You come back from the office lunch meeting in a good mood. That is, until you hit the phone play button and hear a message left by a debt collector. The voicemail is just a simple request you pay off a delinquent debt. Can debt collectors leave unsolicited voice message at home or work?
Let’s explore a federal law that has set the legal bar for debt collector voicemails.
The FDCPA Protects Consumers
Enacted on September 20, 1977, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) created several protections for consumers facing debt collection calls and letters. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from threatening consumers, as well as using abusive language in written correspondence and verbal communications. Authors of the FDCPA granted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the legal authority to set the guidelines for enforcing the landmark consumer protection legislation.
For example, the FTC mandates up to a $1,000 statutory fine for FDCPA violators, as well as the payment of actual damages caused by debt collector actions. Actual damages include physical ailments caused by stress and wage garnishments to pay off an alleged debt.
Leaving Family Members Voice Messages
Nothing is more embarrassing than having a parent or sibling tell you a debt collector left a voice message on his or her phone. Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are not allowed to contact family members to collect a debt you owe, except for a couple of reasons clearly defined in the FDCPA.
A debt collector can leave a voicemail for a family member to find out your home address, work address, or home phone number. However, in obtaining the information, a debt collector cannot mention the outstanding debt. If a debt collector knows your home address and/or phone number and continues to leave voicemails on family member recording machines, then the debt collector has violated a provision of the FDCPA.
Debt Collector Voicemails at Work
Many of the guidelines created by the FDCPA for family member voicemails apply to work settings. Debt collector voice messages left on your work phone constitutes contacting a third party, as some of your co-workers including management might have access to your phone messages. Under the FDCPA, a debt collector cannot leave a voice message for you at work if a court has prohibited the communication or the voicemail inconveniences you in any way. The legal principle of shared work phone communication also applies to shared phone communication is a private setting.
Fight Back By Contacting an Attorney
The legal teeth produced by the passage of the FDCPA means consumers enjoy legal protections that include receiving statutory and actual damages. However, you need the legal expertise of an experienced consumer law attorney to stop illegal voicemails and to seek justice through the court system. For most cases involving unfair debt collection practices, the defendant is on the hook for attorney fees. You fan fill out our Free Evaluation to be connected with an attorney in your area.