The Federal Trade Commission’s news conference concerning a debt collection law enforcement initiative, set for Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., reportedly involves the unveiling of a new national plan to stop nefarious debt collectors.
“Operation Collection Protection” will focus on building greater understanding and collaboration between federal and state officials to stop debt collectors from operating illegally across state lines.
FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Minnesota Commerce Department Commissioner Mike Rothman will deliver remarks during the news conference.
Regulators in Illinois and Minnesota have actively cracked down on unscrupulous collection agencies and so-called collection agencies in recent years.
In July, the Minnesota Commerce Department fined Richardson, Texas-based collection agency Tucker, Albin and Associates Inc. $500,000 for allegedly harassing and threatening small businesses in the state. The agency allegedly violated state and federal laws after investigators found a pattern of "deliberate, repeated misconduct in the company’s debt collection activities,” Rothman said.
The fine was the largest penalty imposed on a debt collection agency by the Minnesota Commerce Department. According to Rothman, the agency's debt collectors were trained to use caller ID to pretend to be family members or neighbors. Tucker Albin’s employee training manual listed instructions for collectors to spoof fake numbers to use with fake names, the Commerce Department found. More than 100 Minnesota businesses were victimized - including farmers, restaurants, construction companies and body shops.
In April, the FTC and Madigan’s office obtained a court order temporarily halting a fake debt collection scam located in Aurora, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. K.I.P. LLC, Charles Dickey and Chantelle Dickey were charged with illegally using threats and intimidation to coerce consumers to pay payday loan debts they either did not owe.
"The defendants have threatened and intimidated their way into stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting people all across the country,” Madigan said.
The defendants allegedly used several business names since at least 2010 to target consumers who obtained or applied for payday or other short-term loans, pressuring them into paying debts that they either did not owe or that the defendants had no authority to collect.
Often armed with sensitive financial information, the defendants allegedly threatened to garnish consumers’ wages, suspend their drivers’ licenses and have them arrested.