If you have ever had a debt go to collections, you're probably familiar with one popular collection method: frequent telephone calls. If a collection agency has your telephone number, you can expect a barrage of calls from collectors demanding that you submit a payment. When a collection agency calls you at home, it could be your husband or wife, rather than you, who takes the call. Fortunately, federal laws protect your privacy by placing limits on what the collector can and cannot tell your spouse.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governs the behavior of the debt collection industry and its representatives. It protects debtors by prohibiting debt collectors from utilizing abusive techniques when recovering delinquent debts. The FDCPA states that a debt collector may only discuss the details of your debt with you or your attorney. Collection agents can call you at home and can ask to speak with you if your spouse answers, but they cannot inform your spouse of your delinquent account, as this violates your consumer protection rights under the FDCPA.
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Exceptions to the Law
Two exceptions apply to the rule restricting collection agents from discussing a debtor's situation with the debtor's spouse. If the debt is question is a joint debt that your spouse shares, such as a delinquent joint credit card account, your spouse is just as responsible for payment as you are. In this scenario, a collection agency representative could legally discuss the debt with your spouse because your debt is also his debt. A collection agent may also talk to your spouse about your debt if you give the agency permission to do so.
Although the FDCPA notes that collection agencies do not have the right to discuss an individual's debts with his spouse, that does not guarantee that all debt collectors will abide by this rule. Should a debt collector violate your rights by giving private information to your spouse or any third party, the FDCPA gives you the right to file a lawsuit against the company and collect damages of up to $1000. Should you choose to sue, you must file your lawsuit within one year of the date the violation occurred.
Protecting Your Privacy
You don't have to resign yourself to demanding and constant phone calls from collection agencies. Nor do you have to worry that an unscrupulous or ill-informed representative will eventually inform your spouse about your delinquent debt. Should you so choose, you have the right to force debt collectors to cease all contact with you.
According to the FDCPA, if you send a written request to the debt collection agency to cease all contact with you, it has no choice but to respect your wishes. After receiving your request, the collection agency may only contact you to inform you that your statement was received or to inform you about specific collection action it plans to take against you, such as filing a lawsuit.