Calling 3rd parties such as family, friends, employers, employees and neighbors is strictly prohibited when collectors already have your phone number!
If you believe you are a victim of unfair or illegal debt collection tactics, submit your information to a FREE* Fair Debt Lawyer by:
- Clicking here for a FREE* Fair Debt Case Review;
- Calling toll free 888-FDCPA-LAW (888-332-7252);
- Clicking here to locate a FREE* Fair Debt Lawyer.
The debt collector may just be liable to you for statutory damages of up to $1,000, plus any actual damages suffered, plus attorney fees!
In order to stop collection calls at home you must send a “stop calling letter” to the collector. Stopping calls at work can be a verbal or written notification. See notes below for information about who and when they can call, how many times a day can they call, calling your cell phone, stopping calls at work and rescinding a “do not call” letter. (see notes below)
Another powerful tool for stopping harassing phone calls is to record the phone conversation. Inform the caller at the beginning of the call that you are taping the call as evidence for filing a formal complaint with the State Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission. If your phone system does not have a way to record conversations, purchase an inexpensive cassette tape or digital type answering machine capable of recording several minutes and that allows recording while on the phone. Another option, if your phone has a speaker option, is to place it in this mode and use a regular or hand-held tape recorder to tape the conversation.
ALWAYS inform the caller at the beginning of the call that you taping the call.
See these Collection Call Rules and if the calls continue, contact your State Attorney General’s consumer protection division, use this link to locate yours and then file a formal complaint. While you’re on the phone or the web site, ask if they can offer any assistance such as calling or sending the collector a written warning to stop harassing you. Also ask for a reference to any state laws that offer protection from harassment.
Consider filing a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as well using their FTC on-line complaint form.
IMPORTANT: When collectors demand payments under the threat of legal action they may be violating the FDCPA.
Although you have the right to refuse to work with collectors, if you choose to make payments, send a payment agreement letter (return receipt requested) and only promise to pay what you can afford. Remember, a judge has to grant a judgment before collectors can take any action such as wage garnishment. Judgments are not automatic! Always do everything in writing, keep accurate records (for at least 15 years).
The only legal reason for calling neighbors (or any third party) is to locate you. If collectors already have your location information (home phone, home address or work phone and address) then, calling third parties is prohibited. The only possible reason for calling third parties, after they already have your location information, is to embarrass you; a clear violation of the FDCPA.
NOTE 1: When can they call?
Unless you give debt collectors permission to do otherwise, they can only contact you under specific conditions and during certain times of the day:
They can contact you at your place of residence by phone, mail, in person, by FAX or email during reasonable hours such as between 8 am and 9 P.M..
They cannot contact you at any unusual time or place or a time or place known or which should be known to be inconvenient to you.
They cannot contact you at work if your employer disapproves and they are informed of this fact by you or your employer.
Note 2: How many times a day can they call?
According to the FTC’s published interpretation of the FDCPA, collectors cannot continuously call you. Section 806(5) prohibits contacting the consumer by telephone “repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.” Continuously means making a series of telephone calls, one right after the other. “Repeatedly” means calling with excessive frequency under the circumstances.
Note 3: Can they call my cell phone?
The short answer is yes! If you provided your cell number on the credit application or to the creditor as a means of contacting you, then collectors can call your cell phone. The only way to stop them from calling you on your cell phone (or any other phone) is to send a “stop calling letter“.
Who can they call?
Section 805(b) — Communication with Third Parties
Unless you consent, or a court order or section 804 permits, “or as reasonably necessary to effectuate a post-judgment judicial remedy,” debt collectors “may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than you, your attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, your creditor, the attorney of the creditor, and the attorney of the debt collector.”
Section 805(b)1. Consumer consent to the third party contact. Your consent to third party contact does not have to be writing. For example, if third parties volunteer that you have authorized them to pay on your account, then the debt collector may normally presume your consent, and accept the payment and provide a receipt to the party that makes the payment. However, consent may not be inferred only from your inaction when the debt collector requests such consent.
Section 805(b)2. Location information. Although a debt collector’s search for information concerning the consumer’s location (provided in section 804) is expressly excepted from the ban on third party contacts, debt collectors may not call third parties under the pretense of gaining information already in his possession.
Section 805(b)3. Incidental contacts with telephone operator or telegraph clerk. Debt collectors may contact an employee of a telephone or telegraph company in order to contact the consumer, without violating the prohibition on communication to third parties, if the only information given is that necessary to enable the collector to transmit the message to, or make the contact with, the consumer.
Collectors are allowed to call third parties to verify location information. This means they can call your family, friends, neighbors and employer. However, the information they reveal about you and themselves and the questions they can ask is strictly limited by the FDCPA. When contacting third parties they must identify themselves but not state that you owe any debt; they can say that they are confirming or correcting information they have about your location, address, phone number, and employer only. Also, only if expressly requested to do so, can they identify who they work for. More on 3rd Party Contact
IMPORTANT NOTE! Let me emphasize that section 805(b)2. specifically says, “debt collectors may not call third parties under the pretense of gaining information already in his possession.” Thus, calling your family, friends, neighbors, employees, employer and so forth, after they already have your phone number, is a serious violation of the FDCPA and should be reported to your State Attorney General immediately.
Note 5: Stopping Collection Calls at Work,
First of all, collectors should only call someone other than you at work to verify your employment. Discussing your debt or any other personal information is illegal! They are allowed to call you at your place of employment if they have not been told your employer prohibits such calls.
If your employer objects to collectors calling the workplace, either you or your employer must inform collectors of the “no call policy”. This can be verbally or in writing (the FDCPA supports verbal notification). Once informed, any additional calls to your work place violates the FDCPA and opens the collector up to a lawsuit.
Note 6: Rescinding “do not call” order.
If you’ve sent collectors a “do not call or contact” letter and now you’d like to rescind that order, you must do so in writing. Just calling them and telling them is not enough. It’s true that collectors will probably take your call but they would be wise to not talk with you until you’ve rescinded the no contact order in writing.
On the other hand, you may be contacted by a collector, lawyer, or creditor requesting you to lift the no contact order. Only you can decide to do this however, the only legitimate reasons for lifting the no call order is to negotiate a payment plan or settlement of the issue.
I’m usually asked if the letter requesting you to lift the no call order is a violation of the FDCPA. The FDCPA does address this issue directly but it does say that any contact after receiving your written no contact letter must comply with the FDCPA. Namely, to inform you of what they intend to do now however, this communication cannot contain a dunning notice (demand for payment). If it does, it violates the FDCPA. In my opinion, requesting you to lift the order, so that negotiations can take place is not a violation.