Receiving collection agency calls at work is not only embarrassing but it can put your job in jeopardy. Debt collectors often use this tactic as a way to locate and intimidate you into paying your debt. Learn your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and the rules regarding such matters in your state. You can stop the harassment and if necessary, sue the agency for violations, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
Learn Contact Rules
Learn the rules on how and under what conditions a collection agency can contact you at home or at work. According to the FDCPA, an agency can contact you to locate and verify your employment, to notify a judgment has been filed against you or confirm you have medical insurance to cover a medically related debt. An agency cannot trick you into accepting such calls by pretending to be someone else. Agency letters sent to your work cannot indicate it is from a debt collector.
Check Your State
Check with your Department of Consumer Affairs agency regarding the rules on Debt Collection Practices in your state. Some states, such as California, place additional restrictions on a collection agency's conduct and practice when contacting you at work. For example, to locate you or verify your employment, a debt collector must first send a written inquiry. If there is no response within 15 days, the agency can phone your employer. Any agency mail sent to your work must be marked "personal and confidential."
Stop the Harassment
Stop the harassment by requesting in writing that the agency cease all contact with you and explain you are not permitted to receive personal calls during work. You can download a sample letter from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Make a copy of your letter and send it by certified mail, return receipt requested. Doing so provides proof that the agency received your request. Upon receiving your do-not-call letter, an agency cannot contact you again unless it has decided to abandon collection actions or is taking you to court.
Sue for Violations
File a complaint with your state's Consumer Department of Affairs or the Federal Trade Commission if you feel the collection agency has violated your rights. You can sue an agency for damages in small claims court if its actions violated the FDCPA; For example, the agent repeatedly called you at work, which resulted in you losing your job, or the agent became abusive or threatened you or your employer on the phone. If you decide to sue, it's a good idea to gather documentation, including witness statements that back your case.
Stop all communication and the agency may have no other recourse than to file a judgment against you for the debt you owe. If the debt collector wins a court order to garnish your wages, your employer will be contacted by letter or phone.
Penny Clark has worked as a feature writer for several Northern California community newspapers since 1994 and holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from California State University, Sacramento. Since 2010, she has been teaching the public food preservation techniques in Sacramento County. She also owns a food storage consulting business that specializes in freeze-dried foods and emergency preparedness products.