Home > Managing Debt > What Can Debt Collectors Say On Answering Machines?

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Talk about an uncomfortable situation. A reader recently contacted us about a message she found on her answering machine.  The recorded message was regarding a collection for her father who does not live with her:

Dear Gerri,

I’m very concerned that a debt collector may have broken the law.  Long story short, I recently received this message from a debt collection company. Play to hear voice mail message »

I’m concerned because this message wasn’t for me—it was actually for my father, who lives in another state. As far as I know, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are only allowed to contact a relative or neighbor once in attempt to reach the debtor… but I was under the impression that legally, debt collectors are not allowed to share “why” they’re calling (in an attempt to collect a debt) unless they are speaking to the actual account holder, right?  My father would be mortified if he knew that I knew he were having financial problems. Did this collector break the law?

— Cindy (A Concerned Family Member)

Cindy raises an important question. When debt collectors leave messages for debtors on answering machines, how much can they say? The answer is not as clear as you might think it would be.

“The law on debt collection voice mails is unclear, as the most current case regarding the issue is on appeal” Sonya Smith-Valentine, an attorney with Valentine Legal Group, LLC, points out.

I’ll get to that case in a moment, but let me back up and describe the problem first. A federal consumer protection law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), describes practices debt collectors can’t engage in when trying to collect debts. But it includes no specific instructions for voice mail messages.

“You have to go back to the FDCPA when it was first promulgated,” says Joel D. Leiderman, Senior Associate Attorney at the collection law firm of Forster & Garbus LLP in Commack, NY. “Most people didn’t even have answering machines then. These are issues that weren’t contemplated.”

The FDCPA does say that a debt collector is breaking that law if it fails to disclose, in its initial communication with the consumer (which could be in writing or orally) “that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose.” In addition, in subsequent communications, the debt collector must disclose that the communication is from a debt collector.

Ok, so that seems simple enough. The debt collector should provide that information when leaving a message, right?

Not so fast.

If the debt collector knows he is only leaving a message for the debtor, it would seem to be fairly straightforward. But what if that message might be heard by someone else, as in Cindy’s case?

The FDCPA also gives debtors a degree of privacy. It prohibits debt collectors from communicating with someone other than the debtor except to locate the debtor (exceptions include the debtor’s attorney, a cosigner or spouse). In those cases, the collector can identify himself, state that he is confirming or correcting location information concerning the consumer, and, only if expressly requested, identify his employer. But he cannot state that the consumer he’s trying to locate owes any debt; and he generally can’t communicate with such person more than once.

Next: Collection Calls and Legal Technicalities »

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  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    A consumer law attorney in your area could tell you if the collector is violating any laws, and if you tell the collector to stop calling you, they have to stop: https://www.credit.com/debt/top-10-debt-collection-rights/

  • j

    Can a debt collector leave my first, middle, last name; year ,make, and model of my car , license pate number, dob on my vc mail? He’s threating to take me to court about a debt from 2010.

    • http://blog.credit.com/ Kali Geldis

      Hi J —

      As Gerri wrote in the article, there’s a lot of gray area in the rules regarding what debt collectors can or can’t say on a voicemail. If you think a debt collector has violated the law, keep the voicemail and find a consumer attorney near you that specializes in Fair Debt Collection Practices Act violations.

  • Curious

    Is it legal for a debt collector to contact a husband that is not on an account and disclose who the debt it to and the amount owed?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Probably yes. The FDPCA specifically exempts spouses from the prohibition against sharing information with others.

      • Allison

        Is it legal for them to disclose all info to another relative whom I don’t live with on their voicemail? Even goes as far to say if I don’t settle this, they will be taking me to court?

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          Debt collectors may not reveal your debt to third parties. Spouses are an exception. What you describe does not sound like it is legal.

          • None

            Is a debt collector allowed to send a txt to someone who is on my reference stating “pending action on your car” that is what they had txt a person on my reference, is this legal?

          • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

            We published a story that should help answer your question: Can a debt collector text you?

          • Johnfreespech

            I know this is off the topic but you can help me out with a problem I have and nobody is telling me a straight answer.

