Debt collectors cannot simply call whoever they choose to try to obtain payment for your unpaid debts. Debt collectors have the legal right to do their job, but federal and state laws constrain the methods they can use. These laws give you the ability to file a lawsuit when the debt collector crosses the line and calls your boss or family.
You can recover statutory damages and payment for the individual harm you have suffered. When you are filing a case based on who a debt collector called, you will need evidence of the phone call and what they said. A California FDCPA attorney can both gather the proof that you need for your case and estimate the value of your case.
Your lawyer will not charge you unless you win your case, giving you an incentive to call them as soon as possible. Never sit at home feeling helpless and terrified that debt collectors will contact others about your debt. Seek legal advice and representation in the matter. A lawyer can protect your legal rights and give you peace of mind.
Debt Collectors May Try to Shame You or Wear You Down
A debt collector may try various means to get you to pay what they claim you owe. One of the most common methods is direct harassment, where they call you often or at odd hours. They aim to stress you out and wear you down to pay the debt. In their estimation, if you fear them, you will pay them. The debt collector wants you to think they will not go away and keep contacting you until you pay.
Another dubious method that debt collectors use is trickery. They may try to deceive you by misrepresenting themselves on the phone call. They can even convince you that they have the power of law enforcement behind them.
Illegal Methods Often Scare and Strong-Arm Debtors
These methods may not work on everyone, but they scare or shame many people into paying. Theoretically, even if debt collectors successfully pressure one out of a handful of people, they will still make money given how little they paid for the debt in the first place.
The debt collector’s game is to get enough money from debtors to keep buying more debt for pennies on the dollar. If they do this, the debt collector will make huge profits.
Debt Collectors May Try to Contact People Who Are a Part of Your Life
When it comes to a shame campaign, a debt collector may enlist those close to you or make your situation so embarrassing that you will pay to get them to go away. They know that you may fear for your job if your company learns about your debt. The debt collector believes you are scared about losing your reputation at work. Thus, they may call your boss or coworkers to tell them about your debt and use fear as leverage. They wants you to fear for your job and every other possible consequence. It is how they gain power over you.
Similarly, debt collectors may also try calling friends and family to humiliate you. They know that you may fear losing face or looking bad to others. The debt collector can also make repeated calls to them, thinking that they can harass everyone close to you to get to you.
Never put anything past a debt collector. They can and will use shady tactics to make more money.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Forbids Certain Phone Calls
You may wonder if the law imposes any limits on debt collectors.
The Fair Debt Collection Protection Act prohibits debt collectors from mistreating you. The law still allows them to collect from you, but their conduct has sharp limits.
The law gives you a valuable tool by allowing you to enforce it by filing a lawsuit against the debt collector. Theoretically, the prospect of legal liability should keep the debt collectors in line. Practically, debt collectors can and do cross the line with frequency.
The FDCPA Limits the Amount and Time of Phone Calls
First, the FDCPA limits when and how debt collectors can contact you. They cannot call you during certain hours. In addition, they are limited in the number of calls they can make.
You have the legal right to stop the calls or contact simply by telling the debt collector they can no longer try to reach you. However, directing a stop to contact does not keep them from trying to enforce their own rights. They can still proceed to collect the debt in court.
If the debt collector does not receive payment within a certain period, they can and will file a lawsuit against you to obtain a judgment. They may even seize assets or garnish your paycheck.
The Debt Collector Can Only Contact Certain People About Your Debt Besides You
Another set of limitations that is relevant here is who the debt collector can contact about your debt. The FDCPA limits who a debt collector can speak with about you.
The only people with whom the debt collectors can discuss your debt are:
- Your spouse (and only if your spouse is also responsible for your debt)
- Your guardian
- Your parents (but only if you are a minor)
- Your attorney (if you are being represented by one in connection with your debt)
Thus, if you wonder whether the debt collector can call your family about your debt, the answer is likely no. They may try to make calls to locate you, but the debt collector cannot discuss the debt itself or even state that you owe money.
Presumably, this restriction will include any type of communication, not just phone calls. Debt collectors may begin with emails – but the restrictions on what they can say will be the same.
Your Debt Collector Cannot Tell Your Boss or Coworkers About Your Debt
The same thing goes for your boss and coworkers. They are not on the list of people the debt collector can call to discuss your debt. However, there are circumstances under which a debt collector can call your employer.
Much of the challenge for debt collectors is finding the people who owe money. Yet there are even limits on attempts that they can make to locate you through your employer. For example, if they know you cannot get calls at work (because you told them that), the debt collector will break the law if they call your place of employment anyway.
Discussing Your Debt with Your Boss Breaks the Law
Under no circumstances can a debt collector tell your employer about your debt. If they do, they are breaking the law and opening themselves up to potential liability. They are limited to identifying themselves, as they must do when they call.
Unfortunately, when the debt collector states their affiliation and that they are looking for you, you are assumed to owe money. The FDCPA does seem to preserve the debt collector’s ability to do their job, and finding you is vital to their ability to receive payment. They can make these calls to employers and family members, provided that you have not already told them that these people cannot receive calls.
If the debt collector has called a family member or your employer, knowing exactly what they said is vital. You need the exact recollection from the person who took the call and spoke to the debt collector. They will need to testify that the debt collector crossed the line and told them about the debt itself instead of just asking where they can find you.
How You Can Hold Debt Collectors Responsible for Their Wrongful Actions
- The federal government (or state attorney general) can take enforcement action in the form of levying a fine)
- You can file your private lawsuit against the debt collectors for damages
If you claim that the debt collector said something they should have, you will need evidence for your claim. Unlike harassment cases where the debt collector has made many calls, your phone records alone are insufficient to prove this type of case. You will need witness testimony to counter what is likely going to be denials from the debt collector.
Your Damages in an FDCPA Lawsuit
The FDCPA allows for statutory damages of $1,000 per debt collector.
Unfortunately, the damages are not $1,000 per illegal call. However, when you file a lawsuit based on something the debt collector told your employer or family member, your damages likely stretch much further.
You can also recover damages based on how you have suffered from the debt collector’s illegal actions. For example, if the debt collector called your boss, and you faced repercussions at work, they can be legally responsible. You may have been denied a promotion or fired because the debt collector destroyed your reputation.
You can seek lost income compensation for the money you did not earn because of what the debt collector did. However, your employer will never tell you the reason for stalling your career or firing you. An attorney will thoroughly investigate the situation to gather more proof that the debt collector’s actions harmed your professional situation.
Similarly, you can also receive damages for the emotional distress a debt collector caused when they spoke to your employer or family about your debt. People react differently to situations. Some may be distressed when they believe that family or coworkers may look at them differently.
Get Legal Help When a Debt Collector Has Violated the Law
If you believe the debt collector broke the law, you must learn more about your legal rights. Many consumers think they have to endure the debt collector’s abusive behavior because they owe money. They do not know the limits on what the debt collector can do and that they can directly sue in federal or state court.
Consumer protection attorneys can help you take legal action to vindicate your rights and get justice. These attorneys dedicate their professional lives to holding businesses, including debt collectors, accountable for their wrongful actions to consumers. Businesses fear consumer protection attorneys because they know that there can be consequences for their actions.
You do not need to pay a consumer protection attorney in California for their legal services upfront. When you file a lawsuit for breach of the FDCPA or state consumer protection laws, your lawyer will work for you on a contingency basis.
You will only pay an attorney from the proceeds of any settlement or jury award that you receive. If you do not win your case, you will not need to pay your FDCPA attorney in California anything for their services.