Closed Rule

Consumer Debt Collection Practices (ANPRM)


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) might propose new federal rules on how creditors and debt collectors can act to get consumers to pay overdue credit card, medical, student loan, auto or other loans. This decision matters to you if you

  • had an experience with debt collection (good or bad)
  • counsel consumers with overdue debts
  • have a business where you do your own account collection or
  • work in the debt collection industry

Here, you can learn what CFPB is thinking and what it needs to know. You can share information and experiences and discuss ideas with others. At the end of the discussion, CFPB will get a detailed summary and your input will help it decide what to do next. (This phase is for gathering information and brainstorming. The next phase would be where CFPB comes up with specific proposals and asks people to comment again before it decides whether to adopt those proposals as new regulations.)

Consumers and business both have a stake in effective, responsible debt collection practices. Don't be a bystander. Help CFPB make the right decisions about new consumer debt collection regulations. Share what you know and encourage family, friends and coworkers to do the same.

Final Discussion Summary Talking to other people about the consumer’s debt

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1|Trying to locate the consumer

Final Summary of Discussion

[NOTE that comments reported in this section may have originally been made under another subtopic. Similarly, comments originally made on this subtopic may be reported in another, more relevant section. Information in parentheses comes from commenter response to interest survey; the “servicemember” designation may apply to the commenter or someone in their family. Numbers in parentheses for industry-perspective commenters refer to number of people involved in debt collection in the firm.]

Some of the most vehement comments in this and other posts came from consumers who were being contacted by collectors because of debts owed by other people – either family members or people who have the same (often, common) name or a reassigned phone number. Several of these commenters identified themselves as 62 years old or older. Note that some commenters have suggestions for possible steps to help people in their situation and/or discourage this behavior by collectors:

“I am a family member of a consumer who owes a debt. Collectors constantly call me about this family member. Even after I tell them that I will not get involved in the situation, they continue to call me. Collectors should be required to stop contact with family members with a simple verbal request from the family member.”

“I agree. I have been harassed for years (after getting a new cell phone number) from debt collectors calling for someone else. I presume it is the person who had my phone number before me. No matter how many times I tell them that they have the wrong number, they just keep calling over and over.”

“I … would like to know how to make them stop calling me for my deadbeat kid’s debt. I tell them either I will pass on the info or that I have no contact info for them. Only one collector took me off their list. I am still being harassed by 10 others. I am being forced to drop my land line which I have had for 40 years to get away from them. It really bugs me because I have a near perfect score of 797.”

“Yes. I fell onto hard times during a divorce and found out a few years ago that my dad (whom I haven't lived with for 20+ years) receives so many debt collection calls for me every day he quit answering his home phone. This is unacceptable. We cannot even figure out how they got his phone number because I never lived at that address at any point while I had those credit cards and he never co-signed any loans or credit cards with me. The only connection we can come up with is that my stepmom co-signed a short term furniture loan for me 20 years ago when I was just out of college and that maybe somehow her name is tied to my credit report in some way--although I've never seen it on my credit reports. This is now 6 years after I went through my divorce and he told me a few months ago he still gets several calls per week for me from debt collectors. Personally, I don't think they should be allowed to call ANY number for more than 3 months without successful contact with the debtor. Clearly, they don't have proof they've got the right number and all they're doing by calling the same unverified number for 6 years is harassing an innocent party. [This same commenter later continued:] “I guess I should also have clarified in my previous comment that I have made attempts to deal with creditors directly if I know who they are and who they claim to be representing but my personal perception is they PREFER to continue contacting 3rd parties because they hope I'll just pay them to avoid the public humiliation.”

Another consumer responded: “Your suggestion ‘I don't think they should be allowed to call ANY number for more than 3 months without successful contact with the debtor’ is spot on! And I can't believe that no one else has ever suggested this before. 3 months (or whatever an appropriate time limit is) would reduce the constant harassment that I and many other innocent parties receive. This morning I received an illegal phone call from a collector at 6:17 AM with a spoofed phone number for a person that I have never known and I have told these collectors this several times already. They have the wrong number. And I am tired of this. The CFPB should absolutely implement a rule that forces unsuccessful contact to 3 months.” (contacted by collectors looking for someone s/he doesn’t know)

