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Can Debt Collectors Call You at Work in Texas?

The Short Answer: Yes, But…

Debt collectors are generally allowed to call you at work in Texas – but there are some important exceptions and rules they have to follow. If your employer prohibits personal calls at work, the debt collector can’t keep calling you there once they know about the policy.You also have the right to tell the debt collector not to contact you at work. They have to honor that request, even if your job doesn’t explicitly ban personal calls.Beyond workplace calls, debt collectors have to play by a whole set of other rules under state and federal law. We’ll go over all the key details in this article, including what to do if a collector oversteps their bounds.But first, let’s get one thing straight: just because a debt collector calls doesn’t necessarily mean you owe the debt they’re trying to collect. Errors and shady practices are rampant in this industry. Don’t pay up or acknowledge any debt until you verify it’s really yours and that the amount is correct.Dealing with debt collectors? Know your rights and options

The Debt Collection Landscape in Texas

Debt collection is big business in the Lone Star State. Texas ranks among the top 5 states for debt collection complaints filed with federal regulators. In 2021 alone, there were over 15,000 debt collection complaints from Texas consumers.A lot of this activity stems from Texas’ business-friendly laws and court precedents. Compared to other states, Texas makes it relatively easy for debt collectors to go after consumers – as long as they follow certain rules.For example, Texas allows debt buyers to sue consumers for unpaid debts for up to four years after the debt’s due date or last payment. Many other states have shorter time limits.Texas also doesn’t require debt collectors to notify consumers before reporting unpaid debts to credit bureaus. And the state’s property exemption laws give collectors more ways to pursue assets like homes, cars, and bank accounts to satisfy judgments.On the flip side, Texas has some key consumer protections too. The state bans wage garnishment for most types of consumer debt (with exceptions like child support, taxes, and student loans). It also prohibits debt collectors from taking certain actions like:

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  • Threatening violence or criminal charges
  • Using profane or abusive language
  • Calling repeatedly to harass you
  • Misrepresenting the debt amount or status
  • Collecting debts they don’t have documentation for

These and other prohibited practices are spelled out in the Texas Debt Collection Act and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Violators can face fines and lawsuits from consumers.Texas consumers also get extra protections under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Among other things, this law restricts when and how debt collectors can contact you – including rules about calling your workplace.What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

The Rules for Calling Your Workplace

Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are allowed to call you at work – unless they know your employer doesn’t permit personal calls. If the collector is aware of such a policy, they can’t keep contacting you there.The law puts the onus on you to notify the debt collector about your employer’s policy. You can do this verbally or in writing. Getting it in writing is better since it creates a paper trail.Even if your job doesn’t explicitly prohibit personal calls, you can still tell the debt collector to stop contacting you at work. They’re required to honor that request.Here’s the exact wording from the FDCPA:“A debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt at the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication.”In other words, the collector can call you at work unless:

  1. Your employer bans personal calls at work, and the collector knows about it
  2. You specifically tell the collector not to contact you at work

If the debt collector violates this provision after being made aware, they’ve broken federal law. You may be able to sue them in federal court.What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?

Calling Your Workplace: What Collectors Can and Can’t Do

Even if your workplace allows personal calls, debt collectors still can’t say or do just anything when contacting you there. The FDCPA prohibits collectors from:

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  • Discussing the debt with your coworkers, boss, or anyone else besides you
  • Calling at inconvenient times, like before 8 am or after 9 pm, unless you agree
  • Using profane language or making threats
  • Repeatedly calling to annoy or harass you
  • Misrepresenting the amount you owe or their identity

Basically, the collector can call and ask for you, but that’s about it. They can’t go into details about the debt with others at your job. And they have to be professional and follow other FDCPA rules during the call.If a debt collector oversteps these boundaries when calling your workplace, you may have a case against them under the FDCPA. Potential penalties include actual damages (like lost wages), statutory damages up to $1,000, and reimbursement of legal costs.Top 10 violations of the FDCPA by debt collectors

Calling Your Workplace: The Creditor vs Debt Collector Difference

It’s important to understand that different rules apply to original creditors versus third-party debt collectors. The FDCPA only governs debt collectors, not original creditors like banks, credit card companies, or healthcare providers.So if it’s your original creditor calling about a debt you owe them directly, they aren’t bound by the FDCPA’s workplace call restrictions. They can call you at work even if your employer bans personal calls.However, original creditors still have to follow other state and federal laws prohibiting harassment, threats, and deceptive practices. If a creditor crosses those lines when calling your job, you may be able to take legal action.For example, the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act prohibits creditors from using “false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices.” Repeatedly calling your workplace after being told to stop could potentially violate this law.What’s the difference between a debt collector and a creditor?

How to Stop Debt Collectors From Calling Your Work

If debt collectors are calling you at work, there are a few steps you can take to make them stop:

  1. Check your employee handbook or policy to see if your employer prohibits personal calls at work. Many companies have such policies to avoid disruptions and liability issues.
  2. Tell the debt collector about the policy, either verbally or in writing. Be sure to get the collector’s name, company, address, and other details.
  3. Send a certified letter telling the collector to stop contacting you at work, and keep a copy for your records. Cite the FDCPA provision prohibiting workplace calls after the collector is aware of your employer’s policy.
  4. Keep meticulous records of all further calls from the collector to your workplace, including dates, times, and what was said.
  5. File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and your state attorney general’s office if the calls persist after you’ve made the prohibition clear.
  6. Consult a consumer lawyer about potentially suing the debt collector in federal court for FDCPA violations. Many attorneys take these cases on contingency if the violations are clear.

