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Can Debt Collectors Contact Friends and Family Members?

June 9th, 2011

It is not uncommon for debt collectors to go to extreme measures in order to get information about a debtor.  In fact, many debt collectors call friends and family members of debtors they are trying to reach.  While this practice is permitted and regulated by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, it is frequently abused.

Are Debt Collectors Harassing You About Someone Else’s Debt?

Debt collectors are permitted to contact third parties for the purpose of acquiring location information about the debtor.  Section 804 provides the following:

Any debt collector communicating with any person other than the consumer for the purpose of acquiring location infor­mation about the consumer shall identify himself, state that he is confirming or correct­ing location information concerning the consumer, and, only if expressly requested, identify his employer.

Debt collectors are prohibited from stating that such consumer owes any debt.  They may not communicate with any such person more than once unless requested to do so by such person or unless the debt collector reasonably believes that the earlier response of such person is erroneous or incomplete and that such person now has correct or complete location information.  Debt collectors may not communicate by post card and they may not use any language or symbol on any envelope or in the contents of any communication effected by the mails or telegram that indicates that the debt collector is in the debt collection business or that the communi­cation relates to the collection of a debt.

By the way, if the debt collector knows the consumer is repre­sented by an attorney with regard to the subject debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney’s name and address, they may not communicate with any person other than that attorney, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to the communication from the debt collector.  In this case, family and friends may not be contacted at all.

How Can You Stop Debt Collectors from Harassing You About Someone Else’s Debt?

The purpose here is to allow debt collectors to try to obtain location information.  That makes sense.    However, many debt collectors abuse this provision to harass family members and friends in an effort to get the debtors to respond.  This practice is unethical, and it is illegal.  If you are being contacted by a debt collector regarding someone else’s debts, and the debt collector is violating the provisions above, let us know.  We’ll help you locate an attorney in your area that can help protect you from this type of abuse.

By the way, if the debt collector knows the consumer is repre­sented by an attorney with regard to the subject debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney’s name and address, they may not communicate with any person other than that attorney, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to the communication from the debt collector.