Bankruptcy Basics: Legality of Debt Collection from 3rd Parties
When it comes to debt collection, it all feels wrong. It feels mean and unjust and underhanded even when the collector is attempting to collect on a valid debt. This feeling of being “wronged” by the people and/or companies that are trying to get money out of you to pay towards unpaid debts probably starts when the financial trouble has hit the point where all (or most) accounts are past due. The sheer number of phone calls, even if they’re still semi-friendly, feels like an attack. Then when the accounts get a little bit more past due, the calls get passed along to the more seasoned collectors that push harder. If your accounts are really past due or you just happen to be assigned to an over-aggressive collection agent, you may start to feel threatened and even unsafe answering your own phone and/or door. Luckily for consumers who end up in this type of negative situation, there are laws in place to govern the manner in which creditors can collect on a debt.
Regardless of what the collectors might say, they can’t say whatever they want and do whatever they want. There are rules they have to follow and when they don’t, there is legal action you can take.
One of the most frequently asked questions is whether a debt collector can contact a 3rd party or accept payment from a 3rd party without the account holder’s permission.
Debt collectors will often contact an account holder’s workplace, their family, their friends, old roommates, old girlfriends, ex husbands, etc. They seem to be willing to do anything and talk to anyone in their attempts to collect on the debt. Many of these are depending upon the fact that most consumers aren’t aware that there is an entire section of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that regulates calls to third parties for the collection of debt. Debt collectors are also prohibited from sending out unauthorized automated message calls to account holders, or their family and friends by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Debt collectors are prohibited from revealing your debt to a third party. If there is a debt collector in pursuit of payment that revealed your debt to a third party (family, friend, etc.) or if they have made repeated calls to your family or friends, you should get in touch with a consumer rights attorney and discuss whether or not you have a valid claim under the FDCPA. In addition to not being allowed to even mention your debt to a third party, collectors are only allowed to contact third parties once (unless the third party asks to be called again), they aren’t allowed to leave messages with third parties asking to be called back (as even the name of their agency would be providing them with information regarding your finances/debt in many cases), and are supposed to reserve contact with third parties for attempts to determine or verify location or contact information for the account holder. If the debt collector already knows how to get in touch with you regarding your debt, they should have no reason to contact any third parties regarding your account/debt.
If you have other questions regarding the debt collection process or how to stop all collection activity by filing for bankruptcy, please contact one of the experienced southern California bankruptcy attorneys at Westgate Law.