The key things are 1) notifying the collector in writing about your employer’s policy, and 2) documenting everything from that point forward. As long as you’ve made your wishes clear, the collector can’t keep calling you at work without breaking the law.How to stop debt collectors from calling you at work

Dealing With Repeated Calls at Work

Even if your employer doesn’t prohibit personal calls, you can still demand that debt collectors stop contacting you at work under the FDCPA. The law says collectors can’t cause a phone to “ring repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass.”So if a collector keeps calling you incessantly at work after you’ve asked them to stop, that could constitute harassment under the FDCPA. Likewise for leaving a barrage of voicemails or making repeated calls back-to-back.The CFPB has issued guidance stating that, in most cases, a debt collector calling the same number more than 7 times in 7 days would be considered harassment. But there’s no bright-line rule – it depends on the specific circumstances.If you’re dealing with this kind of harassing behavior from a debt collector calling your workplace, take the same steps outlined above:

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  • Tell them verbally and in writing to stop calling you at work
  • Document every call with details like date, time, caller name/number
  • File complaints with regulators like the CFPB and your state AG
  • Consult a consumer lawyer about potential FDCPA claims

Repeated unwanted calls alone may be enough to make out a harassment claim under the FDCPA. But your case will be stronger if you clearly told the collector to stop contacting your workplace and they kept doing it anyway.How many calls from a debt collector is considered harassment?

Calling Your Cell Phone at Work

The FDCPA’s workplace call rules don’t just apply to your office landline. They also cover debt collectors calling your personal cell phone while you’re at work.As long as the collector knows (or should know based on the circumstances) that you’re not allowed to get personal calls at work, they can’t keep contacting you on your mobile number during work hours.For example, if you tell the collector you can’t be getting calls about a debt while at your job, that should put them on notice. The same goes if they repeatedly call your cell during typical 9-to-5 work hours.Calling your personal phone at work after being made aware it’s not allowed could open the collector up to FDCPA liability, just like calling your office line. So be sure to document those calls too if they persist.

Calling Other Workplaces: Debt Collectors’ Limited Rights

In addition to calling your primary workplace, debt collectors are allowed to contact other third parties one time to try getting location information about you. This could include calling a previous employer to get your current work number and address.However, the FDCPA strictly limits what collectors can say in these communications. They can only state their name and that they’re confirming your location. They can’t mention that you owe a debt or give any other details.If a debt collector goes beyond just asking for your contact information when calling other workplaces, they’ve likely violated the FDCPA. The same goes for repeatedly calling these third parties after getting the location details they requested.What debt collectors can say to third parties

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Dealing With Violations: Your Rights and Options

If a debt collector violates the FDCPA by repeatedly calling your workplace after being told not to, you have a few potential remedies:

  • Sue the collector in federal court. The FDCPA allows consumers to file lawsuits and seek damages for violations. Potential awards include actual damages (like lost wages from workplace disruptions), statutory damages up to $1,000, and reimbursement of legal fees and costs.
  • File complaints with regulators. You can report FDCPA violations to the CFPB, FTC, your state attorney general’s office, and other consumer protection agencies. This can prompt investigations and potential enforcement actions.
  • Seek an injunction or restraining order. If the violations are egregious and ongoing, you may be able to get a court order prohibiting the collector from further misconduct while your case proceeds.
  • Negotiate a settlement. Many debt collectors will agree to pay some compensation and cease improper conduct if you have a legitimate FDCPA claim against them.

To pursue any of these remedies, you’ll need solid documentation and evidence of the violations. Be sure to keep detailed records of all communications with the debt collector, including dates, times, names, and what was said or done.Having this paper trail can make or break your case. It shows you made the collector aware of the workplace call restrictions and that they knowingly violated the law anyway.What to do if a debt collector violates the FDCPA

When Debt Collectors Call: Verify Before Paying

Even if a debt collector follows all the rules about calling your workplace, that doesn’t necessarily mean the debt they’re trying to collect is legitimate. Debt collection is a notoriously shady industry rife with errors and bad practices.Before acknowledging or paying any debt, always get full verification and documentation from the collector. This should include details like:

  • The name of the original creditor
  • The account number associated with the debt
  • The amount owed, with an itemized breakdown
  • The date the debt was incurred
  • Proof that the collector has the legal right to collect the debt

Don’t just take the collector’s word for any of this information. Insist on getting it all in writing first. Then cross-check the details against your own records and other documentation like past statements or bills.If the collector can’t produce proper verification, you may not actually owe the debt they’re trying to collect on. Likewise if the amount or creditor name doesn’t match your records.It’s also a red flag if the collector tries to revive a really old debt that may be past the statute of limitations for collection in Texas. Or if they start making harassing calls after you dispute and request verification.How to verify a debt a collector is trying to collect

When to Consult a Lawyer About Debt Collectors

Dealing with abusive or unethical debt collectors can be extremely stressful, especially when they’re calling you at work. But you don’t have to just take their harassment lying down.If a debt collector violates the FDCPA or state laws by repeatedly calling your workplace after being told to stop, you may have a case against them. The same goes if they discuss the debt with others at your job, make threats or false statements, or engage in other illegal conduct.An experienced consumer rights lawyer can review your situation and let you know what options you have for holding the collector accountable. This could include filing an FDCPA lawsuit to recover actual and statutory damages.Many consumer law firms take these cases on contingency, meaning you don’t pay anything upfront. The lawyer’s fees come out of any settlement or court award.So don’t just ignore debt collector violations and let the harassment continue. Talk to a lawyer about your rights and potential claims. It costs nothing to get an initial case evaluation from most firms.Find a consumer protection lawyer near you

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