Maybe you’ve had a rough couple of months and fell behind on your credit card payments. Perhaps you had an emergency medical situation, and you can’t pay the bill in full. If a creditor has turned over an account in your name to a debt collection agency, you could face borderline harassing behaviors.
Calls at odd hours every day, frequent angry and threatening letters and contacting your family to get personal information are all tactics used by debt collectors. Sometimes, they could even start calling you at work.
You may wonder if it is legal for these third party debt collectors to call you at work. In some cases, such as businesses that prohibit non-emergency phone calls, repeated calls could put your source of income at risk. The good news is that under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), there are limits to a debt collector’s ability and legal right to contact you at work.
The law restricts calls to inconvenient or unusual places
If you don’t work at a desk, it may be incredibly inconvenient for you to take calls at work. People who work in factories, in transportation, in hospitals or schools, or even in restaurants can’t really accept a call without it interfering with their work. If a call is inconvenient, you should tell the debt collector right away. The law is clear that they should not contact you in places where it will cause inconvenience.
It’s best to explain why a call is inconvenient and to document the conversation in writing. Advise the debt collector that you had to leave your work to take the call. Let them know you want to invoke your rights under the FDCPA and that you will not accept any other communications from them at your work. Make a note of the name of the person you spoke with, the name of their company and the time and date of the call. If these calls persist, you can use those records to substantiate your version of events as you take steps to enforce your rights.
The law protects you from calls if your employer doesn’t allow them
Even if you sit at a desk all day, your employer could have a policy prohibiting non-emergency calls at your workplace. These policies are pretty common and intended to prevent employees from spending company time on personal issues. If your company has a policy about personal calls, advise the debt collector immediately. As noted above, make a physical, written record about the conversation, in case calls do not stop.
There are similar standards for email and text. If you use a work-issued cellphone or email, you can request that debt collectors not use that method to contact you. Know your rights and assert them, or debt collectors will continue to push in any way possible to get money from you.