November 13, 2013

LEGAL MATTERS: Stop Debt Collection Calls At Work

At least once a month I get a frantic call from someone being harassed by a debt collector at work. The person is always embarrassed and desperate to have the calls stop. Sometimes the person owes the debt; often they do not. In the really sad cases, the person has already paid the collector something but he is now demanding more. Here is what to do if you are getting collection calls at your job.

Is it a Fake Debt Collector?

There is a good chance – 50% based on my experience - the debt collector is really just a criminal trying to shake you down. (Listen to a fake debt collection call here.) He probably got your personal information from a resume you posted on a job site, your LinkedIn profile, or from a loan you might have applied for online. Then he did a Google search to figure out your boss’s name or some other details about you he can use to trick you. When he gets you on the phone he will threaten to have you arrested or served with a lawsuit at work. He may claim to be an ‘investigator’ and urge you to take care of the debt before it becomes a criminal case. His goal is to pressure you into paying right away before you realize you are being scammed.

You will know you are dealing with a fake debt collector if they insist you pay them in a way that cannot be traced. They may insist you wire them money using Western Union, or that you buy a pre-paid credit card or GreenDot Money Packs from 7/11, or that you give them your checking account number. Never pay any debt that way! If a debt collector insists you pay them in any of those ways, hang up and never talk to them again.

Fake debt collectors will keep calling until they realize you are not going to pay. Arguing with them, or threatening them, is a waste of your time. Suing them is also usually a waste of time because you can never find them. Just hang up on them and file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI’s Internet Crime Center.

Tell Them To Stop; Sue If They Don’t

Debt collectors are allowed to call you at work until they have reason to know such calls are inconvenient for you or prohibited by your employer. So if they are either, tell them on the phone and send them a letter reminding them. (They will demand you give them another number but you do not have to.) If they call you at work again, you can sue them for violating your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and probably get your attorney fees paid and put $1,000 in your pocket.

Even if they legally call you at work, debt collectors can never say or suggest to anyone other than you and your spouse that you owe money. You should consider immediately sue any debt collector that tells the receptionist, or threatens to tell your boss, that you owe money.

Deal With The Debt

Stopping the calls at work will not make the debt go away. It will stop the embarrassment and give you a chance to develop a plan to deal with your debts. If they are overwhelming, you may need to file bankruptcy. If not, read about your options here. And don’t get tied up with any debt settlement, or debt negotiation, outfit you find online.