnesota Commerce Department’s Consumer Services Center by email at consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602 (Greater Minnesota).
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