“Can They Do That?”: Five Things Debt Collectors Do That Are Infuriating, But Legal

Can A Debt Collector Do That?“Can they do that?” is a question I often hear from clients, in reference to various behaviors of the debt collectors that have been contacting them. In some cases, the answer is: YES.
Some behaviors that may be driving a consumer crazy are not necessarily considered harassment according to the FDCPA. Here are some of the most common:

* Can a debt collector call from “unknown number”?
Yes. This is legal. What a debt collector cannot do, however, is call from any number and try to mislead when the call is answered. Identifying themselves as “Agent Blankety Blank” or “Officer Such-and-Such” when someone answers a call is a no-no, because it is misleading–it sounds like an FBI agent or a police officer is calling! And that, my friends, is deceptive. Leaving voice mails under these bogus names is just as deceptive, so save those voice mails, and contact a local consumer attorney.

* Caller ID shows that the same debt collector calls every day. Can they do that?
Yes. As frustrating as it might be, debt collectors can call once, maybe even twice a day, as long as they are calling after 8 AM local time and before 9 PM. Currently, there is no “magic number” for how many calls a day constitute harassment. However, if a consumer answers a call and requests that the debt collector stop calling, or indicates that he/she has no ability to pay, those daily calls should stop. If the daily calls continue, this could be a violation of the FDCPA. In addition, if caller ID shows 3+ calls a day from a debt collector, begin keeping a call log, and save any voice mail messages. In either situation, contact a consumer attorney.

* Can a debt collector call my boss/my mom/my ex?
Yes, ONE TIME, and for ONE REASON ONLY–to attempt to acquire your contact information (phone number and address.) The debt collector can call ONCE, and is not allowed to tell the third party that a debt is owed.

That said, debt collectors often push the envelope, shall we say. Examples:
- the debt collector calls the third party more than once
- the debt collector asks for more information than allowed by the FDCPA
- the debt collector harasses and threatens YOU by saying something along the lines of “If you don’t pay this debt, I’m going to call your mom/your boss/your best friend and tell them you don’t pay your bills!”

If someone in your life is being called repeatedly by a debt collector about a debt that you owe, please email them a copy of our call log. The third party should ask the debt collector to identify him/herself and the company name, then write this and other information on the call log. Contact a local consumer attorney with the information.

* Can a debt collector sue me without warning me?
Yes. In fact, in many cases it would be considered a violation of the FDCPA if a phone clerk at a collection agency did suggest that if the debt remained unpaid, a lawsuit would be filed. (This could be considered a “threat”.) So, it is very likely that no warning will be given if your case is slated for a lawsuit–a summons is your notice.

* Can a debt collector look for information about me on my Facebook page?
Yes. a debt collector can nose around on the Internet as much as he or she likes. If you make personal information available and a debt collector finds it, they might begin using it. This can be dangerous for the debt collector though–while playing amateur Facebook detective is allowed, using the information that is gathered could lead to a violation of the FDCPA. In addition, a debt collector cannot contact you via social media (they can look around your Facebook page, but they certainly can’t email to it or post on it. For all you early adopters, that goes for Google+, too ;-)

photo credit: sxc.hu/coscurro

11 Responses to ““Can They Do That?”: Five Things Debt Collectors Do That Are Infuriating, But Legal”

  1. patmayplayer says:

    Thank you I used your article to try to get my daughter’s debt collector to stop calling me.

  2. FDCPA says:

    Under FDCPA you have rights to sue harassing Debt Collectors…

  3. allison says:

    That is great news. If you are still receiving calls, or if your daughter is being harassed or abused by her debt collectors, begin keeping records ASAP, and contact a local consumer attorney for help.

  4. Janette says:

    Wow, this post is fastidious, my sister is analyzing
    these kinds of things, thus I am going to inform her.

  5. Debt Collector : Lowell Portfolio

    Report Info : My report from Experian mentions that I am a defaulter with 54 GBP in debt with 3G which is complete allegation. They harrassed me and I sent a letter that I will sue them for bugging me for no reason and proof. They stopped sending mails but made a remark in my report. I am going to apply for home loan and I am really worried.

    Please help !

  6. The debt collector has sent me the original documents that was dated in 2002.

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