Federal law protects consumers against unfair, abusive, and harassing debt collection activities. The law that governs debt collector actions is known as the Fair Dept Collection Practices Act or FDCPA. This law sets strict limitations for what debt collectors can and cannot do, including who they can contact as well as when, why, and how those communications occur.
Is it Legal for a Debt Collector to Contact Your Neighbors?
Generally speaking, it is not legal for debt collectors to contact any third party about your debt, whether it is a friend, relative, employer, or neighbor. There is one big exception to this rule: If the debt collector is seeking to locate you, they can contact others (friends, relatives, neighbors, etc), but they may do so only once, and they cannot disclose any information about your debt or even why they are trying to verify your location.
What Kinds of Communications can a Debt Collector have with Your Neighbors?
Because the FDCPA does not stop debt collectors from attempting to locate you, there are some communications that are permitted under the law. However, all communications are held to strict standards and debt collectors must follow the rules to a “T” in order to not be in violation of federal law.
Debt collectors can contact a third party in order to get your address, phone number, and the address of your employer. They cannot:
- Disclose the name of the debt collection firm or agency, unless the third party asks for that information.
- Inform the third party that you owe a debt or that the communication regards a debt collection activity.
- Contact a third party more than once, unless the contact information they received the first time was not accurate or was incomplete.
- Send a written communication that contains information that makes it obvious the notice if from a debt collector.
What to do if You Find Out Your Neighbors have been Contacted by a Debt Collector
If you discover your neighbors have received phone calls or written notices from a debt collector attempting to locate you or harass you into paying, then you’ll need to take additional steps to protect yourself and your reputation.
These steps may include reporting the debt collector to your State Attorney General and to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if the collector’s actions were abusive, harassing, or otherwise illegal. A written notice should also be mailed to the debt collector, informing them that their actions are unwarranted and abusive, considering they already know your whereabouts and contact information.
Hiring an attorney can put an end to all debt collection third party communications. Once you have a lawyer, the FDCPA stipulates that all attempts to locate you via third part contacts must cease and that all communications must be funneled through your attorney.