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Can You Record a Call with a Debt Collector in Your State?

Sarah Edwards | November 15, 2022

Sarah Edwards
Legal Expert
Sarah Edwards, BS

Sarah Edwards is a professional researcher and writer specializing in legal content. An Emerson College alumna, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from the prestigious Boston institution.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Talking to debt collectors on the phone is like ^^

Summary: You must have a debt collector's consent to record their phone call in California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Washington. SoloSuit can help you beat debt collectors, in and out of court, in all 50 states.

If a debt collector or creditor is hounding you for an unpaid debt, you may feel uncomfortable with their ongoing calls and collection activities.

Usually, collection activities begin with a letter before debt collectors call you at home or work. You may receive daily phone calls from them, pressing you to pay your debt or set up a payment plan.

If the debt collectors use abusive practices to extract money from you, you can file a complaint against them. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) investigate claims against collection agencies.

You may even consider filing a lawsuit. However, you’ll need evidence of the debt collector’s unfair collection practices to support your case. Recording phone calls with the debt collector can help you prove your claim.

Before you decide to record a phone call with a debt collector, it’s critical to understand the law. Either federal or state laws may apply to recording phone calls. In some cases, you can record the call with your own consent, while in others, you may need the permission of the debt collector.

What are the federal laws concerning recording phone calls?

Under federal law 18 U.S. Code § 2511, one person must consent to record a phone call. That means you can record the phone call as long as you are part of the conversation. You can also record the call if a party to the conversation gives their consent to do so.

You cannot record a phone call for criminal reasons or with the intent of committing a crime.

Most states follow federal guidelines for recording phone calls. However, a few states require both parties to consent to record the call. If a state requires both parties to consent to the recording, state law will precede federal law in most cases.

What are the state laws for recording phone calls?

Only certain states require you to obtain consent from a debt collector before recording their call. These include:

If you live in one of these states, you must ask for the debt collector or creditor’s approval before recording the conversation. If the debt collector or creditor’s office is in one of these states and you aren’t, their state law may apply.

Communicating in writing is the preferable alternative if the debt collector does not grant you the authority to record the call.

What are the penalties for recording a debt collector in a state that requires consent from both parties?

In California, individuals who record a conversational phone call without consent from all parties may be subject to criminal penalties and civil damages. A conversational phone call is one where people can assume they’re safe to speak freely without concern about eavesdropping.

Florida law punishes people who record phone calls without the consent of all parties with a misdemeanor or felony charge. Individuals may also be subject to civil damages and fines.

Illinois requires all parties to grant consent before recording a phone call as long as participants can reasonably expect privacy. Individuals who violate the law may face felony charges.

In Maryland, all parties must consent to record a phone call if they can reasonably expect privacy. No one can record a phone call with criminal intent, even if everyone has given consent.

Massachusetts residents cannot record phone calls or in-person conversations without all participants’ knowledge. The law is punishable by felony charges and possible jail time.

Michigan law requires all parties to a phone conversation to grant consent before recording. Individuals who violate the law may be subject to felony charges, including fines and imprisonment.

In Montana, all parties must give their permission to record a phone call or in-person conversation, except in certain circumstances involving public officials. Violators can face fines or jail time.

New Hampshire residents must obtain consent from all parties before recording a phone call. Law enforcement may charge individuals with a felony or misdemeanor if the recording occurs illegally.

In Pennsylvania, it is a felony to record conversations unless all parties give their consent. Violators may be subject to civil fines or damages.

Washington law requires all parties to grant their consent before recording a conversation. An announcement at the beginning of the call can fulfill the state’s requirements. Individuals or entities who do not obtain the proper consent may be subject to civil damages.

What is the punishment for individuals who record phone calls in a state requiring only one-party consent?

If you’re attempting to record a debt collection call in a state where only one-party consent is necessary, it’s generally legal to record the call. However, if the debt collector or creditor is in a state that requires all parties to consent to the recording, you’ll need to abide by its state laws.

In states where only one party must consent, penalties for violations like recording with criminal intent can range from civil damages to criminal charges, including a misdemeanor or felony.

Is it better to record a phone call with a debt collector or stick to written communication?

If you need to communicate with a debt collector to set up a payment plan or work out a settlement, it’s best to record your efforts in writing. That way, you have a document to refer to with proof of the agreement. The debt collector won’t be able to revoke it.

However, if a debt collector is constantly harassing you and not abiding by the debt collection rules, recording them in action can give you the evidence you need to file a complaint with the CFPB or BBB. You can also use the recording as the basis of a civil lawsuit against the collection agency.

Understand your state’s laws before recording a phone call with a debt collector

Before deciding whether to record a phone call with a debt collector, make sure you understand the laws of your state. You don’t want to break any rules that can leave you in hot water.

However, protecting your rights against an abusive debt collector is also critical. You should never accept bad behavior from a collection agency, especially if their actions don’t comply with the law.

Respond to a debt collection lawsuit

If you are being sued by a debt collector, it’s imperative that you respond as quickly as possible. Each state has a deadline to respond to a debt lawsuit, and if you miss yours, you will most likely lose the case automatically when the court orders a default judgment against you.

With a default judgment granted, debt collectors can garnish your wages, freeze your bank account, and even put liens on your property.

You can beat debt collectors in court without having to hire a lawyer. Follow these three steps to respond to your debt collection lawsuit:

  1. Respond to each claim listed in the Complaint document.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File your Answer document with the court, and send a copy to the opposing attorney.

You can draft and file an Answer in all 50 states with SoloSuit.

Check out this video to learn more about these three steps:

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