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Is it Legal for Debt Collectors to Call Family Members?

Hannah Locklear | December 07, 2023

Summary: According to §805(b) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, it is illegal for debt collectors to call your family members to discuss your debt. Being in debt is stressful. And you can feel even worse when your family finds out about your financial situation. Knowing your rights will help you protect yourself from illegal and harmful debt collection practices.

Being in debt is not a fun process. When the debt collector starts calling, it can be even worse. Not only are debt collection calls annoying, but they can be stressful and embarrassing.

Although debt collectors are not legally allowed to call your family directly, they may accidentally make contact. If your family members regularly answer your phone for you, or if you’ve used an old family number in the past, collectors may speak to one of your family members. Despite this, if a debt collector is giving out too much information about your debt, they are violating the law.

Debt collectors might contact your family—here’s how

If a debt collector has attempted to get a hold of you unsuccessfully, then the next step may be to use other methods. These methods can include contacting your family members in hopes to contact you.

Because so much information exists on the internet, it isn't difficult to contact your family members. Similar to how they locate your information, they will do the same to find that of your relatives. Especially if you once shared an address, such as that of your parents, partner, or siblings.

That being said, debt collectors are notorious for going to extreme lengths to contact consumers, like you, about their debts. They might even go as far as adding and messaging you on social media to discuss your debt. With that in mind, you can imagine how easy it would be for them to track down your family members at this point.

Despite their methods of finding your family’s contact information, debt collectors are not allowed to discuss your debt with anyone but you and a few other specified individuals.

Fight off debt collectors with SoloSuit.

Is it legal for a debt collector to contact your family?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) has strict rules regarding what debt collectors are allowed to do as far as communication. Although it is not against the law for debt collectors to contact your family members, there are limits on what they can say.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, §805(b) states:

Communication with third parties
Except as provided in section 1692b of this title, without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector, or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as reasonably necessary to effectuate a postjudgment judicial remedy, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.”

In other words, it is illegal for debt collectors to call your family members in order to discuss the collection of your debt. In fact, the following are the only people that debt collectors can contact regarding your debt:

  • You
  • Your attorney
  • The consumer reporting agencies
  • The original creditor of your debt (i.e. your credit card company, lender, etc.)
  • The original creditor’s attorney
  • The debt collector’s attorney

It is good to note that debt collectors are only legally allowed to contact your relatives to locate you but not to collect money for your debt.

Typically, debt collectors are allowed to contact each family member, but only once. The only case where they may do so again is if they believe the information given to them was false. That being said, they cannot disclose why they are trying to reach your or any information about your debt.

Let's take a look at an example.

Example: Jerry is being sued by LVNV Funding for an old credit card debt in Texas. He uses SoloSuit to respond to the lawsuit. In his Answer document, Jerry explains that the statute of limitations on credit card debt is only four years, and it's been more than five years since he was active on the debt account in question. Jerry also has proof that LVNV debt collectors spoke to his parents about his debt, calling them at an old phone number they had on file for Jerry. Since this is violation of the FDCPA, Jerry files a counterclaim against LVNV Funding. They dismiss the original case, and the court orders that they compensate Jerry for the FDCPA violations by paying all court costs and other damages owed.

There are legal limits on debt discussions

When it comes to discussing debt, there are only a few situations in which is it legal to discuss your debt with a family member:

  • Your spouse
  • Your parents if you are under 18
  • If you have a guardian or executor

If you find out that a debt collector has shared any details of your debt with anyone else in your life, relative or not, then you will have the opportunity to sue them.

There are also many other limits on the information that can be divulged. This includes that debt collectors cannot disclose that they are working for a collection agency unless specifically asked.

Why would a debt collector call my family?

There are a variety of reasons why a debt collector might call your family. But the most common reason is that they have not been able to get in touch with you. Sometimes a debt collector may believe that contacting your family will push you to pay off the debt. Most people do not want their family or friends to know about their financial struggles. So, this sometimes works as a persuasion tactic.

How to stop debt collectors from calling your family

The easiest way to stop a collector from calling your family is to pay them or sue them. If you have proof that the debt collector has called your family to discuss your debt, they have violated the FDCPA and you may be eligible for up to $1,000 per violation.

Otherwise, you can request that the debt collector stop contacting you regarding the debt. §805(c) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states:

"Ceasing communication
If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except --

(1) to advise the consumer that the debt collector's further efforts are being terminated;
(2) to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or
(3) where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy.”

If you’ve explicitly requested to cease all communications with you, the debt collector must stop calling both you and your family. At this point, they can only contact you to notify you that 1) they are stopping collection efforts, or 2) they are going to sue you for the debt.

A great way to formally request debt collectors to cease communications with you is by sending a cease and desist letter. If this does not work, you might consider speaking with an attorney. You can choose to file a lawsuit if they have violated your rights and explore other legal options.

Respond to a debt lawsuit

If you’ve been sued by a debt collector, you must respond to the lawsuit before your state’s deadline or risk losing by default. With a default judgment, debt collectors can garnish your wages or seize your property.

Don’t let this happen to you. Respond to your debt collection lawsuit with a written Answer. Follow these three steps:

  1. Respond to each claim made against you.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File the Answer in court, and send a copy to the opposing attorney.

You can use SoloSuit to draft your own Answer, have an attorney review it, and get it filed in all 50 states.

Check out this video to learn more about these steps:

If you have proof that the debt collector has violated the FDCPA in their efforts to get you to pay off the debt, you might also consider filing a counterclaim. According to the FDCPA, you could be eligible for up to $1,000 per FDCPA violation, plus court costs, the cost of any other damages, and more.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

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"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James

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