Can Debt Collectors Call Your Family?

Chloe Meltzer

May 07, 2021

You don't want your family to hear about your unpaid debts.

Summary: Got a debt collector hounding you? Worried that your family or friends might find out about your old debts? Know the rules for debt collection agencies when they contact your family.

There are specific laws that govern the method by which debt collectors may contact consumers. Within these laws includes barring debt collectors from contacting consumers at work, contacting family and friends, and even how they collect the debt. There is an entire section of the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) that regulates how a third-party debt collector may contact you.

If you are being pursued for debt, you must learn your rights under the FDCPA as well as under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Whether that is making unauthorized robocalls, revealing your debt to your boss, friends, or family other than your spouse, you have rights. Let's dive deeper into this to understand exactly what an FDCPA violation is, and how to obtain restitution if it happens to you.

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Debt Collectors May Not Reveal Your Debt to Anyone

If a debt collector contacts a third party such as your aunt, child, or brother, they cannot speak of your debt. Debt collectors cannot state that you owe money, owe a debt, or anything similar. The only person they may disclose your debt to is your spouse.

The reason this was set into law, was because debt collectors were using this as a method to pressure a consumer to repay a debt. Your debt is your business, and a debt collector may not do this of any kind. Even if it is regarding “I am calling about the student loans of ____.” This violates the FDCPA.

There Is a Limit on How Many Times Your Family and Friends May Be Called

Although a debt collector may call your family or friends simply to ask where you are, they are not allowed to contact a third-party more than once. The only time that they may contact the third party again, is if they are requested to do so.

If a debt collector calls your parents, co-worker, or child, they cannot call again unless asked. Even in this case, they cannot disclose your debt. This often happens and is a great way to create an FDCPA complaint.

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Debt Collectors Cannot Leave a Message Asking for a Reply

Although debt collectors are allowed to contact other individuals for information based on your location, they cannot leave messages. Specifically, the FDCPA does not allow debt collectors to leave messages with third parties. This includes your family and friends, anyone other than your spouse.

Additionally, the only information a debt collector may ask for from a third-party is your home address, phone number, workplace, or workplace address. When this happens they must also reveal who they work for, but not their personal name, and only when asked by the third-party.

If they know how to contact you then there is no reason why they should be calling anyone else in your life for this information. They cannot ask that person to pass you a message or, worse, harass them. If they do happen to leave a message, this gives you absolute proof to bring to an FDCPA hearing.

Payment Cannot Be Demanded From Family or Friends

If a debt collector tries to collect your debt from someone else, this is a violation. It is completely illegal for a debt collector to attempt to collect a debt from anyone else other than the person that owes it. Even when it comes to a spouse, unless a spouse has co-signed on the debt, you are the only one responsible.

If you are being asked to pay for your spouse's bill or vice versa, then this is illegal. Oftentimes this happens in the case of separated or ex-spouses which is even more of an issue because you are not liable but may feel that you could be.

Another situation that might arise is if the debt collector does not explicitly state, but simply implies that someone other than yourself is responsible. Although they may not directly as for payment, they may say something like “is there any way you can be of help?” In this case, it may push someone to feel that they are liable for the debt, and this is a direct violation of the FDCPA.

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Any Form of Harassment Validates an FDCPA claim

Whether you are being harassed by a debt collector or it is someone in your life, it violates the FDCPA. This means that any innocent parties such as your parents, best friend, co-worker, or any other friend or family member, are protected under the FDCPA. If this occurs, this person can also file a claim against an abusive or harassing debt collector.

The first step in this situation will be to ask the debt collector to stop calling. If this does not work, then the debt collector will continue to attempt to collect the debt from the third-party. There is generally miscommunication and the debt collector assumes that the third-party is simply lying, but this still does not give right for them to harass or pursue the wrong person for the debt.

Violations of the FDCPA Should Be Brought to Court

In severe violation cases of the FDCPA, a debt collector may continue to harass or abuse someone who does not owe a debt. When this is one of your family or friends it can be increasingly frustrating. The purpose of the debt collector doing this is to put pressure on the person that owes the debt, in hopes that they will call in and make a payment.

Making a payment on an old debt might not only start over the statute of limitations, but it may give away your location as well. If you are being pursued for debt and a debt collector is calling your family, know your rights.

Can debt collectors call your family? Yes. Can debt collectors harass your family or continue to call after being told to stop? No. Understand your rights under the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act and ensure you always bring a case against a debt collector that violates it.

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