Debt Collectors Leaving Messages on Answering Machines
Are debt collectors leaving messages? If the answer is “yes,” always save those voice messages. Collection voice mails may be evidence your federal consumer protection rights have been violated and you might be entitled to cash compensation. Two federal laws–the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”)–are often violated by a bill collector voice mails.
For example, if the debt collector did not have your express consent to computer dial or auto dial you, each message you have could be worth between $500 and $1,500 under the TCPA.
Similarly, debt collectors are prohibited from calling certain places or discussing your information with third parties and can only call between 8:00 am and 9:00 P.M. If you have a voice mail showing a collector did any of these things you might be entitled to up to $1,000 or more under the FDCPA.
Bill collectors and creditors collecting their own debts have strict requirements to meet when they leave messages on personal answering machines. The message needs to make certain specific disclosures and cannot leave comments such as “it’s urgent” or make misrepresentations about the nature of the call. For instance, “This is Mr. Collector with Default collections. I’m calling about your overdue credit card payment. It’s urgent that you return my call today so we can discuss bringing your account current. My phone number is 555-1234” VIOLATES THE LAW. Also, others located in your home or such as other family members, friends or relatives might hear the message.
Calling several times a day to leave a message (on a machine or with a person other than you or your spouse) will also likely violate the FDCPA. If collectors call and actually speak with you or your spouse, then calling again that day without a legitimate purpose, might be considered harassment as well.
Leaving threatening or abusive messages including abusive language, religious slurs, profanity, obscenity, calling the consumer a liar or a deadbeat, or other name calling, threatening legal action that they do not intend to take and the use of racial or sexual epithets are serious violations of the FDCPA. See more here: abuse tactics.
Special Note: Making threats to children is an especially grievous violation of the FDCPA and should not go unreported. Report collectors who threaten you, your children or anyone associated with you, to your State Attorney General immediately.
Leaving Messages on Answering Machines at Work
Bill collectors can call you at work unless you or your employer have told them otherwise so, the information presented below assumes that the collector has NOT been told to stop calling. Collectors who continue calling your work after being told to stop are violating the FDCPA.
If you have a private phone at work that only you answer and collectors know the number to this phone, it is the only number they can legally use to call you at work. Calling any other number is designed to embarrass you and is a clear violation of the FDCPA. If your private phone has an answering machine attached or a private voice mail feature (that no one else can access), collectors can leave messages. The same rules about the type of message and content as outlined above still apply…threatening or abusive messages are illegal.
If you use a phone at work that can be accessed by anyone else, it’s considered a public use phone. Collectors must be very careful about the type of message they leave on public use phones. They can leave a message but the only thing the message should include is the collector’s name and number. NO reference to the debt is allowed! The tone of the message must be non-threatening and any hint that the call is about the collection of a debt is illegal!