The idea of a debt collector contacting your friends and family members about a debt is mortifying. Unfortunately, thousands of people get calls from debt collectors every day which are made with the intention of finding out information about another person. If you owe money and collections actions have started, learn more about who debt collectors can contact and why.
First and foremost, debt collectors are only allowed to contact a third party to obtain information one time. If your friends and family do receive a phone call asking for your contact information, it should not happen more than once.
Debt collectors are allowed to contact third parties in order to obtain location information. For example, suppose you stop answering the phone calls of a credit card company to whom you owe money. That company may run a simple Google search on your name or conduct a more thorough background check to find information about your friends and relatives. The credit card company would be allowed to contact these people to ask for information like your current home address, work address, and for information on any alternate telephone numbers that you may have.
When contacting third parties, debt collectors are not allowed to discuss the debt. The debt collector can reveal its own name, but should not reveal the nature or amount of the debt. The debt collector cannot leave messages on the voicemails of third parties, cannot ask third parties to pass along a message to the debtor, and cannot ask a third party to pay a debt that they do not owe. If the debt collector does any of these things, or contacts an individual more than once, then you may be able to file a lawsuit under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) and/or the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Like other third parties, debt collectors are allowed to contact your employer once looking for location information about you. Additionally, a debt collector can contact you at work if you give your consent or if there is a court order allowing it.
In almost all other circumstances, debt collectors cannot call a person at work if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the person’s employer prohibits such calls. This restriction also applies to emails, faxes, or texts to work-related numbers. This means that if a person tells the debt collector that communications at that number are prohibited during working hours, or that the person does not wish to receive calls at his or her workplace, then the debt collector can no longer contact that person at work. Alternatively, if the person works in an occupation where it should be obvious that the person cannot accept calls, like as an ambulance or school bus driver, then the debt collection company may still be liable for violating the FDCPA.
Finally, if you are represented by an attorney in a debt collection matter, the debt collector must direct all communications to your lawyer. The debt collector is no longer allowed to contact third parties seeking information about you, and all collection communications that you receive should stop.
If you are being harassed by a debt collector or have any other issue with creditors and third-party debt buyers, you need the help of an experienced debtor rights attorney—like those at Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC—to review your case and discuss your options with you. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing clients in all types of consumer defense cases and we are here to help you!