GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - The Better Business Bureau has been receiving reports of highly suspect collection calls.

Consumers who owe money or are behind on their bills may legitimately be contacted by debt collectors. However, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is reminding consumers that they have rights, and that some calls they receive may not be legitimate. In an effort to help consumers deal with collection firms, BBB offers some guidance.

1. Consumers who owe money receive calls from collection agencies, which is allowed, but lately BBB has been receiving some troubling reports from consumers.

In the last few weeks, BBB has received some reports about strange calls some consumers – as well as relatives of theirs – have been receiving. The callers claim they’re from a law firm and have a package to drop off. But they won’t provide the name of that firm and they are also very short with people they speak to – abusive, in some cases.

2. But debt collectors should identify themselves, correct?

Yes. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors should provide you with a name and the name of their firm. They may not threaten you or be abusive. The rules on this are very clear.

3. And if a debt collector won’t identify themselves?

They may not be legitimate and people who receive such calls should report them to Better Business Bureau and any other agency they might wish to contact.

4. What should people having issues with debt collectors and abusive tactics do?

They should know their rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Debt collectors:
• Cannot threaten you with arrest.
• Are not allowed to make idle threats, express or implied, or use abusive language.
• Should not discuss consumers' accounts with unauthorized third parties.
• Must investigate the validity of a dispute over a debt.

5. How about a case of mistaken identity of if people don’t believe they owe the debt in question?

By law, a collection agency must provide a validation notice within five days of contacting you about the debt. Within 30 days of receiving their validation notice, send the debt collector a written request to verify the details of the debt. Do not provide personal or financial information until the validity of the debt and the debt collector has been confirmed. If the debt cannot be verified or if requested documentation isn’t provided, be extremely wary.

6. And if people wish to complain about a collection agency?

They have options. They can file complaints through any or all of these agencies:
Better Business Bureau
Federal Trade Commission
State Attorney General's Office and other local consumer affairs agencies
Minnesota Department of Commerce
American Collectors Association (ACA International) processes complaints on its member debt collectors; find out if the debt collection agency is a member.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau