If you are the target of a debt collector it can often feel like the wild wild west where anything goes. Debt collectors know that if they can make you feel the heat that you will be much more likely to pay up. Debt collectors will implement tactics like calling your family members, calling your work, threatening you with jail, and a whole bunch of other things that are prohibited under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Surprisingly, many debt collectors will not only violate the regulations of the FDCPA but will do it while leaving you a voicemail message on your phone.
If you have a voicemail from a debt collector – DON’T DELETE IT! Voicemails are an important piece of evidence to have if you end up suing the debt collector. Here a few of the most common violations I see in voicemail messages left by debt collectors:
Leaving Voicemails on Family Member’s Phones
Debt collectors should not be contacting your family members except for some very restricted scenarios where they are trying to get information on your location. The FDCPA does permit debt collectors to contact your family in order to find out what your residential address is, your phone number, or your work address. However, the debt collector may not state that you owe any money and cannot use the name of their collection agency unless the person they are calling requests it.
If the debt collector already knows your phone number and/ or where you live there is no need for them to be calling your family members. If you are receiving collection calls and collection letters and you find out that they are calling and speaking with your in-laws (for example), this is likely a violation of the FDCPA – they clearly know where you live and already have your phone number. The only reason they can call third parties is to find location information – and if they already have it, they can’t call them.
Leaving Messages on Shared Voicemail
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from disclosing your personal information to third parties. One effect of this provision is that debt collectors are not permitted to leave voicemail messages if the voicemail is not private or if it is hared with your children, roommates, or is monitored by your employer. If a debt collectors is leaving messages on your voicemail and it is clear that you are not the only person who receives messages there, then the debt collector would be in violation of the FDCPA.
An example of this would be if your voicemail message for your home phone said something like this “Hi, you’ve reach the home of Jim, Joan, and Jimmy, leave a message”. It is clear that there are other people who receive messages on the same machine and debt collectors should not be leaving messages and may be liable to you for damages under the FDCPA.
Leaving Voicemails at Your Work
As discussed above, debt collectors are not permitted to contact third parties except for the very regulated purpose of locating you. If a debt collector is leaving you voicemails at work there is a good chance they are in violation of the FDCPA as most work voicemail can be accessed by various employees and even your employer.
Further, if a debt collector knows or has reason to believe that contacting you at work is prohibited or inconvenient, the debt collector is prohibited from calling you.
Threats of Arrest by the Debt Collector
This one comes up more than you might think. I have heard messages from debt collectors where they threaten to send over the sheriff to “pick you up” or even threaten to file criminal charges for “fraud”. The FDCPA is clear in that any representation or implication that you failing to pay a debt will result in you being arrested is against the law. If you have a debt collector threatening to throw you in jail or even hinting that they are going to file criminal charges you can sue them and seek damages.
You Don’t Have to Put Up With It
Too many people believe that dealing with aggressive debt collectors is just part of the routine when it comes to falling behind on your bills. If a debt collector is following the rules, fine. If they are leaving messages for you that violate any of the above you can sue them for statutory damages of up to $1,000, actual damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs. And most FDCPA attorneys like myself will take the money for $0 up front and only charge you a fee if we win your case.
Schedule a Free Consultation!
John Skiba, Esq.
We offer a free consultation to discuss your debt problem and help you put together a game plan to eliminate your debt once and for all. Give us a call at (480) 420-4028