The Minnesota Department of Commerce is warning consumers about a debt collection scam where criminals are falsely using the name of a St. Paul, Minn.-based law firm to target victims.
The department said scammers are making phone calls and sending letters, text messages and emails - as well as Facebook posts - to pretend to be debt collectors with Jeff Anderson & Associates PA, a firm known nationally for representing people who report they've been victims of sexual abuse. The messages state that consumers have debts due immediately or are involved in a financial fraud lawsuit.
There is no debt or lawsuit and the law firm has nothing to do with the communications, the Commerce Department said in a statement. The people who received the letter are not clients of the law firm, according to Jeff Anderson.
In October, the commerce department received complaints about another debt collection scam involving callers who falsely claimed to be from Advance America, Cash Advance or Cash Advance Inc. The Commerce Department offered tips for consumers:
- Be suspicious when someone asks you to wire money or load a rechargeable money card to pay a debt.
- Ask for caller's name, company, street address and phone number. If they refuse, the call is not legitimate.
- Research and verify contact information. If given a specific website, it could be fake. Instead, search for it on Google and see if it is legitimate.
- Do not reply to emails, texts or Facebook postings from debt collectors. Legitimate debt collectors do not contact people that way.
- 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.