Debt collectors can be ruthless when it comes to get information about a debtor. One of the main violations listed in the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) is that debt collectors are not permitted to contact third-parties related to the debtor to get information on the debtor in most situations.
However, limited situations do exist where third-party debt collectors may contact other individuals connected to the debtor. These situations are explored below. We have asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, and here is what she had to say:
Communication with the Debtor’s Spouse
In every debt collection situation, the debtor’s spouse can always be contacted. For all intents and purposes, under the FDCPA, the spouse and the debtor are considered to be one and the same when it comes to communication on the debt being collected.
This is the case even if the spouse is not the account holder, and it is still true even if the spouse and debtor are not currently living in the same household or are estranged.
The Debtor’s Parent
If the debtor is still a minor, according to the state’s law, the debt collection agency can communicate with the debtor’s parent. Of course, this provision brings into question how the debtor obtained the debt to begin with, as many states do not let minors own property legally, as well as debt.
Many times, the debtor’s parents will find themselves on the hook for the debt in the end.
The Debtor’s Legal Guardian
If the debtor is a party to a legal guardianship or conservatorship, the debt collection agency can contact his or her conservator or legal guardian to get information on the debt.
Legally, those individuals are the one responsible for the debtor’s finances, so they would be the ‘go-to’ for any information relating to the debtor’s legal liabilities.
Contacting Third-Parties to Locate Information on the Debt
Collectors are allowed to contact third-parties for the sole purpose of seeking location information of the debt. In these communications, the debt collector cannot disclose the actual debt to the third-party or disclose where they are calling from or what they are calling about specifically.
The only allowable reason a collector can contact a third party is to essentially verify the debtor’s whereabouts. If they leave voicemail messages with third-parties, they are not allowed to use the friend or family member to send a message to have the debtor call them, essentially using those people as an answering service.
Further, they can only contact that third-party once. They cannot call them multiple times after that initial communication.
The Debtor’s Attorney
If the debtor is represented by legal counsel with respect to the debt or a subsequent FDCPA claim, the third-party debt collector is certainly allowed to contact the debtor’s legal counsel regarding any information on the debt.
Of course, the debtor’s attorney will be under his or her own ethical obligations per the attorney-client privilege when sharing this communication.
If the debtor shared the obligation to pay on the debt with anyone else, such as a person who “co-signed” on a loan, the debt collection agency can communicate regarding the debt with that individual fully and completely.
If one debtor is cooperating while the other is not, the collection company can speak with the cooperating party to get information on the whereabouts on the other non-cooperating party.
The debtor always has the ability and right to consent to allowing a third-party to talk to the debt collector about the debt. However, this consent is only valid if the debtor gives it directly to the collector.
Just because the debtor has given someone else permission to make payments on the debt does not mean that he or she has given consent for the individual to talk to that person.
Contact Through Court Permission
Many times, the debt collector can seek permission from the court to contact a third-party. However, these circumstances are very rarely seen and the reason for this permission must be fairly compelling.
Post-Judgment Collection Contact
However, the limitations that exist on third-party contacts do loosen somewhat when the collector is attempting to collect on a judgment, meaning the court has already stated that the debtor owes the money.
Any communication at this point must be reasonably necessary to ensure that this judgment is enforced. Wage garnishment efforts are considered “post-judgement” communication.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you find yourself dealing in the middle of stressful debt collection proceedings and you have questions about who can be contacted by the debt collector, it may be time for you to talk with an attorney about your situation.
An attorney can listen to the facts of the case and can best advise you on how to proceed. Contact an attorney experienced in fair debt collections proceedings to schedule a consultation today.