Im sure you've all at some time or the unfortunate experience of having to deal with a debt collector trying to collect outstanding monies owed to finance companies often exercising little of any consideration to the reason why you may be in this unfortunate financial situation or right to privacy.
In this article I would specifically like to address the numerous messages sometimes left by these often relentless persons and explore the possible legalities of their actions as to whether they have violated your civil rights according to Constitutional Laws.
Before I get to the heart of the matter there are just two important pointers I would first like to share.
1) The type of debts. The type of debts covered in this article in in reference the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to include personal. household, family, financial as in credit cards, automotive loans, mortgage and medical bills. Debts which have been incurred as a result of you operating a small business are not applicable.
2) When can the debt collector contact you? A debt collector is never authorized to contact you at any time or place known by them which you consider inconvenient. This includes any time before 8 a.m in the morning or after 9 p.m at nights unless given prior permission by yourself. Neither are they allowed to contact you at your place of employment if they were previously informed not to do so by written or verbal communication.
With that now out of the way, Oklahoma debt collection laws and Federal laws prohibit certain communications by debt collectors.
Is it legal for a debt collector to leave a message on your answering machine?
I have heard this question more times than I can possibly remember. The truth to this is; it all depends. If the machine is shared by a third party which would allow someone else to access for messages then NO. In such a case as this a debt collector would have violated the law and your constitutional rights as a US citizen. However if the machine or service is privately owned then the debt collector may leave a message, but a debt collector must exercise extreme caution as to whatever is said in the message. By law, the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) enforces certain restrictions on when and how you may be contacted by a debt collector acting on behalf of the collection agency additionally stating that on no occasion is a debt collector authorized to use abusive, inequitable, or deceitful practices to collect an outstanding debt. This includes messages left via voicemail or answering machine.
Subservient to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act any communication received from the debt collector ought to disclose in a meaningful manner the full identity of the debt collector whereby providing what is generally referred to as a "mini-Miranda" notice. This communication must include:
1. The Identity of the debt collector such as the name, telephone and the company or firm represented;
2. The reason for communicating with you which would include their effort to collect an unpaid debt;
3. Inform you that any information you should provide will be used to assist them in collecting the debt.
Unfortunately, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act as it was legislated in 1977 prior to the introduction of answering machines and subsequently voicemail does not address the issue of whether a debt collector is authorized to leave a recorded message as a form of communication. Nevertheless a large number of federal courts within the United States regard messages left via answering machine or digital voicemail to be a viable form of communication.
Now this does not place any legality authorization whatsoever to the debt collector leaving a message on your answering machine or voicemail. Primarily because the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act was enacted for the purpose of protecting your privacy by precluding the debt collector from revealing any information regarding your current debt to any third party which would simply mean if that voicemail or answering service was shared with other persons; under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act would be considered as a direct violation of your legal rights. Ergo leaving deceptive or disturbing messages in any attempt to intimidate you then that collector would have additionally violated sections of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.
he United States of America Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as amended by Public Law 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009 (September 30, 1996) under section 806. harassment or abuse [15 USC 1692d] specifically sates that:
The debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:
1) The use or threat of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person.
2) The use of obscene or profane language the natural consequence of which is able to the hearer or reader.
3) The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency or to persons meeting the requirements of section 603(f)1 of this Act.
4) The advertisement for sale of any debt to coerce payment of the debt.
5) Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
6) Except a provided in section 804, the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller's identity.
In summary, the debt collector is permitted from leaving telephone messages or forms of communication with your neighbors having already been fully aware of the consumer's name, telephone number and address and could have made direct contact. A debt collector is prohibited from contacting the consumer on numerous occasions so as to constitute harassment. The debt collector is prohibited from badgering the consumer with a series of lengthly questions in any attempt to intimidate.
If you believe you may be the target of discriminatory or criminal debt collection scheme, you should contact a consumer lawyer that is familiar with the FDPCA. This is a very specialized practice; not just any attorney friend will likely be able to obtain good results for you.. You may be entitled to statutory damages as much as up to $1,000 plus damages and legal fees.