If your children have received phone calls or letters from a debt collector, it’s possible the agent or collection firm is in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA is a federal law designed to protect the rights of consumers. The law limits debt collector activities, including communication methods, in order to ensure they are fair, ethical, and not abusive.
FDCPA Permitted Contacts
The FDCPA doesn’t prevent debt collectors from contacting third parties, like your adult children, but it does set limits on the frequency and type of communications they can use.
- Debt collectors can contact your friends, neighbors, or family members but they can only generally do so once, unless they reasonably believe they can learn something new about your whereabouts by contacting someone a second time.
- When contacting a third party, a debt collector cannot disclose that their contact is associated with debt collection, nor can they tell your child anything about the debt itself, like the company to which the money is owed or the amount of the debt.
- If your child specifically asks for the company name and what the call or letter is about, the debt collector is allowed to provide the company name and contact information and to inform your son or daughter that they are attempting to reach you, but not why they’re trying to contact you.
Illegal Contact Methods under the FDCPA
The FDCPA contains provisions designed to prevent illegal, abusive, and harassing debt collection activities, including certain types of communications.
- Any debt collector that specifically contacts a minor child is in violation of FDCPA regulations, unless the child’s name is on the debt along with your own. In other words, if your son or daughter is under the age of 18 and has a credit card, cell phone bill, or some other debt for which you are a co-signer, then debt collectors can contact you or your child about the debt.
- If your minor child lives with you and answers the phone when a debt collector calls, this is not in violation of the law, unless the debt collector uses abusive, harassing, or otherwise illegal methods when speaking with your child.
- If a debt collector repeatedly contacts your adult child, even when there is no new information to be gained about your whereabouts, then the debt collection firm or agent is likely in violation of the FDCPA.
- If a debt collector sends notices in the mail that identify the communication as a debt collection effort, they’ve broken the law.
- When a debt collector discloses personal or financial information to your child via a phone call or written communication, they’ve also violated FDCPA regulations.
Cease Communications Demands
If your children are adults and do not live with you, they may receive a single phone call or letter requesting a verification of your address and phone number. Any additional communications may be in violation of federal law. This is particularly true if your child has informed the debt collector of their formal request to not be contacted again.
You also have the right to request a debt collector “cease communications” with you regarding the debt, though this will not make the debt go away and may not stop the collection agent or firm from continuing to contact others, including your children. Cease communication notices must be sent in writing and should be certified mail with a signature required upon receipt. This allows you to prove the debt collector received the notice.
Further Steps to Stop Debt Collector Abuse
If you suspect a debt collector has violated FDCPA regulations, you have resources available to hold the collection agency or firm accountable for their illegal and unethical actions. You can report the collection agency to your state Attorney General. You can also inform the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is in charge of enforcing the FDCPA. A debt collection attorney can help you stop debt collector abuse and you may even have a case for filing a lawsuit in state and/or federal court.
The size and nature of your debt have nothing to do with how you should be treated as a human being. If third-party collectors are subjecting you to the type of harassment outlined in the FDCPA, you should consider completing a free case evaluation and filing a claim with the help of an FDCPA attorney. Winning your claim could mean netting $1000 for each FDCPA violation, along with additional damages, and having an attorney increases the likelihood that you’ll have a successful claim. Your attorney can aid in gathering evidence, arguing on your behalf, and knowing exactly what is required at each point in the case. In other words, your attorney will be in the best position to help you navigate this complex process and finally get the peace of mind that you deserve.