            Hello Gerri

            I will going to the point, I wanna paid my debts is already close or charge off 3 years ago. I just want paid them but in exchange I wanna is be delete records.
            1/What is the steps I need to fallow to “pay to delete” I just want all the my negative
            account will be erase in my credit report.
            2/if the credit card companies or collection won’t delete my debts even I paid them full amount, after 7 to 10 years will be erase automatically in my credit report?


          • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

            You can ask about pay for delete. (you’ll find more information here: Removing Collection Accounts from Your Credit Reports). The information will fall off your credit reports eventually. However, it’s possible you could still be sued or get a judgment against you. More about that here: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

          • Jennifer Testa

            So I received a call from some guy the number was blocked and he said that some officers were at my work to pick me up or for me to sign something don’t really remember and told me I had to call an 844 number so I did to see what was going on and I called and this lady told me I had a debt of 350.49 because I had not paid a phone that I had signed a contract that I would pay back in 2013 and told her I don’t have full amount if I can pay in two she said to give her a sec and then said yes but I wasn’t sure about giving her my personal information so I told her to send me a written letter about my debt with all the information she got angry and we were both talking over each other but all I heard was then I guess you will be in court have a great day and now I’m scared what should I do?

          • Jeanine Skowronski

            Debt collectors are required by law to present written verification of the debt in question. If they have not done so, you could have a claim against them. In fact, requesting this verification is one way to determine if you are dealing with a legitimate debt collector and not a scammer. You can find more info about how to verify if the debt (and the collector) is legitimate here: https://www.credit.com/debt/3-strategies-for-dealing-with-debt-collection-scammers/



  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Maybe, maybe not. The client can “require” it but this is still a very controversial area of collection law. The CFPB is expected to release some new rules this year and I suspect this will be addressed there.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Sounds like a rogue collector or a scam. This information may help:
    9 Signs You Are Talking to a Debt Collection Scammer

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    It might not be – it depends on all the facts and circumstances. Generally though debt collectors can’t discuss your debt with your coworkers.

    Is she a third party debt collector (and not a creditor)? Is this a legitimate collection agency or perhaps a scammer? You can always try reporting the collector to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – but you will need to get the name and contact info of the collection agency.

  • Jen

    I have a debt collector leaving a voicemail on my answering machine almost daily. It states her name, and the name of her company, then she says the mini miranda. She never says who the message is for! My cousin and I share a cell phone, and she heard this message. We didn’t know who the message was for. It was for me, but now my cousin knows that I’m in collections. Why wouldn’t she just say “this message is for “insert name”, so there won’t be any confusion? Is this legal?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Jen – There is still a lot of confusion about what exactly debt collectors can and can’t say on answering machines and voice mail. To find out whether what they have said is legal, you’ll want to talk with a consumer law attorney. Another alternative would be to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act requires that notification that any information given will be used to attempt to collect a debt must be given in every contact.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    You won’t be notified of a lawsuit by phone or by answering machine. A “summons and complaint” is delivered either by mail or in person (depending on jurisdiction). This Credit.com resource may be useful to you in trying to figure out your situation and your rights:
    How to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • Maria

    Is it legal for a bill collector to leave my address on a answer machine

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It likely depends on the context. What exactly happened?

  • Credit.com

    It’s very unclear and a lot of confusion around what collectors can legally say on an answering machine. It’s worth talking to a consumer law attorney because they may be breaking the law. To find a consumer law attorney in your area visit http://www.NACA.net.

  • Traci

    I had a voicemail this morning that said we are in the process of verifying your employment,it’s in your best interest for you or your lawyer to contact us. That’s it….no name or company or phone number???? Can collectors call and verify your employment and don’t they have to have judgement against you to garnish your wages???

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Traci –

      It sounds like you are dealing with either a scammer or a collection agency that is pretty aggressive. Without a judgment, the only reason for a collector to contact your employer would be to locate you, but since they’ve already found you, it doesn’t sound like that’s legitimate. It also makes no sense that they don’t leave any contact information; presumably they want you to pay but how are you supposed do to that?

      Next time they call, try to talk to this collector. Try to get as much info as you can about who they are, then tell them you want them to send you verification of the debt in writing, as required by federal law. Then while you are waiting for that information you can research your options for dealing with this debt. You may want to read: 11 Ways Debt Collectors May Be Breaking The Law.

