Debt collectors who use 3rd party contact to harass, embarrass and intimidate you are violating FDCPA rules for contacting 3rd parties. Only if they do not know your address, phone number, place of employment and physical location, are they allowed to contact third parties.
If you are a third-party being contacted about a debt that is not yours, or a debtor with third-party’s being contacted about your debt, it could be a violation of your fair debt rights. Illegal third-party contact may make the debt collector liable to you for statutory damages of up to $1,000, plus any actual damages suffered, plus attorney fees!
Debt collectors communicating with any person other than the consumer for the purpose of acquiring location information about the consumer shall:
804(1). Identify themselves, state that they are confirming or correcting location information concerning the consumer, and, only if expressly requested, identify their employer.
Although the FDCPA generally protects your privacy by limiting debt collector communications about personal affairs to third parties, it recognizes the need for some third party contact by collectors to seek the whereabouts of the consumer.
This assumes the collector is talking to someone other than the consumer such as a parent, sibling, neighbor, friend, employer and so forth. Discussing or providing any other information violates the law thus opening up the possibility of being sued for civil penalties. (See Debt Collection Civil Liability)
IMPORTANT: However, your spouse is not considered a 3rd party and collectors are free to discuss your debt with them!
804(2). Not state that such consumer owes any debt;
Individuals employed by a debt collector seeking location information must identify himself, but must not identify his employer unless asked. When asked, however, he must give the true and full name of the employer, to comply with this provision and avoid a violation of section 807(14).
An individual debt collector may use an alias if it is used consistently and if it does not interfere with another party’s ability to identify him (e.g., the true identity can be ascertained by the employer).
Telling a third party that you owe a debt is illegal! First, it may not be true thus unjustly damaging your reputation and second, it is simply nobody else’s business.
804(3). Not communicate with any such person more than once unless requested to do so by such person or unless the debt collector reasonably believes that the earlier response of such person is erroneous or incomplete and that such person now has correct or complete location information;
Debt collectors may not refer to the consumer’s debt in any third party communication seeking location information, including those with other creditors.
To prevent annoying or harassing phone calls, or phone calls meant to embarrass you, the law says a debt collector may only call a third party for location information once. The exception to this rule is if the debt collector has reason to believe the information provided is incorrect or misleading (the third party attempts to throw the collector off the trail) then the collector may legally call back.
IMPORTANT: Once collectors have your location information they have no legal reason to call a 3rd party; doing so violates this section of the FDCPA.
804(4). Not communicate by post card;
Reference to debt collector’s business (Section 804(5)). A debt collector may not use his actual name in his letterhead or elsewhere in a written communication seeking location information, if the name indicates collection activity (such as a name containing the word “debt,” “collector,” or “collection”), except when the person contacted has expressly requested that the debt collector identify himself.
This rule is to protect your privacy; post cards can be viewed by prying eyes. (see number 5 below)
804(5). Not use any language or symbol on any envelope or in the contents of any communication effected by the mails or telegram that indicates that the debt collector is in the debt collection business or that the communication relates to the collection of a debt; and FDCPA Discussion
Once again this is a privacy issue. It’s possible the debt collector has the wrong person so the FDCPA is written to protect against damaging one’s reputation by preventing the collector from advertising an overdue debt to the public.
804(6). After the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with regard to the subject debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney’s name and address, not communicate with any person other than that attorney, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to the communication from the debt collector.
Once a debt collector learns a consumer is represented by an attorney in connection with the debt, he must confine his request for location information to the attorney.
The key element here is that you or your lawyer must inform the debt collector in writing. Afterwards, the debt collector may only contact your lawyer.