Generally, federal law doesn’t allow debt collectors to talk with people other than the consumer about his/her debt. (FDCPA § 805(b)) One important exception is when the collector is trying to locate the consumer. The collector must
- identify him/herself
- say that he/she is trying to get or update contact information about the consumer.
The collector may not
- say the consumer owes a debt
- identify his/her employer unless “expressly requested.” (FDCPA § 804(1)(2)).
How often do collectors in these contacts talk about things other than locating the consumer? What are they talking about, and why? Are new federal rules needed to protect the consumer -- or the person the collector has contacted?
It can be tricky for the collector to identify him/herself without also revealing that he/she is trying to find the consumer to collect a debt. Some collectors use an alias. Should this be allowed? Only under some circumstances? In the same way, if the person contacted expressly asks who the collector is working for, giving the company's true name might reveal that this is a debt collection matter. Is there a way to handle this problem?
The collector can’t contact a person more than once to try to get location information unless the collector reasonably believes that
- the first response was wrong or incomplete, and
- the person now has correct or complete contact information (FDCPA § 804(3)).
Should a new federal rule spell out what it takes for a collector to "reasonably" believe these two things?
When the consumer is represented by an attorney for the debt, the collector can’t ask other people for location information unless the attorney doesn’t respond in “a reasonable period of time” (FDCPA § 804(6)). Should there be a federal rule on how long a reasonable period of time is? (For related questions, see Unlawful collection practices—Communicating with a consumer who has an attorney.)