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Can a Debt Collector Call Me on My Cell Phone?

Question: Can a debt collector call me on my cell phone?

Answer: Debt collection calls are never pleasant, but they can be especially problematic when placed to your cell phone.

There are several restrictions on debt collection calls to cell phones:

1. A debt collector cannot use an automated dialing system or recorded / artificial (computer-generated) voice to call your cell phone unless you have provided the number to the debt collector or the original creditor. The Federal Communications Commission considers this to be consent to be called. Capturing a number from an incoming call or obtaining it through skiptracing is not sufficient.

2. Even if you provided the number, you can revoke permission by telling the collector or creditor not to call you on your cell phone. This can be done orally but a writing is obviously preferable.

3. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you can tell a debt collector not to contact you “at any unusual time or place or a time or place known or which should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer.” This should entitle you to tell a debt collector not to call you on your cell phone. Again, this can be done orally but a writing is obviously preferable.

4. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you can tell a debt collector not to contact you at all. This must be done in writing and is effective only upon receipt by the debt collector. Using means of transmission that provides proof of receipt (fax, overnight mail, etc.) is recommended. The debt collector can file suit, but that is all.

5. Damages for violations of the TCPA are $500 to $1,500 per call. Statutory damages for violations of the FDCPA are $0 to $1,000. . Actual damages are also recoverable under the FDCPA. Under the FDCPA, but not the TCPA, the defendant can be required to pay the consumer’s attorney’s fees.

6. If there is a couple of seconds of silence on the line after you pick up the call, it is likely that the caller is an automated dialing system.

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