Saturday, June 19, 2010

Protection From Debt Collectors: Part 2

Part 2 focuses on what debt collectors are allowed to do under the Federal Law known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  Part 1 focused on identifying the primary Federal Law itself and who it applies to.  Future parts will focus on whether debt collectors can file lawsuits against debtors, what the law prohibits debt collectors from doing, and what actions a consumer/debtor can take (possibly including recovering monetary damages) when debt collectors violate the law.

Allowable Communications from FDCPA Debt Collectors

1. Who can be contacted about the debt?

(a) the debtor (borrower);

(b) the debtor's spouse;

(c)  the debtor's attorney on the debt matter (if any);

(d) the debtor's parent if the debtor is a minor;

(e) the debtor's guardian (if any);

(f)  the debtor's executor or administrator (such as when the debtor is deceased);

(g) a consumer/credit reporting agency;

(h) the attorney for the debt collector/debt collection agency;

(i)  the attorney for the creditor (the entity actually owed the debt, for whom the debt collector is likely working);

(j)  anyone else the court or the debtor allows the debt collector to contact; and

(k) in certain situations, a debt collector can contact almost anyone else in relation to the debt (see #2 below for more information);

2. Who else can be contacted about the debt, and in what situations?

(a) A debt collector who is unable to locate a debtor may contact a third party to ask for the debtor's location information: home address, telephone number, and place of employment.

(1)  the debt collector must identify himself/herself by name and state (s)he is confirming information concerning the debtor's location (using the debtor's name, and not describing the person as a "debtor");

(2) the debt collector cannot reveal the name of the debt collection agency or that the call pertains to debt collection, unless specifically asked;

(3) written communication from a debt collector to a third party to obtain the debtor's location information must not indicate the fact that the debt collector is, in fact, a debt collector;

(4) each third party can only be contacted once, unless the debt collector believes that the information obtained during the first contact was wrong, incomplete, or outdated and that the third party would now have better information;

(5) also, a third party can be contacted more than once if the third party so requests.

3.  When can debt collectors call about the debt?

a)  Generally, debt collectors are not allowed to call before 8  a.m. or after 9 p.m., using the debtor's time zone.

(1) However, debt collectors can legally call at other times if the debtor or a court of law has given such permission.

4. Can the debt collector contact the debtor at work?

(a) Debt collectors can contact the debtor at work unless the debt collector has reason to know the employer does not allow this type of  communication at work. Usually, the debt collectors will attempt to contact the debtor at work until/unless someone (such as the debtor) tells the debt collector such contacts are not allowed. It is best to follow up and confirm such verbal communications in writing.

5. Can the debt collector continue to contact the debtor if the debtor has an attorney on the matter?

(a) NO, not if the debt collector knows the attorney's name and contact  information, or can easily get it, unless that attorney is unresponsive or specifically agrees to allow the debt collector to contact the debtor directly.