Clients often call me to complain about a debt collector calling their relatives in regard to their debt. “Isn’t it illegal to talk to my relatives about my debt”, the client will ask. After 3 years of law school and 20 years of practice, I can give them this definitive answer: It depends. Surprisingly, it is not always illegal to contact a third party about your debt.
The legality of contacting relatives, neighbors, employers and friends depends on:
1) Who was contacted
2) What was said
The law that applies here is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA does permit contact with certain third parties to say certain things. In this blog I will deal with one situation and address others in future blogs.
The most basic answer is that a debt collector may contact relatives, etc. to obtain location information, and only location information. They may not indicate that it is about a debt, that you owe a debt or that a debt even exists. So, depending on what is said, it may be perfectly legal to contact a relative about your debt.
Next time we will discuss what relatives can be told more information and what can be said to your employer.