North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, along with the Federal Trade Commission and more than 50 federal and state law enforcement partners, announced today a nationwide law enforcement initiative to protect consumers from abusive and threatening debt collection practices.
The initiative, called Operation Corrupt Collector, is a federal-state law enforcement sweep that includes enforcement actions brought by the FTC, three federal partners and partners from 16 different state agencies against debt collectors engaged in these illegal practices.
“As Insurance Commissioner, I have fought to protect North Carolinians from any fraudulent activity – especially those practices that would affect insurance premiums,” said Commissioner Causey. “Since debt collection agencies fall under NCDOI regulation, it is my duty to ensure agencies are correctly operating and to educate consumers on how to take appropriate steps if they receive abusive calls or calls on a debt they do not recognize.”
Earlier this month, Commissioner Causey announced the arrest of a Cornelius man who operated a debt collection business without being licensed in the state. Gordon Scott Engle, 56, was charged with 81 felony counts of failing to secure a permit from the Commissioner of Insurance before operating his business in 17 counties.
Engle is accused of purchasing the debt accounts from primarily rent-to-own businesses and taking out false criminal summonses charging 81 North Carolinians with failure to return rental equipment.
“For many years, we’ve been working with our law enforcement partners to crack down on illegal and abusive debt collectors,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “At a time when many are under financial stress, our coordinated actions today show that we’re continuing the fight against collectors who threaten people and try to collect debts they don’t owe.”
“Operation Corrupt Collector” includes five cases filed by the FTC, two cases filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three criminal cases brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. States reporting actions as part of the operation include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington.
In addition to law enforcement actions, state and local consumer protection agencies across the country are joining the FTC in rolling out new information to help consumers know their debt collection rights and understand what steps to take if they receive a call trying to collect on a debt that they don’t recognize.
Here are the steps to take before paying:
- Find out who’s calling. Get the name of the collector, the collection company, its address, and phone number.
- Get “validation” information about the debt. Within 5 days of first contacting you, debt collectors must “validate” or tell you the amount of the debt, the name of the current creditor, and how to get the name of the original creditor.
- Don’t respond to threats. When scammers threaten to arrest you, suspend your driver’s license, or call your employer if you don’t pay immediately, hang up and report the collector to the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).
- Do your own detective work. Check with the original creditor. Is the debt yours? Did they sell your debt or hire a company to collect it? If so, is the caller the original creditor’s collector?
- Dispute the debt. If you think you don’t owe the debt, dispute it with the collector by mail or online – even if you get validation information.
FTC CONTACT FOR NEWS MEDIA:Jay Mayfield FTC Office of Public Affairs 202-326-2656