“I have a common last name, and for about three years I was bombarded with collection calls for other individuals with my last name and first initial. I finally changed my phone listing from my initials to my nickname and have had only collection call since I changed my phone listing. I am an elderly retiree. I have no car loan or mortgage. I pay all my bills on time, and I don't carry balances on my credit cards. No debt collector has ever admitted to me that they got my number out of the phone, but that's what they're doing. I would like to see every debt collector tell the individual they are calling the source of their information. I now have a long list of people with debts in collection. Since I'm not a debt collector, I don't believe that I have a legal obligation not to reveal their names. I do, however, believe that I have a moral obligation not to do so. Please find a way to keep debt collectors from harassing innocent people.” (62 or older)

[The moderator asked this commenter whether some collectors responded to their error in ways the commenter felt were more appropriate. S/he responded]: “I had one debt collector in particular who called me a liar when I told him I wasn't the person he was looking for. This was after he violated the FDCPA by calling me at 7:00 on a Saturday morning. I called them back immediately and spoke with a supervisor who said she'd take me off their hit list. I asked her if she got my number out of the phone book. She claimed that they had not. A few months later, they started in on me again. Obviously they still considered me a liar. I sent them a cease-communication letter with a copy to my state's Attorney General, who has been wonderful in all this. At that point, I started sending out letters every time I received a collection call, and, other than the one, none ever called me again. But, honestly, why should I have to put up with this sort of thing? At one point I was receiving daily calls from one collector or another. I can name names, and I have a thick file folder full of copies of my letters and responses to my Attorney General. It has been a wild ride, and I sure hope it's over. I'm approaching the one-year anniversary of my most recent collection call. I just wish they wouldn't use the phone book as their primary research tool.”

This response prompted another commenter to add to his/her story: “Only one out of my numerous collectors for my kids took me off their lists after I told them my son hasn't lived with me for over 20 years. I also stated he owes me money also. My other 10 collectors keep calling but I quit answering because I recognize their phone numbers.”

“I'm in the same situation--get calls about numerous people with my last name and one or the other of my two initials. None of the people being sought are even related to me, as far as I know, much less living with me. I would like to be able to make an official declaration that I have no delinquent debt and that I do not live with anyone who does. I'd be willing to renew the declaration once a year in order to stop receiving these calls that are nothing more than fishing expeditions.” (victim of ID theft; 62 or older) When asked by the moderator whether s/he had any ideas for new rules about when a collector can reasonably believe the original reply was incorrect or incomplete, this commenter replied: “Collectors are not calling me repeatedly because they don't believe me. They are calling me repeatedly because there are so many people with the same last name as me and one of my initials. It is just as annoying to get frequent calls about different individuals as it is to get frequent calls about the same individual.”

“Someone who lived at my address, more than 30 years ago had a debt with Household Finance. We get letters that we return ‘Addressee Unknown’ and phone calls. Finally I called one number back and told them that the person they looked for wasn't there. That law firm stopped robo-calling but a few months later a new one started up. Records should convey when debts are sold from collection agency to collection agency. Why should I have to go through all that a second time? I also think debt collectors should be prohibited from using the address to get a phone number after 2 years. This debt was more than 30 years old -- why do they think anyone who knew here would still live there? I googled the woman's name. I found out on the first search that she lives about 10 miles from here. If I can find her that easily why can't a debt collector, who stands to gain something, be bothered to do a little research?”

“I have been getting calls for a Hispanic gentleman with the same phone number as me in a different area code for years. Every time I tell them that I have no clue who he is and that I would like them to stop calling my number they assure me that they will get it fixed but then I hear from them again a few weeks later.”

“I have had my cell phone number for 4 1/2 years; the previous owner of my number had a student loan debt....I cannot get collection agencies to stop calling me! Every time I emphatically tell them I'm not the person in question and the person dutifully ‘takes me off the list’. But in another few months I hear from them (or probably a collector who bought the list) all over again. How can I get them to stop??? I'm familiar with the FDCPA, but I don't think it currently provides a practical solution for me. Is there a cell-phone Do Not Call list?” (62 or older)

“I too am a family member of a consumer who claims to have paid his debt of 12 - 15 years ago, but my husband and I receive two or three calls a day asking for him to call various agencies about a ‘matter’ with a case #. In one instance they said they would be at the door in one hour. This family member has not lived here for about 16 years. Should I answer the phone instead of letting it go to voicemail. Then should I request that they no longer call? They should not be allowed to call anyone other than the debtor who nowadays can be found on the internet!!!” (62 or older)