    • http://billcollectorshateme.blogspot.com/ Bill Collectors Hate Me

      Yes, they must serve you with a summons and win a judgment in court in order to garnish your wages.

  • DKing

    My wife gets messages from a collection agency, but what bothers me is that they leave the amount that is owed. My question is, is it legal for them to do that. What if it was a wrong number that they called. They would be giving out the information without even knowing.

  • Tyler

    I signed a karate contract which is managed by a 3rd party company. A few months later, my daughter suffered an injury and is no longer able to take lessons. The karate place would not let us out of our contract and I haven’t paid since October. Consequently we have been getting phone calls. Today I received one that said ‘We have left numerous messages and we are being ignored. Your account is past due, we haven’t received a payment since October, and we’re about to place your account for collections.’

    I worked in collections for 10 years and we were always told NOT to leave messages like this. Is this legal?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Tyler – As you know only 3rd party collectors are covered by the FDCPA. I am not sure whether this company that manages the account would be considered a 3rd party collector. It wouldn’t hurt to talk with a consumer law attorney who regularly helps consumers with collection problems.

      • Tyler

        Thank you.

        I also found out today that they called my elderly mother and told her that I was past due. They were rude and pushy with her and my poor mother ended up paying them. She didn’t tell me that this happened because she didn’t want to upset me.

        I asked her to specifically tell me what they said to her. They told her that I wasn’t paying them and ignoring their phone calls. They told her how much and how far past due I was. I am LIVID!

        • Gerri Detweiler


          I would definitely encourage you to file a complaint with the BBB and your state attorney general.

  • kh

    I don’t think it’s a bashing site just people trying understand what can and cannot happen. I am in debt told a collection agent please don’t call me work I am willing to pay however I need a few months to straighten things out.Since I was out of work for a while.I was told that was not good enough I had to make a payment right then and there they didn’t even tell me what it was for. Then I got a message two days later at work on the general mailbox that does not list my name. I live in PA know for a fact that once I ask you to stop calling my work if you don’t it is against the law. So tell me what is good enough for you collectors????

  • adebtcollector

    ohh, my bad
    as I scroll up I see this is a debt collections bashing site, lol. I am a bad guy, I am a bill collector and guess what, I am liscenced as all debt collectors are, every year I take the written test and to be honest one year I was very close to failing, the rules for each state change every year and some states like mass and maine trip me up. I work for real debt recovery agencies with real companies who seek agencies such as the one I work for. see once you fill out your application and information and ignore their attempts to honor the contract, well to be honest you are no longer an intrest to them so they hire us. no hard feelings, and if you read all the fine print when you were asking them to front you this and give you that you might understand. congradulations! yes you accepted a 3rd party to recieve your information, the information YOU provided and the information WE recieve while looking for you, you signed yes YOU did! so please do not blame Me and do everyone a favour, pay your bill.

    • kp

      I don’t think it’s a bashing site just people trying understand what can and cannot happen. I am in debt told a collection agent please don’t call me work I am willing to pay however I need a few months to straighten things out.Since I was out of work for a while.I was told that was not good enough I had to make a payment right then and there they didn’t even tell me what it was for. Then I got a message two days later at work on the general mailbox that does not list my name. I live in PA know for a fact that once I ask you to stop calling my work if you don’t it is against the law. So tell me what is good enough for you collectors????

    • allie

      Where does it say that this is a collectors bashing site?! But while we’re on the subject, why don’t we look at it like this… You guys push, threaten, and use all illegal measures possible to get people to pay money. Sometimes like in my case it’s on an account that’s way past due it has already been paid but since the company sold it to a collection agency, my account has been sold in several other times. When I tell and even show proof that it’s already been paid, it just gets sold to another agency with more rude collectors. When is it enough? On a voicemail for someone other than the person that you are trying to pursue. My mother keeps getting harassed by debt collectors leave all the information on my voicemail even the amount that I owe! That is against the law! I have been told that I will be arrested if I if I do not pay today. You people will stop at nothing!! If you dont like people cussing and yelling, get a job that’s respectable.

