Being in debt is a job in itself. You work long hours only to come home to letters from debt collectors demanding payment. There are scammers calling your house trying to cheat you out of more money with promises of debt consolidation.
You tell those around you that you trust that everything is okay but in reality, it’s hard to hide the stress from your family, friends, coworkers, and even your boss. The calls increase and soon, you’re stuck turning off your phone while you’re at work.
So, how to deal with debt collectors?
There are laws that can protect you from harassment from collectors. While tricky, understanding them is important to know your rights.
Is contacting my employer off-limits?
Debt collectors are entitled to contact your employer with some limitations. However, this is usually only done after they struggle to reach you. Usually, they only do it after they’ve contacted other parties for information. The list includes credit reports, creditors, and other third-parties.
When they do contact your employer, it is only to confirm that you are employed by them. They cannot explain why they are calling, who they are, what you owe and to whom you owe it.
What is a collector legally allowed to ask?
Collectors may call your employer once to verify that you work there. They can only call back if they are either given permission or they have a reason to believe they were provided with inaccurate information about you.
They can also ask to verify your physical address and phone number. Anything else is a violation of the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This is the law that exists to protect debtors from harassment from collectors.
Can debt collectors say they are debt collectors?
Doing so would be a clear violation of the FDCPA. The law prevents them from stating who they are or why they are calling. If they violate that law, they may have to pay fines or face penalties.
The call below illustrates a violation of the law:
“Jerry here from MAC Debt Collection. You have an employer, Jake, who is behind on his payments. He currently owes $15,000 in credit card bill. We have been trying to reach him for payment. Could you please let us know his work schedule so we may contact him?”
This example does not violate the FDCPA:
“This is Jerry. Can you please provide me with Jake’s direct line for contact? Also, could you take a second to quickly verify that your physical address and mailing address are the same?”
Can I be called at work?
As long as you can reasonably answer the phone while at work. Exceptions are made for people who cannot take personal calls due to the nature of their job or working environment.
If you are a surgical assistant, for instance, you can’t be expected to take calls while at work. It’s a good idea to let collectors know your workplace policies for personal calls, either in a letter or over the phone. Once you have informed them, they can no longer contact you at work.
What about texts, faxes, and emails, does this law apply to those?
Yes. Communication is loosely defined by the FDCPA and therefore restricts the use of these communication methods.
Will my debt be found out by my boss?
It is possible. Many jobs require credit checks and any promotion, change in department or offer for partnership would open you up to a possible credit check. This could hurt your overall review.
What can I do to keep debt collectors from contacting my boss?
You can act fast and take proper steps to prevent workplace harassment by debt collectors. Debt-validation letters can delay collectors because they have to provide proof you owe money and that they are authorized to collect. A cease and desist will prevent collectors from contacting you in the future. Getting a lawyer prevents collectors from contacting anyone about your debt other than your lawyer.
You cannot be shamed into paying off debt so you have to know how to deal with debt collectors. They have clearly established laws and guidelines, which they have to follow when collecting a debt. Employees, coworkers, your boss – all of them are off limits for discussing your issues with debt. They cannot force HR to garnish your wages because only a court has that power.
They can only talk to you or your attorney and to do otherwise is to violate the law and expose them to liability. Debt collectors can end up paying monetary compensation through the court system.