“About a month after my husband left the military and before we even moved into a new place, a creditor called his parents and told them he was in the military with my husband and had papers that hadn't been signed so he had to get in touch with him. My mother-in-law knew we didn't have a phone yet, so because she thought it was something urgent she gave him our friend’s number. That collector called the friends number told the friend he was collecting a debt and my husband (not knowing what was told or how he got the number) let the collector know we had just moved and the payment was an oversight. Of course, the collector was trying very hard to get new address, phone, employer, etc but we did not have that yet. The bill was paid, yet they continued to call his parents and the friend after they had new contact info for him. Keep in mind, this was over a late $10 payment. I understand they are trying to collect a debt but doing so by false statements and telling others of the debt should never be allowed. My question is: if a collector cannot say a consumer owes a debt, then how is they messages saying ‘this message is an attempt to collect a debt’? Shouldn't they just be allowed to leave a name and contact number?”

“Someone keeps calling for a person named Sean, who does not live here and I don't know anyone by that name. I tell them they have the wrong number, but they continue to call. They sometimes leave canned messages on my answering machine. I realize some debtors pretend not to be at the number being called, but these collectors need to verify the information so they don't keep calling the wrong number. I don't know if the debtor gave the wrong number intentionally, or this number was used by someone else before I got it. It is extremely irritating. And even though the callers do not say they are debt collectors, it is obvious.”

“I received 13 robocalls/voicemails over the span of 2 months for an individual I never even heard of.”

“I have been called by a bill collector and asked for somebody who I had no knowledge of, we'll say ‘Joe Smith’. I say ‘Joe Smith doesn't live here. In fact, I have never heard of Joe Smith’. The caller states: ‘Well, do you have Joe's current phone number?’ I say ‘I repeat, I don't know a Joe Smith’. The collection agency caller states ‘I'm sorry I am not allowed to remove this number from our database unless a new number replaces it.’ Oh, come on now, seriously?”

“My homeless brother in San Diego was taken to the hospital by a local ambulance service. On the way, they ask for a person to contact, with an address or phone number. Now the collection agency is calling MY phone number. They are saying I owe money to this ambulance service. They know it is a lie, but they will still keep trying to collect on this debt, and harassing me in the process.”

“As a bankruptcy lawyer, I frequently deal with clients or are harassed by debt collectors calling family or neighbors. The collectors will claim they are acquiring location information, but this is frequently the case where the consumer has been at the same location for years. I hope the rules will narrow the "location information" exception so that it can only be used where there is really doubt about the consumer's location.”

“My daughter has both private and federal loans through Sallie Mae. They call her cell phone and my cell phone daily, at least 10 times a day. They called me, by the way, they do not have her permission to speak with me, and tell me to stop paying her federal loans because they can be deferred and pay the private loans. My daughter owes 176000.00 in private loans and can't afford to make the payments that they are asking for. They called her employer requesting information on her. She sent a letter and requested that they only contact her through email and US mail. When they called me I asked them if they received this and they said yes but they need to be able to talk to someone. Well, they don't have my number as a contact number. I told them and they still call my cell phone daily. My daughter can barely pay the bills she has now. I help her pay her private loans. I am not on any of her loans. This harassment needs to stop!”

“Periodically (probably when the debt has been sold) I receive harassing phone calls from collection companies regarding a believed debt that my nephew owes. I send him Christmas cards annually, see him at family gatherings every 5 years or so, and stopped contacting him about this harassment after he assured me it had already been taken care of when I received my first call. These calls happen about once a year for a couple weeks at a time.” (62 or older)

“I was a reference for an ex-boyfriend on a student loan application. One of the FDCPA rules is that the reference can only be contacted once by a creditor. Well, each time the account is sold to a new collection agency, they call me again, even though I tell them I have no idea where he is. I think creditors skirt the FDCPA regulations in a manner that harasses consumers. For any given account, the reference should only be able to be called a set amount of times--such as the first three collection agencies to purchase the debt from the original creditor. Here it is, almost 9 years later, and I am still getting calls for a person who is now a stranger to me. Since it is a student loan, it could go on forever. There is no statute of limitations for government guaranteed debt that I am aware of.”

