Can debt collectors call my friends and neighbors to find me?
How far can a collector go when it comes to hunting you down for past-due debt.
When you have a past-due debt, there’s nothing illegal about dodging a collector. You can screen phone calls, hide and take steps to avoid speaking with the collector. Of course, the collector has a right to take steps to collect as long as they follow the letter of the law.
So does the law prohibit a collector from calling a family member, a friend or even a neighbor in order to collect on a delinquent debt?
You have a right to hide, while they have a right to hunt you down… but there are some limits to what they can say during that conversation.
Contact versus conversation
A collector is allowed to contact anyone – really, absolutely anyone they can think of or find – to verify that you are you. That is all they are allowed to do, though.
According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) a collector can call anyone they can find in order to verify your identity. Basically, a collector receives your information from a creditor that you’ve failed to pay – they’ve never had any contact with you themselves.
Fact: The FDCPA was enacted in 1996 to amend the Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968 for collections.
As a result, step one in most collection practices is to get you on the phone to verify your identity. So they start calling. But if they can’t get ahold of you, then to at least get past that first step for verification, they start calling other people. That way, they don’t waste time trying to contact someone who doesn’t actually hold the debt (also, it’s a pretty good way to try and push you into answering their calls yourself).
But that’s as much as they can do. They can’t tell the person on the other end of the call anything about who you owe, how much you owe, or how far past due your debt is. As soon as they verify your identity and contact information, the call has to end. If it doesn’t, you can file a collector harassment complaint.