Debt Collectors with Criminal Pasts

How does it feel to know that some of the people who legally have access to your private financial information are people who have possibly committed crimes such as identity theft, check forgery, and other crimes?

An investigation by a Minnesota newspaper found that there have been at least 743 criminal offenders registered as debt collectors in Minnesota since 2005. In Minnesota, state law allows offenders to legally work as debt collectors as long as it has been more than 5 years since their felony or fraud conviction. But this investigation found that at least 111 of these registered collectors had lied on their application about their criminal past, and should have been barred from working as a debt collector. The Commerce Department, which regulates the collection industry, routinely approves criminals charged of crimes including identity theft, rape, drunk driving, assault, check forgery, and others, to work in the collections industry, without performing background checks.

You would think in a field like debt collecting, in which sensitive financial information such as Social Security numbers and credit card numbers are available to debt collectors, that a background check would be necessary. Absolutely necessary. Right?

An example of what can happen when background checks are not conducted and convicted felons are allowed access to financial information is the case of Lee Song. Song was caught forging checks from her former employer, and cheated that employer out of $127,122. Less than four years later, she was working as a debt collector. She went on an illegal shopping spree with stolen credit cards, racking up $1,561 in charges. When she was arrested, it marked her fourth arrest for a financial crime in a nine year period.

The Commerce Department said it reviews the criminal records for only those who admit to a criminal history on their application. Those who lie about past crimes don’t get a background check. So, the easy way to get a job as a debt collector if you have a criminal past? Simply lie on your application! The Commerce Department says that it cannot perform all the background checks on applicants and that the collections firms must perform these checks on their employees or face fines. But some collections firms mistakenly believe that the Commerce Department is performing these background checks, so they don’t have to.

Whatever the case may be, it’s easy to see that the people who are already struggling with unpaid bills definitely do not need crooked collectors wrecking havoc on their finances.

Read original article here.