Attorney General Ellison warns Minnesotans to avoid debt collection scams

The warning is part of the Attorney General’s monthly Scam Stopper alerts, aiming to help protect Minnesota consumers from fraud

March 30, 2024 (SAINT PAUL) — Today, Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a warning to Minnesotans about how to avoid phony debt collection scams.

The warning is part of the Attorney General’s monthly Scam Stopper alerts, aiming to help protect Minnesota consumers from fraud. Click here to view and download a video message from Attorney General Ellison and click here to download an audio message.

"If you legitimately owe money, you should pay it back, and Minnesotans do that,” said Attorney General Ellison. “But there are scammers out there trying to trick Minnesotans into paying back debts they never took out. I want to make sure everyone knows how to identify these scams, so these fraudsters can’t scheme their way into your bank account.”

How the Scam Works

Fraudsters pretending to be debt collectors will contact Minnesotans to demand payment for a financial obligation that the consumer never made, or a debt to a creditor that the person does not owe.

These scams usually happen over the phone, with fraudsters using random phone numbers to evade detection and make it more difficult to track the phone number to a location.

Scammers may also send an official looking letter, email or text message, using copied logos to impersonate a real company or government agency.

In either method, fraudulent operators can be extremely aggressive, using threats to bully the victim into immediately disclosing their credit card number or banking information. They often threaten to send law enforcement to have the person arrested. Other tactics may include threats to contact a person’s employer or garnish their paycheck or bank account. Scammers may also threaten legal action, like submitting affidavits to court or sending an official to serve them with a summons.

These scams are especially dangerous in our modern technological age, as scammers are sometimes able to obtain detailed personal information about a person, including banking information and even the last four digits of a Social Security number. This information makes people more likely to be victimized by these scams. In addition, verifying the information or disclosing additional information could make victims vulnerable to identity theft.

How to Spot a Scam

Protect Yourself

Do not be intimidated into paying money you don’t owe or disclosing your personal financial information in the face of such scare tactics—these types of threats are illegal.

Under the law, collectors may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading statements when trying to collect a debt. Specifically, they may not imply that nonpayment will lead to your arrest, imply that they are government representatives, misrepresent the amount you owe, make a letter look as though it is from the government or the court, or threaten to disclose false information about you to the credit bureaus.

If you suspect a scam, contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce immediately to determine if the company is a licensed debt collector, and contact the company in writing to dispute debts that you don’t owe or can’t be verified.

When a Scam Happens to You

Attorney General Ellison asks that Minnesotans report scams to his office immediately. Many people feel embarrassed when a scam happens to them, but the truth is that con artists and scammers are often professionals with years of experience. They are good at what they do, and they count on people feeling too embarrassed to protect others by speaking out. If a scam happens to you, please report it right away: not only may the Attorney General’s Office be able to help you personally, you will help others by allowing us to alert others.

Reporting a Debt Collection Scam

If you believe you are the target of a scam, file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Office of Attorney General Keith Ellison online. You can also contact the Attorney General’s Office by calling (651) 296-3353 or (800) 657-3787. 

For more information, see this publication from the Attorney General’s Office on debt collection scams.