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Can Debt Collectors Call Your Workplace?

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You already know that potential employers can find out a bit about your debt when a credit report check is part of the application process. But can a debt collector call your employer to ask questions about your job?

A reader, Kimmie, posed this question on our blog recently:

Does a collection agency have the right to ask your employer questions about your position, part-time or full-time, and speak to payroll?

The answer, it turns out, is complicated. Consumer protection attorney Robert Brennan said debt collectors may contact an employer, in some limited circumstances, to help locate a person. But even then, they may not discuss the debt with the employer. (And if debt collectors are calling you at work and you ask them to stop, the law says they must.) The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website has some questions and answers on debt collection as well as sample letters to help consumers assert their rights.

We don’t know the details of Kimmie’s situation, but if the debt collectors threatened to contact her employer in an attempt to get her to pay, it could be deceptive, and it would be a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which sets forth rules for debt collectors.

On the other hand, if there is a judgment against Kimmie, then debt collectors would be permitted to contact her employer to take steps to garnish her earnings. That, of course, would entail getting in touch with the employer and with payroll.

Image: nyul

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