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Preventing Debt Collector Harassment

photo of a frustrated man on the phone in front of a laptop computer

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provides limitations on debt collectors’ actions in collecting debts from private individuals, including how, when, and where debt collectors can contact debtors.

By definition, a debt collector is any person, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others (e.g., collection agencies and lawyers). The act regulates activities of those who regularly collect debts for others and prevents debt collectors from engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices. Many of these limitations apply to the debtor’s workplace, including public employers.

Under the FDCPA, debt collectors may not contact employees at work if they know the employer disapproves. This means the employer should let employees know such calls are disruptive to business and aren't allowed. The employee should then be advised to send a letter to the collector telling him or her not to contact them at work.

An employee who receives a phone call from a debt collector attempting to collect a debt owed by another employee shouldn’t give out any information. Instead, the respondent should ask the debt collector not to call again. Once told not to call (either orally or in writing), a debt collector may not continue to contact the employee at work.

If a debt collector comes onsite to collect a debt from an employee, the debt collector should be told they are prohibited from communicating with employees in the workplace. Because an in-person visit would disrupt the employee’s workplace or interfere with the employee’s ability to do his or her job, a debt collector would be at significant risk of violating the communication restrictions of the FDCPA. Therefore, it's unlikely you'll have frequent in-person visits from debt collectors.

You can assist employees with credit problems by referring them to your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or community organizations that offer credit counseling services. The goal is to help employees find organizations that can arrange repayment plans and set up realistic budgets. This helps reduce life and family stresses that interfere with an employee’s ability to perform at work.

Complaints against debt collectors can be filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), using the online complaint form. Although the FTC cannot resolve individual problems for consumers, it can act against a company if it sees a pattern of possible law violation.

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