Home > Managing Debt > Can a Debt Collector Call My Friends?

Comments 0 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


Have you ever experienced that gut-wrenching fear that a secret you shared with someone you thought you could trust would be leaked? Or maybe it actually happened and you felt betrayed, embarrassed or ashamed.

While it’s sometimes tough to know who you can trust with confidential information, one thing you shouldn’t have to worry about is that a debt collector will discuss your money troubles with your friends, neighbors or co-workers. That’s because a federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, limits when collectors can contact others about your debt, as well as what they can say about it to others.

But that doesn’t mean your secrets are totally safe, either. If you have debts in collection — and some 77 million Americans do, according to a recent report by the Urban Institute — you’ll want to know what these firms can and cannot do when it comes to reaching out to others about your debt.

Under the law, a third-party collector (someone who regularly collects debts for others; not the original creditor) can only contact others to locate you (the debtor) or to try to find out your residential or work address and/or phone number. If they do, the collector is not allowed to tell others that you owe money or even to provide the name of the company they are calling from, unless asked. Once they’ve found you, contact with third parties must stop.

Another provision in the law protects you from unwanted calls at work. If a debt collector calls you at your place of employment, you can tell them that you can’t take calls there, and those calls must stop.

What happens if a collector breaks the law? You can either file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or talk with a consumer law attorney who represents consumers in these kinds of cases. The attorney may be willing to represent you at no cost, because if the bill collector has broken the law, it will likely have to pay your attorney’s fees. You may also be entitled to damages if you are successful.

Of course if you are dealing with a debt collection scammer, all bets are off. Collection con artists don’t care if they follow the law or not; they are usually based overseas, out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement, and they’ll say anything to anyone to try to scare you into paying them, whether or not the debt is legit. In fact, a so-called collector that shares the details of your debt with others may be a tip-off that they are not legitimate. Here are nine signs you are dealing with a debt collection scammer.

The Ball’s In Your Court

If you have delinquent debt, don’t just wait and worry. Be proactive. Check your credit reports to see whether a collection agency is reporting it. You can check your credit reports for free once a year. While paying a collection account won’t likely alter your credit score in the short run, it can prevent other problems such as a debt collection lawsuit. For that reason, you may want to consider whether it makes sense to reach out to the collection agency to resolve your debt. (But before you pay an old debt, read this.)

If it’s past due but not with a collection agency yet, you may want to talk with the creditor about paying or settling it before it gets turned over to collections. That’s because one collection account can drop your credit scores by 50 – 100 or more points.

In addition to checking your free annual credit reports, it’s a good idea to check and monitor your credit scores, which you can do for free with Credit.com.

And one more warning: the law does allow collectors to contact your spouse, so trying to hide debt problems from your husband or wife may not work.

More on Managing Debt:

Image: lofilolo

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team