With federal workers, contractors, and businesses experiencing economic distress due to the federal government shutdown, the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) warns residents to be aware of illegal debt collection practices, bogus loans, and work-at-home scams.
Third Party Debt Collection
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits collection agencies from engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices. For example, debt collectors cannot:
• Call before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm unless you have agreed to it verbally or in writing.
• Repeatedly use the telephone to annoy or harass you.
• Misrepresent who they are or state that they may arrest you.
The Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act requires debt collection firms be licensed by Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation.
Short Term Loans
While short term personal loans may seem like a great way to patch through, be aware of loan and payday lending scams. To do business in Maryland, the lender must be licensed by the DLLR. Be wary if the lender charges upfront fees, has no physical address, contacts you by phone, mail or door-to-door, or is uninterested in your credit history. Payday lending is illegal in Maryland. However, despite the exorbitant fees and interest, some consumers may unwisely choose to drive into a neighboring state for these transactions. Scammers pose as payday lenders online and by phone and request upfront fees, use fake online forms to capture your personal information, or send you counterfeit checks.
OCP also warns consumers who are seeking to generate income not to be victimized by “work from home scams.” These phony income-generating opportunities typically offer quick-money jobs such as “mystery shoppers,” or “envelope stuffers,” or they may try to lure consumers into disguised multi-level marketing schemes.
Learn more about debt collection laws, common scams, how to stop a collection agency from contacting you and more at the OCP website. Montgomery County Government is open during the federal government shutdown. For more information contact OCP by phone at (240) 777-3636 or by email at ConsumerProtection@montgomerycountymd.gov.
File photos by Germantown Pulse