  • adebtcollector

    All you debtors complain and tell me to get a “real” job, while employing me by not paying your bills. I can say this, I have debt myself, all medical as I have been sick. I do not spend beyond my means, I have no credit and no credit cards. I live by means and not wants. If I cannot afford it, I do not have it. Period.

    yes I have internet, no cable. I take the bus to work, gas and insurance is too high so I save money I dont have, no I do not really live in a city so I walk a mile or so to a bus stop and I feel better for it so please stop cussing me when I call you to pay your bill.

    • allison

      So you have NO debt?? Well, you’re perfect then!! But, before you judge realize that sometimes people fall into hardships for reasons beyond their control. Having debt collectors call to collect money owed is fine. It’s when you call and YOUR rude and judgemental and illegal means to force people to pay. That’s the problem. Then add to the fact that yall sell our info to other agencies even if the debt is paid or never owed, and by that time it’s harrassment. Calling one time every few days is fine. Calling MULTIPLE times a day is harrassment. You don’t like people cussing at you? Get another job. IJS

  • Pam

    I just received a voice mail from a man stating the he was calling in reference to a legal matter, and then said it was an attempt to collect………., then said he was calling from the law firm of Brad Stamp.

    this was left on a cell phone. i have never received any correspondence from them. and definitely never received summons and complaint.
    I do not tolerate abuse by debt collectors/
    Is it within the FDCPA to leave a message on voice mail to tell me this is a legal matter? and if not, does anyone know of any attorneys in the area of Atlanta that might want to take this on?

    • http://www.credit.com Gerri

      It may or may not be OK depending on what was said on the message. However, within five business days of the collector’s initial contact with you it must send you a written notice spelling out certain information about the debt. If you haven’t received that notification, the collector may be breaking the law. If you want to consult a consumer law attorney, you can get a referral through NACA.net.

  • Helpful

    To Ricardo contact the Law office of Todd Friedman, he can help get you money for harrassment and/or help you settle debt. He is really good at what he does. He helps the state of California. His telephone number is: 6023888847

  • Ricardo Cruz

    I recorded calls from a really bad collection agency in California, this agency gave the recording disclosure on the greeting does this sufice in regards two way authoriztion for the state recording law..

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I’d suggest you go ahead and talk with a consumer law attorney who sues debt collectors. If the attorney thinks you have a good case, he or she will likely represent you for free since a collection agency must pay your attorney’s fees if it violates the FDCPA.

  • David

    I am getting calls from this one agency which leaves WAY too much information on the answering machine. He always starts off with the usual stuff (debt collector attempting to collect a debt). Then they usually leave a number and ask you to call them back. This one now goes on saying that if you are NOT (your name) hang up now and goes on and on about the urgency of paying etc etc.

    You just need to know your rights under the law. They do vary from state to state, but in CA they can not force legal action if the debt is 4 years old or longer. This is under the Statue of Limitations in CA.

    Another way to have them stop calling you is to send them a certified letter asking to Cease and Desist all communication. If they do so, legal action can be used against them.

    But also note, after you do all of this, you still owe the debt.

  • Maria

    I have the same type of message but with additional to add “Who resides” and give my address. Also id caller “UNKNOWN NAME”.

    And I have one that called 3 times a day stating at 8:30 am, also id caller “UNKNOWN NAME” and it seems automatic dialer because who are on hold for about 10 minutes.

  • Missi

    A paralegal left a DETAILED message about a complaint going to be filed for Anita. The message on my vm CLEARLY says you have reached “Missi”. Is he in violation for leaving details when HE didnt know if Anita was Missi or vice versa?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      He may be. It depends on a number of factors. If you want to follow up on it, I’d suggest you contact a consumer law attorney with experience in FDCPA matters.

  • Marissa

    Is it legal for a third party debt collector to leave a message om my answering machine with detailed information such as who I owe money to and the exact amount? I called this person back and he then stated to me that it is legal in NY. Is this true at all? What if I live with other people in the house and I didn’t want them to know my financial struggle?

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

      Marissa –

      First of all, have you determined whether this is a legitimate debt collector and not a collection scam? I wrote about the latest on the debt collection scam here.

      If it is a legitimate debt collector, then I would question whether the message they left is legal. To find out, talk with a consumer law attorney who specializes in helping consumers with debt collection problems. They may be able to help you for free because if the collection agency is breaking the law, it will have to pay your attorney’s fees.

