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Feb 2011

Before bankruptcy: "Can debt collectors call my neighbors?"

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy / 7 comments

I’m a Virginia Bankruptcy Lawyer.   I talk to a lot of people in financial trouble.  I talk to a lot who are harassed by debt collectors.

Many people–before they decide to file bankruptcy–don’t know what to tell debt collectors.  Often, they just stop answering the phone.

That can lead to debt collectors calling your neighbors.  That’s probably illegal.

Before bankruptcy, can debt collectors call my neighbors?

Before bankruptcy, can debt collectors call my neighbors?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) says debt collectors can talk to people other than you.  But only “for the purpose of acquiring location information.” They cannot talk to other people for other reasons–like asking you to return their call.

That means it’s OK for them to call your neighbors and ask, “Does Virginia Consumer lives next door?”  But it’s illegal for them to say, “Can you ask Virginia to call me?”  Which is what they  often do.

I saw this news release a few months ago, that makes me wonder if even calling to ask “Does Virginia live next door?” isn’t nearly always illegal.

This news release talks about a service that offers “real-time . . .  enhanced … skip trace service.” It talks about how they check more than four billion records–to find out where you are living right now.

Probably you are living where you’ve lived last month and the month before–and not answering your phone does NOT mean you moved.   So they don’t need to acquire location information.  They already have it.

For our bankruptcy clients,  our law firm sues debt collectors for calling neighbors–but only after you have started answering the phone, again.  I’m wondering if we should start suing every time.  At least if you’ve been living at the same place for six months or more.

Since I’m a bankruptcy lawyer, I want to say one more thing:   If you have debt collectors calling, on a debt you do owe, you should think seriously about filing bankruptcy.

If you need a bankruptcy lawyer in your area, you can find one at the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.  (NACBA).

If you want to find a lawyer who sues debt collectors, look at the National Association of Consumer Advocates.  (NACA).

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Robert Weed has helped fifteen thousand people file bankruptcy in Northern Virginia. Robert Weed is a frequent panelist and speaker at the meetings of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. He is one of Northern Virginia’s most experienced personal bankruptcy lawyers. As an expert on changing consumer bankruptcy laws, Robert Weed has been interviewed on local and national TV and quoted in newspapers across the country.

  • Robert Weed

    March 12, 2011, am31 9:43 AM

    Just saw this interesting clipping clipping in a debt collection newsletter. Consumers are starting to see debt collectors post messages on their facebook page. http://www.collectionsrecon.com/collection_news/debt-collector-prohibited-from-facebook-contact-with-woman/. Of course that’s totally a violation of the FDCPA. I imagine consumer lawyers around the country lining up to sue on that.

  • Jon poucher

    April 1, 2014, pm30 5:38 PM

    I read through most of the feedback you gave other people. Some of the feedback, applied to my situation but not exactly. I plan on attacking the bankruptcy idea soon. I’ve had below average credit for a little while now and recently my car decided to fail me. It’s beyond repair and I have a 27,000 dollar balance still left on it. The warranty and the insurance will not cover any of the damages for reasons that are not relevant to this inquiry. However, I NEED a car but I obviously I cannot afford two car payments. My approach would be to purchase a used inexpensive car through financing and then later applying for bankruptcy. I’ve been advised ( not by a lawyer) to get the new car and stop sending payments to the auto loan I had and creditors I owe. When filing, I should list only the debts I wish to clear including creditors with high balances and exclude my new car payment . My question is, is this the correct approach and the second question is, should I also cease sending payments to my creditors?

    • Robert Weed

      April 1, 2014, pm30 6:14 PM


      One of your questions I can answer. You can pay anybody you want to pay, but leaving somebody off the list is LYING TO THE COURT. So, you have to put down the new car loan–but you can keep paying it.

      As to when you should stop paying your other debts, you need to work that out with your lawyer. A lot of actors can come into play on that–a good lawyer will want your complete picture before they answer that question.

  • Danna

    August 12, 2015, am31 1:43 AM

    My relative who lives in a different state than me and who’s name I’ve never put on my credit card application was called by CMS? Won’t give address. Don’t know who they are (saw a website about Capital Management Services- who try to collect on Dead dept beyond statutes) But they said they were trying to get a hold of me -illegal? She said I didn’t live there and told them what state I lived in. .And she said she knows but they have been trying to serve me a CIVIL LAWSUIT? The collector said “THEY KNOW”. Please answer me this => What a ” Civil Lawsuit from a collector” be? – a Warrant in Dept or a Lawsuit? I never got anything in the mail, at my door, and not filed at the courthouse. I’ve lived at the same address they should have, no name change. They found my relative but can’t find me? And why is it so important to CALL me, they should just send me a letter. They threatened my relative that she should expect someone at HER door and get served some papers for me. They never showed up. Seems so unfair that a lawsuit or dept is larking over your head and you have no idea because they won’t even send you a letter, they want to TALK to you instead. PS: I there anyway to find out if I have a “Rule to Show Cause” or a “Capais” on my head -sheriff picking me up? Call the court? Thank you.

    • Robert Weed

      August 13, 2015, pm31 7:36 PM


      Those are the tactics of underground debt collectors, trying to scare you into making a payment on something you probably don’t even owe.

      You should report them to the CFPB, who may have the resources to track them down and prosecute them. See my paragraph on underground debt collectors, here. https://robertweed.com/bankruptcy-five-year-warranty/

  • Kevin Jones

    April 28, 2017, pm30 2:29 PM

    I don’t think a bankruptcy is my option any more because the credit card debts are 5 years old and only 2 collectors (people who bought the debt) who are not the original creditors still send out a letter once a year wanting me to pay. can I request a forgiveness of debt letter and a 1099-c from all my past creditors and loan holders who bought the 5 year old loans (statute is 3 yrs V.A), so that I can finally clean up my credit on my own? Or do I need to go through a credit counselor to do this? Thank you.

    • Robert Weed

      April 28, 2017, pm30 4:53 PM


      I’m agreeing with you that the debts are probably barred by the SOL, but those vary by state and I don’t know where you are. (VA?)

      The credit bureaus are supposed to remove them after 7 years; I don’t know of any instant strategies that get them off sooner.

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