Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Can You Record Phone Calls From Debt Collectors?

While verbal harassment and abuse by debt collectors over the phone is strictly against the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, illegal telephone conduct is one of the most common complaints debtors express. Part of what makes abusive phone calls from debt collectors so common is the fact that they can be extremely challenging to prove in court. While you have the right to sue debt collectors for verbal harassment, doing so almost always results in a he said/she said scenario. You claim the collector was abusive and the collection agency claims otherwise. One way around this is recording each telephone call you receive from debt collectors.  

You can record collection calls

Laws Regarding Recording Phone Conversations

Each state has laws in place concerning recording telephone conversations. States are either "one-party" or "two-party" states. In a one-party state, only one person has to agree to the conversation being recorded for it to legally take place. In a two-party state, both parties must aware of, and consent to, the conversation being recorded. 

Recording Debt Collectors

Once upon a time individuals living in one-party states could record telephone calls as they wished without disclosing the fact that they were doing so. With a rise in consumers secretly recording bill collectors in the hopes of gaining ammunition to use against the collection agency in court, collection agencies started fighting back with lawsuits of their own.

If the collection agency is located in two-party state, debt collectors enjoy the protection of their own state's laws. Thus, you could record a collection call without notifying the debt collector you were doing so and file a lawsuit against the collection agency for harassment only to have the company respond with a lawsuit of its own for recording a bill collector on the telephone without his or her knowledge. 

Recording without permission could land you in court.

Notify Bill Collectors That You Are Recording the Call

In order to avoid the potential legal ramifications of recording a collection call without the debt collector's permission, inform the debt collector as soon as you answer the phone that the call is being recorded and that if the debt collector does not consent to being recorded, he or she is free to end the call. 
Notifying the collector that you are recording and giving him or her the option to hang up the phone forces the collector to either terminate the call or consent to the recording. 

Expect the debt collector to become irritated, refuse to end the call and demand that you immediately stop recording the conversation. Do not turn off the tape. Simply repeat to the collector that the call is being recorded and he is free to hang up if he doesn't consent. 

At this point, the collector will probably threaten to sue you for recording the call and try to steer the conversation toward you unpaid debt. Don't allow this to happen. Make it very clear to the debt collector that you need him to either verbally consent to being recorded or end the call. Be civil yet firm. A debt collector has no incentive to outright reject being recorded unless he plans to use abusive collection tactics prohibited by the FDCPA. Do not allow yourself to become a victim. 

Recording Phone Conversations Forces Collectors to Follow the Law

Few debt collectors would knowingly violate the FDCPA if they knew that debtors' were recording their conversations. Thus, by notifying a bill collector that you are recording you force him to treat you civilly and with respect over the telephone lest he risk losing his job when you file a lawsuit against the company for FDCPA violations he committed during your conversation.

Because recording calls forces collectors to treat debtors with respect, claiming you're recording a call when you aren't can be beneficial. Especially if you do not intend to go through the trouble of suing a collection agency. 


  1. If the collectors state that the call "may be recorded for quality assurance purposes" etc., is that consent for you to record?

  2. That depends on your state laws. If you live in a "one-party notice" state then yes, you can record if the collection agency is recording. If you live in a "two-party notice" state, you must notify the collector that you intend to record the call. The collector can then either acknowledge and accept your right to record or hang up the phone.

    1. Is it possible to use the recorded conversation made by the debt collections in court. Is possible to get a hold of the tapes. Can they deny me access to the recorded conversation... and if so can I use the legal system to get a hold of the tapes.

    2. Andy,

      If they plan to use the tapes in court to nail you then you *should* have equal access to them if your attorney requests them during the discovery period. Don't quote me on that though. If the debt collector doesn't plan to use tapes in court you may be able to request them, but its a good bet that the collection agency will conveniently "lose" the tapes when you make your request. Talk to a licensed attorney in your state to be certain of your rights during the discovery portion of a lawsuit.

  3. I don't think your response answers the question posed above.

    If the debtor is already warned that the call will be recorded by the collector, then the collector is obviously aware that the call is being recorded, albeit only for the collector's purposes.

    In other words, if I call a random person, tell him I'm going to record the conversation, he gives consent but begins to record the conversation separately, is this allowed since I'm already recording it myself?

    1. Every state's specific laws on this differ. In most states, however, you'll have to get consent even if you're already being recorded.

  4. Debt collection need to apply etiquette in collecting debts. Not just keep bugging the crap out of them about it and assume that they will get tired of it and just pay you.