  • Q&A

    Indeed this is a tricky situation, I as a consumer and an individual that has operated a business in which required collections, I know both perspectives in the real world.
    First of all, for the most part people aren’t con artists, most people don’t want a free ride, and likewise they don’t want to not pay their bills.
    Communication is always key.
    The problem is, that collectors do not have people skills required to be successful in their collections.
    So this leads to the average person owing a debt that is falling behind to ignore a collector, due to fears, and even feeling embarressed.
    Collectors should understand, that if a person falls behind on their debts owed, it’s because they do not currently have the monies required to make the payment(s).
    And most would make good on their debts if given enough time to do so.
    Again this is where communication is key, from a collectors point of view, they should have a system set up in which has reasonable, and fair options available to make remedy to a past due account, such as deferred payment.
    These remedies should always be within the original contract, or agreement entered into when the debt is created.
    In other words, their should be a relationship built between a creditor, and a debtor, both having a mutual respect for the business aspects.
    I have found that the best business ran, will be one in which is always polite, reasonable, and willing to work with a customer.
    “One Main Financial”, is a company that is in the process of currently purchasing consumer loan accounts from Citibank.
    While they could improve their current practice of multiple phone calls, they are known at least in our local, to handle collections in a fair and equitable process.
    The contact, via telephone calls seem to be extreme, because their automated system isn’t communicated with by a local office, that may have just called and spoke with a consumer.
    So one may get multiple phone calls in a very short period of one another, just minutes in some circumstances.
    Even if a an account is brought up to date, their automated system may still make calls.
    I have noticed however that One Main Financial, does exercise the deferrment tool for consumers, and they have no problem doing so back to back, which is almost unheard of in the financial sector, as most will only allow a deferrment once every 6 months.
    Communicate, and if the collector is not willing to be fair and reasonable, then seek other options, even if you are required to obtain another loan to clear the debt from harrassing collectors.
    Always shop for a company having flexability, that’s who you want to do business with.

  • M

    Apparently a debt collector called my boyfriend’s parent’s home where I lived for a short time, and left a message on their answer machine. They basically said more or less the same thing from the recording on this page. I know that they are allowed to call family or friends one time only. So my question is does that message count as the one time communication?

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

      M- I am not an attorney so I can’t give you legal advice about this specific call. You’ll need to talk with a consumer law attorney if you are concerned that this call is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

  • Mindy

    i setup a pmnt on an old acct with a third party collection agency and it didtn go thru so they called and left me a voicemail saying that my card was declined and thaty i needed tio call them back and then stated the mini miranda…..but this is my work cell phone are they aloud to leave such info on the message?

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

      Mindy, I can’t say definitively whether it was legal or not. You’ll need to talk with a consumer law attorney who deals with debt collection issues.

  • Mindy

    can a debt collector leave a messge on my cell phone saying that my card was declined and that they need a cb and then say the mm and have it be covered???

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am sorry Mindy, I don’t understand your question. Can you try clarifying it please?

  • http://www.credit.com w p stone

    It is not a 3rd party collector

    wp stone

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Unless you are in California, then the FDCPA does not apply. You’ll need to ask your legal counsel for guidance on any state laws that apply.

  • http://www.credit.com w p stone

    I worked at a collection agency and I am fimiliar with the FDCPA laws. So correct me if I’m wrong. A debt collector can only leave a message on a machine or voicemail if it identifies the person there trying to reach or identifies someone that they are allowed to call. They are trying to reach someone I know. but when they call my number you don’t hear my name on the voicemail. Are they breaking FDCPA laws?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am not an attorney, and would leave it up to your firm and your legal counsel to determine what you can and cannot say in messages left on answering machines. The industry has been pushing for clarification on this issue because of some of the confusion over what’s permissible and your firm will have to decide how to handle it.

  • sheila

    I have a finance company (in SC) continuing to call me at work when I have asked them not to more than once. Today they left a VM on my cell phone, 2 minutes later called my work voicemail (I was on a business call) and left the message “I have been trying to reach you, left voicemail, gone by your house, done everything but come by your work. You need to call me today and set up a payment on your past due account”, the 2 minutes later, called my brother’s house in NC to say they were looking for me when they were just told by my co-worker I was unavailable; so they knew I was at work. Why call my brother in NC? They told my sister in law I put his name down for a reference to reach me; which is not true. I put him down for a reference. Anything I can do?

