A Debt Collection Question

Becky Weldon stumped me when she emailed recently with this question:

“I am a previous customer of Conn’s (with no balance on my account). My husband and I made a couple of purchases years ago. I might add that we have excellent credit and this report is not about our relationship with Conn’s.

 Apparently a neighbor of ours owes Conn’s money and Conn’s has decided it is okay to call our home (because they told me our phone number remains in their computer bank). These calls are an attempt in getting information about our neighbor. I consider this an obtrusion of our privacy, and this practice has to be in violation of Texas consumer laws. Right?”

I called consumer attorney Dana Karni to find out. She always has the answers! Her response is below:

“Under both Texas state and federal collection laws, debt collectors are entitled to contact third parties for the purpose of locating a debtor.  This applies to both original creditors collecting on their own behalf and to third party collection agencies.  In essence, if the collector cannot reach the consumer, they can call any third party.  The only permissible purpose is to locate the debtor.  Collection laws do not entitle the debt collector to notify the third party that the debtor owes a debt or that they are attempting to collect a debt.  They are only entitled to ask the third party (neighbor, employer, etc.) whether they have contact information for the debtor.

Consumers might wonder how it is that the collection agency has information on their neighbors or other third parties.  Massive database services are available – at little cost – that will provide information on any individual’s neighbors, family, employers and potentially other unrelated third parties.

A consumer is entitled to ask a collector to stop calling them, whether the collector is attempting to collect a debt, or attempting to locate the debtor.  If the collection agency does not stop the communication, the individual’s rights may have been violated.”



2 Responses

  1. If it is determined that an individual’s rights have been violated, what recourses are available to report the collection agency? For example, if the debt collector continues to call a person regarding someone else’s debt even after being asked to stop the calls, or if the collection agency releases too much information to the neighbor about the other party’s debt etc, what are the steps to report the incident?

  2. Having been harrassed over the years by “skip-tracers” looking for persons with my last name and initials, I find telling them that “Joe”,”Fred” Sam” Sniclefritz DIED a year ago seems to silence the calls. If necessary I embelish the story that “Sam” was a third cousin twice removed that I only met once at a family reunion in 1999, and that he died in a fishing accident on the Yukon River. That information came to me from “Sams” other third cousin on his mothers side, who wrote me from the State pen in Florida shortly before his execution.
    Yes there are procedures at the State and Federal level, AND if you have the investigative assests of the FBI and a year to waste you can get help.

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