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Dave Says: What the Law Will Allow

Dave Ramsey - August 07, 2012

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What is legal and illegal for debt collectors to do? Can they call members of my family to get information on me?

Dear Dave,

A debt collector has been calling members of my family to get information on me. She has identified herself as collector, and I want to pay what I owe, but is it legal for them to do this? If not, what can I do to make them stop?

Katherine

Dear Katherine,

No, it isn’t legal. If she identified herself in any way as a debt collector, and spoke with anyone but you about your debt, she has broken federal law. This is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. You need to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against this collector and her company.

I would also advise recording the conversation the next time they call. Just tell them at the beginning that you’ll be taping any interaction you have with them from that point forward, and tell your relatives to do the same thing. That way, you’ll have proof of their misbehavior to hand over to the FTC or the attorney general. You might even be able to get this crooked collector shut down.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s perfectly okay to collect a debt. If you’re a creditor or collector, it’s simply money that’s owed to you, and you deserve it. But you must do it within the confines of the law, and you should do it within the confines of good taste. If you owe money, you should be honorable enough to pay what you owe. But this kind of behavior is just harassment and intimidation. Don’t let them get away with it, Katherine!

—Dave

Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He’s authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 5 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

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