How Did The Debt Collector Get My Mom's Name and Number?

30 Dec How Did The Debt Collector Get My Mom's Name and Number?

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector may call third parties to verify addresses of a debtor. The debt collector may not discuss your or their collection attempts with the third party.

Debt collectors typically try to call relatives, employers, or neighbors in an attempt to collect their debt. Many debt collectors subscribe to a “skip trace” service–a system that allows the operator to put in the your name or address, and the program will provide the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your neighbors. Then, the operator calls the neighbor to leave a “friendly” message saying that the debt collector is trying to contact the you and can the neighbor please let the you know that?

The debt collector gets your employer’s name from your credit report (remember, any time you apply for credit, you supplied your current employment) and usually your closest relative’s name and number are obtained the same way. So, when Mom gets a phone call, it is either because she showed up in a list of neighbors or showed up as a reference on a credit application at some point in the past. Why are they calling others?

Why do this? Because it works. The debt collector, remember, is supposed to be only verifying addresses or employment, but really? The phone call is designed to shame you. (Follow the link for some examples from Bud Hibb’s website of how bad the calls can get). The debt collector uses shame and embarrassment as the biggest and most effective tools to get you to pay the debt quickly. The debt collector is hoping that the phone call to Mom, your boss, your neighbor embarrasses you enough that you will make a promise to pay. A promise to pay is nearly as good as an actual payment.

However, if the debt collector continues to call, or if the caller mentions the debt, or is abusive to the neighbor, employer, relative—all those actions could be a violation of the FDCPA and could result in a damage award for the neighbor, employer, or relative (or you, too). My colleague, Carmen Dellutri, recently posted about such an award over at the Bankruptcy Law Network. See his post here.

See an experienced FDCPA attorney to discuss your options if this has happened to you! And take Mom with you!

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I'm a consumer protection lawyer in Oregon, working with people in Klamath; Lake; Jackson; Josephine; Curry; and Deschutes County. I speak regularly on bankruptcy and consumer protection issues nationwide.
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