Can Debt Collectors Call Family Members?
Debt collectors may call family members to obtain your address and phone number. They may not reveal that they are a debt collector or disclose any information about the debt. The FDCPA recognizes that debt collectors have a right to collect debts, therefore it allows them to call family members in an attempt to locate you. However, the FDCPA does not allow debt collectors to call family members to shame or embarrass you into paying the debt, or coerce them into paying the debt for you.
The purpose of the FDCPA is to prevent debt collectors from engaging in abusive methods to pressure consumers into paying their debts by harassing, threatening, or intimidating them. It specifically prohibits public shaming tactics like disclosing the debt to family members and friends with the intent of embarrassing and humiliating the debtor. Section 805 of the FDCPA sets rules that debt collectors must abide by when contacting third parties like family members and friends.
The FDCPA recognizes that debt collectors have a need to locate consumers, therefore they are allowed to call third parties. However, they must identify themselves and can only ask where the consumer lives, their phone number, and where they work in an attempt to locate you. The caller must identify their employer if asked, but may not reveal that they are trying to collect a debt. They may only call the family member once, unless the family member asks them to call back, or they have reason to believe the family member has new information that will assist them in locating you. They also cannot send the family member anything in writing regarding the debt.
However, there are some recognized exceptions to these rules. If you gave a debt collector express permission to communicate with a family member, they may do so. If the debt collector had obtained a judgment in court, they may contact family members in a reasonable manner to satisfy the judgment. If a family member co-signed the debt, then they are also considered a debtor, and not a third party.
Also, if your family member pretends to be you on the phone, and the debtor discloses the debt to them, this is not a violation of the FDCPA as per court case Lovelace vs. Stephens & Michaels Assoc., Inc.
How Can I Stop A Debt Collector From Calling My Family?
If a debt collector’s calls to your family do not reveal their identity as a debt collector, are only to ascertain your whereabouts and contact information, and do not disclose your debt, there are still two ways to stop a debt collector from harassing your family.
Send a cease and desist letter to the collection agency. This will restrict the collection agency to only talking to you, and then only in the event they are either ceasing the collection or bringing you to court.