The Minnesota Department of Commerce has investigated several debt collection companies recently, and the outcome is troubling. What they have found is an industry that routinely overlooks the criminal history of its employees. One major debt collection company is accused a having at least 81 employees with convictions for felonies or gross misdemeanors on its staff. From the findings of the Commerce Department, it appears as if background checks are virtually non-existent when it comes to getting employment with some debt collection firms, and in some instances, outright admission of a criminal past is no bar to employment.
In one case, a woman admitted to bank card fraud and acting as a lookout in a robbery on her job application. The major debt-collection firm hired her, and didn’t report her criminal admissions to the Minnesota Commerce Department as required. The same company went on to hire convicted felons who checked “no” on the application when asked if they had prior criminal convictions, without conducting background checks. Some of the convictions later found were for assaults, receiving stolen goods, and forgery. The employee previously convicted of forgery was hired while on probation, and used her access to credit card data to steal from debtors.
Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman doesn’t see these incidents as isolated as lobbyists for the debt collection industry do. Although it was only “a handful of companies that disobeyed the law”, the repercussions are serious. “In numerous instances, credit card numbers, bank accounts and personal financial information of vulnerable, financially stressed people were handed over to criminals,” he says. He goes on to say that this is not isolated to only Minnesota, but other states as well.
In Massachusetts, debt collectors for car related debts will often use constables. Appointed by cities to serve papers and execute court orders, there is no training and no statewide database to keep track of them. These constables carry badges and can charge what they want to seize a car. You must pay their fee in order to get your car back, sometimes as much as $600 or more. It was found that 88 constables in Boston alone had criminal arrest records. Martha Coakley, the Massachussetts Attorney General, is proposing that debt buyers be held responsible if third party collectors commit abusive behaviors when collecting on their behalf.
Responsible business ownership means practicing due dilligence when hiring new employees. It’s important to know you can trust who you’re hiring, especially when it comes to handling sensitive information. A background check company like backgroundchecks.com has provides several options for instant criminal results. Their US OneSEARCH provides fast access to information from more than 355 million criminal records from counties, Department of Corrections (DOC), Administration of Courts (AOC) and State Sex Offender Registries covering 49 states plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. Also included are national and international terrorism sources, more than 4.1 million photos, and their proprietary database of previously completed reports. And you may want to consider continous monitoring. Their Ongoing Criminal Monitoring tool allows you to automatically run a continuous background check against a name and date of birth, and they will notify you via email of any new information that may appear on the record.
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