Debt Collectors Calling Your Friends and Family? That’s Illegal And You May Have A Case.

by Benjamin Tarshish on November 3, 2016

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act usually forbids debt collectors from calling friends and family. In reality, most collection calls to third-parties are illegal. In some rare cases, there are exceptions to this rule however. If a debt collector is contacting someone else about your debt, here is what you should know.

“Debt Collectors” Gathering “Consumer Debts” Is What The FDCPA Applies To.

If the calls are from a bank or credit card company that is collecting its own debts, the FDCPA doesn’t apply because the FDCPA only encompasses a debt collector that is attempting to obtain a debt for someone else. This would not apply to a creditor collecting its own debts. But the FDCPA does apply to law firms, debt buyers, and collection agencies who are attempting to gather debts for someone else.

Additionally, the FDCPA is only applicable when the debt being gathered is a consumer debt. Consumer debt is a debt used for household, family, or personal purposes. If the debt was obtained in business pursuits, the FDCPA would not apply.

Debt Collector “Communication” With A Third Party Is Typically Prohibited By The FDCPA

Under the scope of the FDCPA, a debt collector “may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer…” Despite the fact that this verbiage is pretty cut and dry, it is still very important to define what is meant by “communicate” under the FDCPA. The Act describes “communication” as the transmitting of information about a debt. An attempted call to your mother, without a voicemail for instance, is probably not a communication. If the collector leaves a message for your mother or actually talks to her however, it may acceptably be considered a communication under the parameters of the FDCPA.

Certain Third Party Communications Are Allowed

When it comes to generally prohibited calls to friends and family, there are a few exceptions the rule. The FDCPA will typically allow a debt collector to converse with a handful of various people without it being seen as violating the law. Examples of this may include:

  • the creditor (ie. the debt collector’s client)
  • the creditor’s attorney
  • the debt collector’s attorney
  • your attorney
  • a credit reporting agency, if otherwise allowed by law (ie. TransUnion, Experian, Equifax, etc);

A collector may also correspond with your employer in an attempt to enforce a court judgment. The FDCPA, for example, will grant a debt collector the ability to contact your employer and establish that you work there in order to have wages garnished.

Communication With A Third-Party From A Collector Is Possible In Order To Discern Your Contact Information

The FDCPA grants debt collectors the ability to make collection-based calls to family and friends in order to discern your location information. Location information would be your address and phone number. This is called the “location information” exception, and acts as an exception to the general rule against third-party communications. These calls however are strictly regulated:

  • in most cases, the collector only gets one opportunity to make this “location information” call
  • the collector must properly identify her or himself and acknowledge that s/he is confirming your location information;
  • the collector is not allowed to tell your friends or family that there is a debt owed or explain the details of the debt;
  • the collector is not allowed to identify her/his employer unless asked by your family or friend;
  • in many cases, the collector is not allowed to ask your family or friend to call the collector back;

If a collector already knows your address and phone number, they are not allowed to contact a third-party for your location information.  

Why Do Collectors Call Friends And Family If It Is Illegal?

Despite violating the FDCPA, a good amount of debt collectors still use this method because it proves to be profitable for them. Most people are reasonably ashamed by not being able to pay one’s way. It is demoralizing enough to suffer in isolation, and when a debt collector approaches a family member or friend with news that you are in arrears with your debt, isolated feelings of discomfort can turn into public humiliation. Debt collectors are aware of this and abuse the third-party calls to apply peer pressure on you in hopes you will make a payment. Debt collectors are also keenly aware that most consumers don’t have the full scope of their own rights under the FDCPA, so, there is minimal possibility of the consumer doing anything about these illegal third party communications. Most people’s inclination is to pay the debt collector to make the third party calls stop, but by doing so, it only encourages these deceptive practices to continue skirting the law.  A consumer lawyer however, may be able to help you leave these debt collectors on the hook for their misdeeds by serving forward an FDCPA lawsuit on your behalf. Once charged with violating the FDCPA, most debt collectors may think again before attempting these illegal tactics on others.

If you’re being contacted by debt collectors, and you feel the debt collector is saying or doing anything unfair; untrue; harassing, oppressive, or abusive, please contact us to discuss the situation further.  If we agree to handle your case, you only pay us when you win your case or from your negotiated settlement. For a better understanding of the damages you may be entitled to and a Free Case Evaluation, please contact our attorneys now at 952-295-3935 or fill out the Free Case Evaluation Form.

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