Skip to main content

Debt collectors accused of threatening, harassing small MN firms fined $500K

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

A debt collection agency accused of training its staff to threaten small businesses in Minnesota has been fined a record $500,000.

Employees of Texas-based Tucker, Albin and Associates, Inc. pretended to be family members when calling business owners, claimed to be private investigators, and threatened to hire people to stand in front of businesses with signs saying they "didn't pay their debts," according to Minnesota officials.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Commerce announced the company has been hit with a $500,000 penalty – the largest ever imposed on a debt collector in the state – for its "deliberate, repeated misconduct."

The agency targeted more than 100 businesses in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota, including in Albert Lea, Alexandria, Nisswa, Osakis, Shakopee and St. Cloud, with farmers, restaurants, construction companies, body shops, a doctor and a veterinarian among the victims.

"Our Commerce Department investigation uncovered a pattern of deliberate, repeated misconduct in the company’s debt collection activities," Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said. "As a matter of company policy, its debt collectors were trained and directed to deceive, harass and threaten small business owners to coerce payments from them."

Collectors 'spoofed' family phone numbers

The department launched its investigation after a complaint by a small business in Minneapolis, and found the company to be in violation of several state and federal laws in attempts to recover debts.

According to the department:

This includes a violation of the federal Truth in Caller ID Act, by "spoofing" the phone numbers of victims' family members or neighbors so that numbers would show up on caller ID instead of the company's phone number.

It trained collectors to pretend to be private investigators who threatened to take pictures of the business, run checks on vehicles in the parking lot and interview employees as they left. Employees also made threats they couldn't legally make, such as freezing a company's assets, having their insurance revoked and reporting them to the IRS.

The company will pay $130,000 of the fine up-front, with a further $10,000 paid in each of the next 12 months. The remaining $250,000 will be stayed for two years but will be levied if the company breaks a cease-and-desist order.

It has also been ordered to revise its practices and change its training procedures.

Company an 'industry leader'

Tucker, Albin & Associates describes itself on its website as an "industry leader" that "prides itself on demonstrating tact and professionalism while aggressively recovering debt."

It offers commercial and international debt recovery, as well as services for matters relating to fraud recovery, international arbitration and "complex international fraud."

Several complaints made against the company listed on the Better Business Bureau website accuse the company of misrepresentation, threats, and harassment.

Next Up

St. Louis County

St. Louis County set to declare state of emergency ahead of peak flood levels

Volunteers are urgently needed for sandbagging efforts in a small community near Voyageurs National Park.

Screen Shot 2022-05-16 at 5.03.30 PM

Brothers Bar & Grill closes in downtown Minneapolis

The Midwest chain closed its St. Cloud location in 2018.

Ken Jeong

Licensed physician Ken Jeong to do standup in MN this September

The licensed physician will take the stage at Treasure Island Resort and Casino on Sept. 30.

Osseo Police Department

Osseo PD says officer did not pursue suspect who caused fatal crash

The crash happened in Brooklyn Park early Sunday morning.

221 Main Street. E. Albert Lea

Suspect arrested after 3 family members stabbed in Albert Lea

The three victims are related, according to police.

wastewater

Evidence that omicron strains BA.4 and BA.5 are in Minnesota

The European CDC has warned of a possible significant summer surge fueled by the omicron subvariants.

driving unsplash - crop

Hastings man charged for driving drunk with 2-year-old in vehicle

Matthew Quade's BAC was almost five times over the legal limit when police pulled him over last week.

police lights

Arrest made after person shot at Hopkins apartment building

Police say this was an isolated incident and that the victim and suspect knew each other.

covid

BA.2.12.1 omicron subvariant quickly becoming dominant in MN

Experts say the subvariant is more transmissible but there is not evidence to suggest it causes more severe disease.

Related

Minnesota cracks down on debt collector

The West Central Tribune reports the Commerce Department is ordering a debt collection company to revamp its hiring process after an investigation found the firm was employing felons. NCO Financial Systems operates 49 debt agencies nationwide.

Debt collectors working for education officials paid millions in fines for threats, abuse

Two debt collection firms, including one based in Minneapolis, paid a total of over $4 million in fines after a federal agency accused them of breaking the law and harassing consumers. Now those same collectors are working for the federal Education Department.