Can debt collectors tell others about your debt?

No. The FDCPA is clear about forbidding debt collectors from telling neighbors, friends, family members, and coworkers about your debt. There are some exceptions though, such as when the debtor is a minor or when a debtor is deceased.

15 U.S.C. Section 1692c(b) covers debt collectors communicating with third parties about your debt. It says:

Except as provided in section 1692b of this title, without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector, or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as reasonably necessary to effectuate a postjudgment judicial remedy, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.

Who Are Debt Collectors Allowed To Contact?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was enacted, in part, to keep debt collectors from embarrassing consumers who owe money. One section (11 U.S.C. Section 1692c(b)) addresses this concern by outlining the rules of the road for communicating with third parties. Under the law, debt collectors are allowed to talk about a consumer’s debt with:

  • The consumer
  • The consumer’s attorney
  • The creditor
  • The creditor’s attorney
  • The debt collector’s attorney
  • In some cases, a credit bureau

Who Are Debt Collectors Prohibited from Contacting?

The FDCPA effectively prohibits debt collectors from telling neighbors, friends, family members, and coworkers about your debt. There are a few exceptions, such as:

  • In some states, the consumer’s spouse
  • If the consumer is a minor, the consumer’s parent
  • The consumer’s guardian
  • If the consumer is deceased, the executor or administrator of their estate
  • The cosigner for a consumer’s debt

What About Misdirected Letters, Voicemails, and Other Communications?

The courts have ruled on a variety of circumstances concerning debt-related communication. Highlights include:

Can a debt collector send a collection letter to an address other than mine?

Across the country, U.S. district courts have ruled that letters addressed to an indebted consumer but mailed to a third party’s address do not violate the FDCPA’s provisions prohibiting communication with third parties. Because the letter in the envelope is addressed only to the consumer, the courts have said that it doesn’t convey information to a third party.

Can a debt collector leave a message in my voicemail?

If a consumer has told a debt collector that the debt collector can leave a message on the consumer’s voicemail or answering machine, then the debt collector doesn’t violate the FDCPA by doing so. The same holds true if the debt collector knows that the consumer is the only person who has access to the voice mailbox or answering machine. If those conditions aren’t met, then under the law, a debt collector must assume that leaving a message on voicemail or an answering machine is a third-party communication. The debt collector is required to hang up after reaching an answering machine and either call back at another time or contact the consumer by postal mail.

Can a debt collector get a sample of my signature without my consent?

A debt collector isn’t allowed to contact the consumer’s nonprofit debt counseling service or bank in order to get a sample of the consumer’s signature.

Can a debt collector contact my parents? 

While it’s acceptable for a debt collector to contact the parents of a minor who has a debt, the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from contacting the parents of a non-minor. This is true even if the parents provide financial support to their child or assume financial responsibility for their child. However, the debt collector can ask a non-minor’s parents if they have financial responsibility for their child – as long as the collector doesn’t reveal that the child owes a debt.

Can a debt collector contact U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) about my debt?

A debt collector is not allowed to contact U.S. Customs and Immigration Service to collect a resident alien’s student loan debt, but they can contact USCIS to try and locate the person.

Can a Debt Buyer use my credit card to pay a debt without my consent?

Courts have ruled that a debt buyer can’t provide a consumer’s contact information to a credit card issuer in an attempt to use the consumer’s credit card to pay the debt.

Fighting Back Against Third-Party Communications

If a debt collector has told unauthorized people about your debt or violated provisions of the FDCPA that prohibit third-party communications, you can fight back. You can sue the debt collector in federal court. If you win, you can recover up to $1,000 in statutory damages, plus court costs and attorney fees.

Lemberg Law attorneys protect consumers from abusive debt collection agencies. If you are receiving unwanted collection calls at work, then you could have a case against the collection agency. Contact Lemberg Law at 844-685-9200 ☎ or complete our online form for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.

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