We have all heard the recordings telling us that our call “may be recorded for customer service”… Many of our clients in financial distress are dealing with debt collectors. Although there are well-established rules about what collectors can or cannot do, we hear all the time about abuses, such as threats of criminal action, repeated calls at late or early hours, calls of employers or relatives.
We suspect that these abusers think that most people will put up with the abuse and if they do pursue legal remedies, it will be a “swearing contest” in court. While debt collection is legal and proper, we have recommended that our clients document each call and consider recording such calls, but only if certain procedures are carefully followed.
In many states, including California and Pennsylvania, it is illegal to record a call or other interaction without the consent of all parties. So if the call originates in one of those states, a violation could trigger criminal action, or civil penalties. See Tape-recording laws at a glance
So here is our recommendation: Start the interaction and your recording with a statement something like “I am recording this call, and will record any further calls from you. If you do not want to be recorded hang up and do not call again. If you continue or call again, I will assume you and your company consent”. If the person says they do not consent then hang up.
If a collector leaves a message on your answering service, save the recording. They knew they were being recorded and cannot complain.
Watch out for debt collection scams. Whenever dealing with a collector, be sure to get the name or extension number of who is calling, the name and address of the collection agency, the name of the creditor, the account number, and a telephone number to call back “in case we get disconnected”. Never give any information over the phone, such as Social Security or credit card numbers, dates of birth where you work etc. They are calling you. If they do not have this information that is their problem. Do not fall for the “we need this for verification” scam. Your goal is to get information from them. If they want further information, tell them to put it in writing and send it to the address they have so you can review it with an attorney.
Finally, most old debts have been sold off to debt buyers. While this is legitimate, sometimes companies or collectors who do not really own the debt may try to defraud the true owner by trying to collect on someone else’s debt. Or phony debt collectors. Be wary.
More importantly, if you are having trouble with debt collectors, get legal advice about your rights and options. And please note, every state and situation is different. This post is intended only to alert you in a general way to the potential issues and problems. It is no substitute for qualified and individual legal advice.
Contact Neuner & Ventura, LLP
We understand the stress, anxiety and confusion that can be associated with a potential bankruptcy filing. We offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment, call Neuner & Ventura at 856-596-2828 or send us an e-mail. We do, however, reserve the right to charge a fee to review any work done by another attorney. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request.
Representing Clients across South Jersey