Debt Collectors and Third Party Contacts
If you are aware that you are carrying debt, your stress may become heightened when a collection agency starts to contact you. The letters start coming, the phone starts ringing. But the essential question becomes, who can a debt collector contact when they are calling to collect your debt?
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, (“FDCPA”) the statute enacted to protect consumers from abusive conduct during debt collection, the law is very clear regarding who a collector may contact and speak with regarding your debt. Knowing your rights under the statute will ensure that if they violated you can take swift action.
Under the FDCPA, a collector is permitted to make third party contact, but there are limitations on the manner of the contact and the frequency of the communication. For starters, a spouse can always be contacted. For purposes of the FDCPA, a spouse and the debtor are one and the same when it comes to communication. Even if the spouse is not the account holder, the collector can speak to the spouse as if he or she is the debtor.
However, when it comes to other family members, friends and neighbors, the rules change. A collector can call these third parties solely for the purpose of seeking location information of the debt. The collector is prohibited from disclosing where they are calling from or what they are calling about. The collector must not disclose the debt to this third party. The only legitimate reason a collector has to make third party communication is to verify a consumer debtor’s whereabouts. We often hear stories of collectors leaving messages for these third parties – telling that person to send a message on toe the debtor to get a call back. That is wholly improper. Again, the collector can seek location information, not use your friend or family member as an answering service.
A collector can only call that third party one time. A second communication is only allowed if the collector believes that the person they called was mistaken about the information and they may now have the correct information. The collector is not even allowed to disclose the name of the company he works for unless the third party requests that information from the collector. Still, the collector cannot disclose the reason for the call – to collect a debt. Finally, a consumer can force the collector to discontinue communications altogether. A simple letter to the collector advising it that either (1) the debtor wishes for there to be no further communication, or (2) the debtor refuses to pay the debt, actually requires the collector to discontinue its collection attempts through direct communication.
If you believe your rights have been violated under the FDCPA, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a completely free case review.