As if it’s not bad enough to be harassed by collection agencies when a consumer does not have the money to pay, imagine if those companies hired felons who not only harassed consumers, but also stole their information. Unfortunately, Minnesota consumers don’t have to imagine this, because it’s a reality. Regulators found six separate debt collection agencies who had hired “dozens and dozens” of felons to carry out collections. As it turns out, these felons participated in unlawful harassment of consumers and then stole financial information, making the financial situation of the consumers in question much worse than they already were. Investigative reporters found approximately 743 criminals working as debt collectors in Minnesota alone, all working for agencies who had failed to carry out state required background checks. The companies will be paying about $900,000 in fines and promises to make the appropriate corrections to their hiring procedures.
Whether these companies were trying to save time or money is unclear. What is clear is that they would have avoided almost a million dollars in fines simply by following regulations. While by paying the fines, the companies do not have to admit their guilt, they do have to shape up operations going forward. This means consumers will not know whether the hiring of felons was intentional or not, but due to the increase in debt and the rising aggression with which credit collection agencies are going after debtors, the agencies might have been trying to hire more intimidating personnel. Unfortunately, this also meant hiring someone willing to commit yet another crime.
The Federal Trade Commission does not have an exact number of felons currently working for these companies, nor do they know exactly how many consumers were affected by the breach. It is likely they will be keeping a much closer eye on these and similar companies in order to prevent further financial crimes. The affected companies will need to beef up hiring protocol by requiring all hires to go through strict screening processes. They will need to check national databases like US OneSEARCH and US AliasSEARCH for criminal records for both new hires and current employees, in order to rid their company of any potential security threats. Fortunately, there are many background checking companies out there who can help make this process as fast as possible.
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