Debt Collection, Third Party Contact
Posted: Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The General Rule of Thumb
- Collectors cannot talk to third parties without your
debt collection agency cannot discuss your debt with third
parties (friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances,
etc.) unless they have your express permission. Quite simply that
means the debtor themselves must tell the collector that they have
permission to speak with a particular person, i.e., a parent,
sibling, employer or friend. This does not include spouses. Under
FDCPA guidelines, a spouse is the same as the debtor regardless of
whether the spouse is on the debt or not. A collector can call a
husband or wife and discuss the payment of the debt.
Collectors can call third parties solely to seek your location
- Assuming no permission was given to the collector to speak to
anyone besides you, the collector can still call a friend or
relative for the purpose of locating the debtor. However there are
limits as to how a collector can do this.
- The caller must identify themselves and state that they are
calling to seek a person's location information; they cannot reveal
the name of the company calling unless the person called (that
third party) expressly requests the company name.
- The collector can only call that person one time unless that
person requests a call back at a later time or the collector has a
reason to believe that the information given by the third party is
wrong or incomplete and that the person now has the correct
The collector cannot reveal to that third party that the debtor
owes a debt.
- A collector cannot tell a third party that a debt is owed and
that is why they are looking for the debtor. There are many
pitfalls a collector can fall into with this part of the
statute.For instance, as stated above,the collector cannot
volunteer the company name to the third party. This is because, in
many instances, it would reveal the nature of the call and that it
was for debt collection. Another way the collector can run afoul of
the law in this area is through faxing an employer an employment
The message left on the answering machine issue.
This issue is a hotbed for many legal battles. The
FDCPA requires that the collector advise the debtor in each and
every communication that thecommunication is an attempt to collect
a debtbut the collector cannot tell anyone aside from the debtor
that a debt is owed. So, what happens when there is an answering
machine that is heard by multiple people in a household other than
a spouse? If they leave a message on an answering machine and don't
disclose that they are a debt collector, then they have violated
FDCPA. However, if they leave that message on the answering
machine, and a third party hears it, they have also violated the
FDCPA. Collectors claim that in this instance they are caught
on a double-edged sword and they're right!
Remember, even if you are in debt, you still have rights and one
of those is the right to handle your debts privately without public
ridicule or humiliation.