    • Gerri Detweiler


      Is this a company that you owe the debt to? The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act only applies to third party debt collectors. If this is an outside collection agency, then they would be breaking the law by calling you at work after you told them not to, and by calling your relatives when they already know where to find out.

      A few states offer protections similar to the FDCPA that apply to creditors, but I am not sure that South Carolina is one of them.

      Your best bet is to talk with a consumer law attorney to find out if these calls are legal.

      • sheila

        Thank you. Yes, this is a legitimate debt but it was due on the 4th so I am not even 30 days late! I appreciate the advice.

    • tea

      sounds like CNAC


    i had a credit card with absa,i try to make arrangements for r50 cause i am over in debt,cant afford anything else,they refuse to except it,and now treatening me with a warrent…can they do that???

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri


      What do you mean they are threatening you with a warrant? Are they threatening to have you arrested? If so, that is likely illegal. You’ll want to talk with a consumer law attorney as soon as possible.

      It would also be a good idea for you to talk with a credit counselor and a bankruptcy attorney to find out what your options are for dealing with all the other debts you are dealing with.

  • Eva

    My ex husband is sending harassing emails to me, stating that collections agencies are calling him (we have been divorced for more than 5 years) and writing me where he lives. He has very specific informaiton about amounts and other personal information that he claims he got from phone conversations. Is is legal for a bill collector to give my ex husband this kind of information about me?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Their actions may be illegal. You should talk with a consumer law attorney (Naca.net). I’ve been told that generally creditors and collectors can discuss debts with current spouses, but the fact that he is your ex, and you’ve been divorced for several years, may make a difference here.

  • Jill

    I work for a small business and we have people who owe money that dates back to 3 years. We do not have the money to send to a collection agency. How many times a week am I allowed to call someone who owes if I don’t actually speak to the person who in fact owes the money?

    • Gerri Detweiler


      The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply to collectors who collect business debts. Beyond that, you’ll need to talk with an attorney to understand what state or federal laws apply to you when you collect business debts.

  • Calvin Johnson

    I would love for people to actually pay their debts and not seek bottom feeding attorneys to help them make a buck. That is sickening. Pay for your bills people, its really not that hard.

    • http://www.credit.com Gerri

      Actually, Calvin, in this economy it is that hard for many people. But that aside, the other issue involves aggressive collectors who repeatedly call the wrong person…and won’t stop even when they are told they have the wrong person. That can happen to anyone – even those who pay their bills on time.

  • Janet

    I keep getting mail and phone calls from debt collectors for my ex husband. He has not lived with me for 11 years. Today they called and left a message on my machine that stated he owed them a large amount of money. Are they able to leave that much information on a machine to a house he has never lived at?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Probably not. You need to consult with a consumer law attorney who regularly represents consumers in cases involving debt collectors. You can visit NACA.net to find one. If you (or he) has a good case, the attorney may work with you on a contingent fee basis so you only pay if you recover.

      Alternatively, you can file a complaint in writing with the company, the FTC, and your state attorney general’s office.

  • Noelani

    Hi Gerri,

    So I have recently received a call, practically identical to the message in the video. It was for my cousin, on my personal cell phone. I believe that she is giving away my personal information when she gets loans, or credit card (for whichever the debt they are referring to).

    I guess my question is, in conclusion to your article…the answer is it is NOT illegal for them to leave that type of message according to the FDCPA? I would like to know if I need to take legal action, either against the creditor calling or my cousin? And was it wrongful of me to continue listening the message when it said to hang up if it was not —?

    I have been getting calls from creditors and text messages about getting out of debt, which I have absolutely none, for over a year now. I feel like I’ve been harassed and I can never answer my phone anymore because it’s been getting annoying and ridiculous, they are calling me when I’m at work and school, everyday. It was not until I listened to that message was when I realized my cousin is using my phone number as hers.

    Thank you

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri Detweiler

      I’d recommend you first check your credit reports to make sure your cousin isn’t also using your personal info to obtain loans! If you’re OK there, then go ahead and talk with a consumer law attorney with experience suing debt collectors. if you have a good case, they may be willing to take your case on a contingent fee basis.

