Owing a collection agency is stressful enough. Having to share that fact with your loved ones is infinitely worse. Your debt, and whether or not you pay it, is your own business.
In the interests of collecting a debt, however, bill collectors may threaten to call your family members and inform them of your situation. Perhaps the threat comes veiled in kindness as a "let me take care of this for you" option. More than likely it comes as part of a sneering, vicious crusade to frighten you into making a payment – especially if the statute of limitations has already expired on the debt. Either way, its illegal.
Debt Collectors Can't Tell Your Family About Your Debt
A debt collector cannot legally share any details about your debt with your family members. Technically, collection agencies can call your friends and loved ones, but only in an effort to locate you. The company clearly already knows how to get in touch with you if a collection agent threatens to call your family. Ironically, this bars the company from ever legally doing so.
Collection Agency Contact With Family Members
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act expressly states that, in the event a collection agency cannot locate a debtor, the collection agency may contact friends, family and the debtor's employer in an effort to locate him or her. When doing so, however, debt collectors must take the utmost care not to give out any information that would lead the individual to believe that the person they are looking for owes a debt.
The FDCPA goes so far as to bar collection agencies from putting their company name on any written communication with the debtor if the company name reflects the fact that the organization is responsible for collecting unpaid debts. Federal law takes your privacy very seriously...even if the bill collectors don't.
While a bill collector can technically call your family members, it can only do so once unless the company has clear reason to believe that the individual is hiding information. Here's the tricky part: the debt collector can only disclose his place of employment if your loved one insists that he do so in order to provide the information required to locate you. A bill collector cannot disclose the reason for his call.
Telling Your Family About Your Debt is Illegal
Let's face it, when you're already knee deep in debt, the last thing you need is your parents giving you a lecture as if you were an irresponsible teenager. And do you really want your sister having that information to hold over your head or disclose to everyone you know when she has a bit too much to drink next Christmas? No.
|You don't need a lecture about debt and responsibility.|
So when a debt collector threatens to call your family and tell them about your debt, even if that threat is disguised as a kind offer, be sure to inform the collector that doing so would be against federal law and you have every intention of exercising your right to legal recourse.
It's Illegal for Debt Collectors to Threaten to Call Your Family
If you really want to play hardball, try this on for size: Not only is it illegal to actually call your family members and tell them about your debt, its also illegal for a bill collector to threaten to do so. Debt collectors can only threaten to take action that they actually have the legal right to take. Since they don't have the legal right to tell your family anything about you or your debt, they can't legally threaten to make the call.
So if you're really feeling froggy and a frustrated collection agent threatens to give Mom and Dad a call, skip down to your local courthouse the next morning and start filing the paperwork for an FDCPA lawsuit. You have that right.