“I do not have any debt. I was given a telephone number by Verizon that was previously owned by a person who had not paid her bills. Debt collectors have been calling me for 10 years now and many have been threatening and intimidating. One collector told me he had all my personal information and was going to ruin my life!!!"

"A neighbor who has since moved away has had her debts turned over to collection agencies. We receive repeated calls trying to get contact information, even though we request to be taken off their list. An unfortunate situation but we don't know the whereabouts of the individual and shouldn't be subjected to this sort of harassment."

"Within the past six months, a debt collector revealed my full social security number, full amount of alleged debt, and other personal information to a family member who only gave them my month and day of birth. I did not provide this family member's contact information to the debt collector. The debt collector never identified to whom I owed the debt."

Several commenters stated their belief that collectors continued to call in order to get the family member or other third party to pay the debt to stop the harassment of frequent calls.

The conflicting interests in this area were underscored by a thoughtful interchange between an industry-perspective commenter (debt collector; <20) and the commenter above who had identified him/herself as an elderly retiree (Note the suggestion for a possible remedy):

(commenter 1) “Ask these questions each time you read a comment: Would you want to be paid for a debt owed to you? Do you believe someone who agrees to pay a debt should be held accountable for the debt? Keep in mind that there are businesses or entities that allow people to receive credit for things they do not have money for at the moment. The business or entity, in good faith, extends credit to the consumer with the intent to receive payment at a later date. The business or entity was provided contact information by the consumer that it will use to collect or pass along to a collection agency to use to collect. The consumer can list whatever numbers or information they want and the business or entity must consider it to be truthful. Often the only way to determine if the information is accurate is to make a phone call. I’ve received these calls myself. Depending on how much debt and how many business or entities have extended credit may be a factor on how often third parties are contacted. I do believe that collection agencies that violate the law are not good for anyone. However, I pay my bills and would expect that everyone should be responsible for paying their bills. Much of the discussion has nothing to do with whether the bill is owed but how the contact was made. Have you been harmed by a phone call? No Has the business or entity been harmed by the debt not being paid? Yes Have those of us that due pay our bills been harmed by the outstanding debt? Yes”

(commenter 2) “I have been a frequent target of debt collectors and their phone calls for several years. The reason, clearly, is because I have a common last name. I do not have any debts. First, once a debt collector starts calling me, it is extremely difficult to get rid of them. One outfit called me a liar and kept calling. Another went after me for two different people. Second, yes, a barrage of collection calls can be harmful. Dealing with debt collectors on a daily basis has taken its toll on my physical and mental health. (I'm an old lady.) It has also made me paranoid about my own finances.”

(commenter 1) “I understand your concern and desire to stop the calls that are not for you. No one should be spoken to with disrespect. Period. I dislike the fact that there isn’t a clearinghouse of sorts for phone numbers that would help eliminate the needless calls. Of course how would you stop a responsible party from adding their number to the NOT responsible list? It is also unproductive for collection calls to be made to wrong party consumers. There isn’t a benefit to anyone to spend time making these calls. There are many rules and regulations to keep collection agencies honest and legal. And there are consequences if they don’t. Do you know of any consequences to someone who gives out a bad phone number, address or even a name? I think we should all ban together to restore integrity in the world of credit and stop making excuses for people who want to get out of paying.”

What should be the rule? A few commenters made specific suggestions:

“I can understand 1 call. But that’s it! And they better not talk about my debt. But I can see them wanting to make sure they have the right number by verifying with a relative or neighbor. Especially with that ridiculous FOTI thing they say on my voicemail.” (consumer; victim of ID theft; servicemember) Another commenter responded: “Potential for abuse. Here comes your neighbor knocking telling you he's getting calls looking for you. The same with family members makes holiday gatherings fun since it's clear it's a debt collector doing some location acquisition.” (consumer)

“I think the ‘unless’ part of the rule about contacting a person more than once should be scrapped. They should not be allowed to contact anyone (other than the debtor him/herself) more than once. If the person (usually the innocent family member) they contact to try to locate the debtor is willing to give out contact info, fine. If not, whether they have it or not is beside the point. They should not be forced in the middle. It is not their debt, or in any way their responsibility. And when collectors claim they can't give their name or a return phone number to be passed on because of privacy reasons, how can they expect someone else to share personal contact info with a stranger?” (consumer; someone in family has auto debt in collection)

