If there's a way to make a buck, some people will find it - no matter how shady or illegal it is.

The latest scam - one that's been reported in our area as well as other parts of Minnesota and North Dakota - concerns bogus collection calls.

The callers are aggressive, demanding that their victims must pay off their alleged debts immediately. They go as far as threatening to have them arrested.

Of course, the callers are the ones who should be behind bars.

It's a serious enough problem that last week, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) issued a consumer alert about the scam.

"People need to be aware that these calls are occurring and they need to know what to do if they receive a call like this," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. "The threat of arrest is a dastardly tactic, and it's important to know what your rights are."

The BBB urges the public not to be intimidated by debt collectors or people claiming to be debt collectors, and to keep in mind they have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Under that Act, debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse debtors or any third parties they contact, nor can they state that anyone will be arrested if they don't pay their debt, the BBB said.

Consumers who have reported these calls to the BBB have all either received or applied for a payday loan. However, all have stated that when they received these collection calls, they were either not behind on their loans or had decided not to receive a payday loan.

They also stated that when they contacted the payday loan companies they worked with, they were told these companies were not aware of or affiliated with any collection efforts. Some consumers have said the people making these collection calls had heavy foreign accents.

The fraudulent debt collectors, who have claimed to be both the Law Group of California and the Cyber Crime Unit of California, seem to have sensitive personal information of the people they're calling.

In one case, they had the last four digits of the consumer's bank account and Social Security number, according to the BBB. It's unclear how this information was obtained.

The Law Group of California (DBA United Attorney Services) has an F rating with the BBB of Los Angeles.

The BBB has advice for consumers who receive aggressive calls like this: Retain your composure. Don't be bullied or pressured into sending the company a payment.

People can check a company's "reliability report" with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org and also check to make sure the company has proper state licensure.

In addition, the BBB advises consumers to keep the following in mind:

  • Within five days after you are first contacted by a debt collector, the collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe, the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.
  • If you send a letter to the collection agency disputing that you owe the money within 30 days of receiving a collection notice, the debt collector cannot make further collection efforts until you receive proof of the debt. If you cannot obtain an address by which to contact the collection agency in writing, you may be the target of a scam.
  • Those who receive high-pressure collection calls can file a complaint with the BBB, the FTC (www.ftc.gov) or with your state's Attorney General's Office. For more information on collection agencies and your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, go to: http://

www.bbb.org/us/article/4732.

In today's "new economy," the times are challenging enough with people struggling to make their payments on time. The last thing we need is for criminals to pressure people into paying money that will only line the pockets of crooks. Be aware. Don't be a victim. Knowledge is power.

Echo Press editorials are the position of the newspaper's editorial board, which includes Jody Hanson, publisher; Al Edenloff, editor; and news reporter Celeste Beam.