  • Jennifer Morrison

    I dont have creditors calling I have small loan companys calling and leaving message saying this is so and so from the company and you are 2 months behind you need to come in and make a payment. They have even left notices on my car at my sons football practice, what can I do can I sue them??

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri Detweiler

      Jennifer – The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies only to third party collectors, not to creditors collecting their own debts. But some states have laws that apply to creditors as well. Visit Naca.net to find a consumer law attorney with experience in collection cases who can tell you if these companies are breaking the law.

    • Ben


      The FDCPA only applies to third party collectors and not the original creditor. However, if you live in the state of California you will have a case. The state of California’s Rosenthal Act prohibits actions from the original creditor as well. If you think you have a case in this matter, or another (say a debt collector leaves a voicemail and doesn’t say “this is an attempt to collect a debt” or something of the sort), call Krohn & Moss (www.consumerlawcenter.com), ask for Jessica Heiskel (Paralegal)…she works with Nick Bontrager (nbontrager@consumerlawcenter.com 323-988-2400 extension 229) who is a phenomenal FDCPA attorney who will get them to stop calling and put cash in your pocket. You pay nothing, the defendant must pay all fees associated with the case. Tell Nick that Ben sent you!

    • P

      Gerri about re: Jennifer – Isn’t consumer info considered private? The same reason police need warrants to have pawn shops turn over their records. I would think that what this company is doing to Jennifer is still a violation of her privacy rights. Am I off on this or would that be a valid argument?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        It’s a valid question. My understanding is that in the US we don’t have a general ‘right to privacy,” but that certain laws do protect consumer’s privacy. We need an attorney to chime in on this one!

  • http://www.credit.com Gerri Detweiler

    Julie – I would suggest you call a consumer law attorney with expertise in debt collection immediately. Don’t ignore these threats. If they are legitimate, you need to resolve the debt, and if they are not, the attorney can make them stop. There are many attorneys who will take these cases on a contingent fee basis, which means you don’t pay unless they recover for you. Visit NACA.net to find a consumer law attorney in your area.

  • http://Debtcollectors Julie

    I have had debt
    Collectors call leaving threaning messages on my machine even threan they had warrents to get me to pay

    • colette

      Yes Julie, Gerri Detweiler is correct. I am a Debt Collector when they leave you a message saying that they can have warrants issued to you for lack of funds they can well do so, do not ignore these warnings. The company I work for actually sets up payment arrangements with u to help you first before it gets to the point of going to the magistrate court, where if it does get there you would have no choice but to pay the ordered amount big or small. So really to avoid extra fees on top of fees in the long run, see what the companies r about first make sure it is you that thy are calling about and get the info. It will be better for you down the road, all collection agencies are not out to keep you in debt.

      • anonymous

        Julie she is full of it and wants you to pay THEY CAN NOT HARASS YOU WITH THREATS OF VIOLENCE OR WARRANTS FOR YOUR ARREST!!!!!!!!!!!! Talk to an attorney and sue them if they keep harassing you! If you do pay the debt (if it is owed) pay the original creditor and not these scum bags that pay pennies for your debt!

      • P

        Correction colette to claim that they ALREADY have a warrant when in fact they DON’T is a violation of the FDCPA. Yes they can get them but to make the threat that they will get one or already have and then don’t is a violation even if the collection agency has the option to get one.

  • http://www.trustdeedscotland.net Trust Deeds

    If a collector leaves a voicemail message on your answer machine, is there a way that you can record it and save it as an audio file to CD or online?

    If you can record it, ensure that you send it to the compliance department of the organisation involved. Their client if possible i.e. the lender and also the data commissioner (if you live in the UK)

    The sooner this practice is stopped the better.

  • Pingback: What Can Debt Collectors Say On Answering Machines?()

  • http://www.ficodepot.com Jeff

    I have had so many debt collectors say things they shouldnt.. they are making minimum wage and dont really care if their company gets fined $1000 it seems.

    • rick

      Trust me Jeff, there are NO collectors making minimum wage. 90%o experiencedf bill collectors makewell over 15.00 per hr. Plus bonuses….V ERY LUCRATIVE BUSINESS

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