“Definitely abuse with this, including calling other people when they have the alleged debtor's number to begin with [and] not removing people from the do not call list when they ask to not call again. [Collectors should] have a toll free number provided up front where the number is removed from calls without further questions.” (consumer)

Collectors constantly abuse laws concerning phone contacts, and there is no enforcement for violators. Collectors should be limited by law to contacts by mail. These people are bottom-feeders who ignore the law. Cut them off from phone contacts altogether. They have proven again and again over decades that they are scofflaws. No phone contacts. Period.” (consumer; debt collection process for debts of deceased person; 62 or older)

“Knowingly calling third parties should be prohibited across the board. It is no one else's business what goes on between creditors and their debtors. Calls to a person's boss or family can cause further financial and domestic problems, neither of which will help with getting the debt paid.” (consumer)

“I too have received calls from collectors who are on fishing expeditions, looking for a person who owes money. THE PROBLEM IS, EVEN AFTER BEING INFORMED THAT THE PERSON THEY ARE LOOKING FOR CANNOT BE REACHED AT MY PHONE NUMER AND TO PUT ME ON THEIR DO NOT CALL LIST - THEY STILL CALL. I have contacted local law enforcement, state attorney general and federal levels and been informed that if I owed money, I can have the debt collector contact me in writing only, but if I don't owe money, I have no protection because the debt collector has a right to do business. Unless the debt collector has more than a last name that matches the person's who owes the debt, they should be allowed to attempt to contact that phone number ONLY until they are told that that person cannot be reached at that phone number. They should need to have more than a last name for any further phone calls. They should also have to tell the person they insist on calling why they believe they can find the person who owes the money there. Additionally, they should also be required to inform the consumer of how to file a complaint if the calls continue. There should be a penalty for harassing people who don't owe money. When you don't owe money, getting phone calls early in the morning or late at night twice a week is harassment (the more abusive ones robo call several times a day and hang up when an answering machine picks up). Additionally, the means of protecting yourself from harassment should not require any financial burden to the consumer. (I was told I could file a lawsuit in the case of one extremely abusive collector - excuse me, I should have the expense of a lawsuit - all because some minimum wage call center employees refuse to believe that the person they're looking for can't be reached at my phone number?"(consumer who does not owe money and has a common last name)

One of the most innovative ideas came from a consumer commenter who recounted his mother’s experience:

“I have a collection story about my 90 year old mother in law. One day she receives a notice from a collection agency. My mother in law is listed in the phone book, and her name is similar to the supposed debtor although they live in different parts of the state. .. We respond that they have the wrong person and sent it certified. They receive our response, but do not respond. She continues to get notices and an occasional phone call. While you might say, just disregard them, this is incredibly stressful to my 90 year old mother in law. I would like to propose my own solution to the problem and it is self-funding. (1) The consumer disputes with the collection agency via certified mail. (2) If the collection agency doesn't formally cease collections and write a letter acknowledging this within a period of time, the consumer can pay a filing fee ($50-75) and appeal to the CPFB. (3) If the collection agency is found at fault, they $50-$75 fee is refunded to the consumer and the fee plus a penalty will be assessed the collection agency. Failure to pay the fines will result in the collection agency losing their license. Bottom line: there's need to be some "teeth" in any rules.”

When another consumer objected: “Why should the consumer pay a filing fee at all if the collector is at fault? That could be a hardship on many people. The collection agencies need to follow the rules of doing their validation correctly, and this would not be an issue,” the original commenter responded: “I agree that of course an ideal situation would be for consumers not to pay. But let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I was proposing some viable method that would result in an ability of a consumer to have a hearing. Hearings cost money and ultimately the collector would be assessed.”

One consumer addressed the issue of the collector resuming calls based on a “reasonable belief”:

“I disagree with that entirely. First of all, I'm not aware of any law that compels a 3rd party to provide current contact information for a debtor, so even if they do know where that debtor is, they don't deserve to be harassed daily for months or years as punishment for not offering up that information. Many people don't want to be involved and no law that I know of says they have to if they aren't a party to the debt. Secondly, there is no clear and concise way I know of that a creditor can prove what was a reasonable belief. That this person is a parent of the debtor??? My in-laws have no idea how to reach my sister-in-law because she wants it that way. They haven't spoken in 3 years and I don't see that changing. You can't assume that certain relatives MUST know where a debtor is.”

2|Contacting a consumer's spouse

Final Summary of Discussion

[NOTE that comments reported in this section may have originally been made under another subtopic. Similarly, comments originally made on this subtopic may be reported in another, more relevant section. Information in parentheses comes from commenter response to interest survey; the “servicemember” designation may apply to the commenter or someone in their family. Numbers in parentheses for industry-perspective commenters refer to number of people involved in debt collection in the firm.]

Five consumers wrote about spouses or ex-spouses:

“This kind of thing is likely determined by family court law in the jurisdiction where the debtor lives. Community property law, divorce or separation agreements and issues of domestic violence laws all come into play in these kinds of circumstances.”

“If the consumer requests you do not call someone, do not call. This also leads into collector games, such as calling mother/father, brother, sister with same last name saying you thought it was their spouse and you were calling about an account.”

“I don’t mind the spouse. I mean she’s my wife so I don’t see why not. But I don’t agree with girlfriends or boyfriends for those who don’t have a spouse. Spouse is okay.” (victim of ID theft; servicemember)

“My student loan company is giving me a ton of grief about allowing my husband to contact them regarding my student loan debt. I've filled out the same form about four times that is supposed to allow him to talk to them on my behalf but any time they decide that they don't like dealing with him, they pull his authorization (sometimes mid-call) and refuse to talk to him about it. He is never rude with them, he just doesn't put up with the run around my loan company gives me. We never hear the same thing twice from them. Issues that are supposed to be taken care of rarely are and we are constantly told one thing by one rep and something completely different by the next. Is there a way to make it simpler to allow spouses to deal with debt on your behalf and to keep companies from removing that approval on a whim.”

“I would like something that addresses the amount of times a debt collector can contact someone other than the debtor. My husband's ex-wife has several debts and we are sometimes contacted several times a day and often at night to find out if we are in contact with her (they have been divorced 36 years).”

3|After the consumer dies

Final Summary of Discussion

[NOTE that comments reported in this section may have originally been made under another subtopic. Similarly, comments originally made on this subtopic may be reported in another, more relevant section. Information in parentheses comes from commenter response to interest survey; the “servicemember” designation may apply to the commenter or someone in their family. Numbers in parentheses for industry-perspective commenters refer to number of people involved in debt collection in the firm.]

Only a few comments were made on this question, and most debated what the law of spousal liability ought to be:

“If surviving spouses signed or agreed to a contract or extension of credit then they are obligated to repay in my opinion. Also, certain states that have community property laws may require a spouse to repay a debt even though they did not sign the contract. I believe the executor or administrator should investigate whether any debt was disputed or possibly fraud. To start they should obtain a credit report for starters regardless whether collectors disclose either way. If a collector knows a service member passed away, then the spouse, executor, administrator should not be contacted and the account closed law or no law as I have seen this type of issue arise over the years and have seen and approved accounts closed in the event a service member passed away.” (debt collector; <20)

“I agree with the [current] FDCPA [approach].” (consumer; victim of ID theft; servicemember)

“A marital spouse is no longer a marital spouse when either martial partner dies. To death do us part. The end is death. A spouse doesn't remarry while still married, but unmarried people will remarry. A divorced spouse or a widowed spouse, may become the spouse of another once remarried. The term spouse, in my opinion, relates to a marriage. Once the marriage is over, the ‘spouse’ is no longer a ‘spouse.’" (consumer; being contacted about someone s/he doesn’t know)

One comment involved a deceased child:

“My deceased daughter(she passed 2 years ago) had some debt. We continue to receive calls from debt collectors even after we have asked them not to call us anymore. My wife has filed complaints with the Oregon State Justice dept. to complain about the harassment. Why can't these collectors do their research on the debtor, before they harass the parents!!” (consumer; in collection for debt of deceased; 62 or older)

4|Special issues for servicemembers

Final Summary of Discussion

[NOTE that comments reported in this section may have originally been made under another subtopic. Similarly, comments originally made on this subtopic may be reported in another, more relevant section. Information in parentheses comes from commenter response to interest survey; the “servicemember” designation may apply to the commenter or someone in their family. Numbers in parentheses for industry-perspective commenters refer to number of people involved in debt collection in the firm.]

Although several users indicated that they or a family member were a current or former servicemember, this topic was addressed by only a single commenter:

“I remember stories where the C.O. or Sgt Major would call people to the office because they got a call from a business which strong-arms the junior troop into paying even if the bill isn't correct/bad quality just to avoid further embarrassment. Another issue is an original business which isn't covered under FDCPA only needs a servicemember's military address (usually their only address), they simple replace the servicemember/customer's name with Commanding Officer on a mailing or use a unit locator and ask for Commanding Officer. Considering some of the businesses located outside of a base that prey on unsophisticated young troops, like a used car lot and it's easy to have more leverage with that troop.”

When the moderator asked for more details about what happens when commanding officers are contacted, the commenter replied:

“This is from years back so I don't know if any laws have changed but the FDCPA was already in effect for over a decade. There was no giving or taking away permission to contact your chain of command. If the C.O. is contacted about an enlisted debtor they'll usually have the senior enlisted member for the unit handle it which would be the Sergeant Major for enlisted personnel. The speech the junior troop would hear as he/she are standing at attention is along the lines of I better not see you in here again. Because this may be an original creditor/local business person and not a debt collector the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply for the servicemember. Even if it does apply with a debt collector, there are many FDCPA violations where the collector doesn't stop calling.”

5|Authorized users on the consumer's credit card

Final Summary of Discussion

[NOTE that comments reported in this section may have originally been made under another subtopic. Similarly, comments originally made on this subtopic may be reported in another, more relevant section. Information in parentheses comes from commenter response to interest survey; the “servicemember” designation may apply to the commenter or someone in their family. Numbers in parentheses for industry-perspective commenters refer to number of people involved in debt collection in the firm.]

There were only a few consumer comments on this topic, but they reveal confusion about the rights and responsibilities of the account holder and the authorized user:

“I believe the original consumer applicant on an account has the right to know if an authorized user is delinquent on her or his payments as it affects the original applicant's credit standing. As for telling authorized card holders about the original account holder's default, I would say this is not a good idea. Many parents provide their kids with a credit card, but would not want the credit card company contacting their kids about the parents' debt.” (consumer)

“Make the authorized user pay. Why not? It is so dumb when I tell these collectors ‘call my brother he charged it’ and they say ‘I can’t you are the account holder he’s just an authorized user.’ Seriously?! So old fashioned.” (consumer; victim of ID theft; servicemember)

“As an ‘authorized user’ who has no access to the actual credit card, my credit rating is suffering because the ‘account holder’ presently, is only able to make the minimum monthly payments. I don't think this is fair and have not been able to get a direct response from anyone to see if card companies can legally do this when they collected no information from me but my name! There was NO FULL DISCLOSURE stating that as only being an ‘authorized user’ said card company would report on my credit report. So what is the legal difference between being an ‘authorized user’ & being the ‘account holder’?” (consumer)

“I believe Amex handles this the best. The account holder is liable for all charges made by themselves and any authorized users added to the account. Authorized Users however are given a unique card number and can be held accountable for any charges they make.” (consumer; adverse action for another person’s debt)

6|Parents and others who volunteer to pay a debt

Final Summary of Discussion

[NOTE that comments reported in this section may have originally been made under another subtopic. Similarly, comments originally made on this subtopic may be reported in another, more relevant section. Information in parentheses comes from commenter response to interest survey; the “servicemember” designation may apply to the commenter or someone in their family. Numbers in parentheses for industry-perspective commenters refer to number of people involved in debt collection in the firm.]

“Consumer owing the debt should be contacted about any third party offer to pay their debt. Anyone paying debt for someone else should be required to provide their identity to the creditor and debtor.” (consumer; debt in collection and involved in debt of deceased)

“Minors are not normally eligible to enter contracts or take on the obligation of credit arrangements, so this would seem necessarily rare. Regardless, every effort should be made and maintained to protect consumers from mistaken disclosure of personal business.” (I’ve worked in the mortgage industry, debt collection and others)

[See the first subtopic of this post (“Trying to locate the consumer”) for comments charging that sometimes collectors continuously contact third parties in order to induce them to pay the debt to stop the contacts.]

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