Two Reasons Why We Recommend You Not Record Phone Calls in Alabama
Two Reasons Why We Recommend You Not Record Phone Calls in Alabama
The short answer is “No.”
The longer answer is, “Not usually.”
There is a lot of information on the internet about recording calls.
We wrote this free report to help give you our perspective so you can have more information to make the right choice on whether or not to record calls when dealing with an abusive debt collector.
Reason One – Avoid Prosecution In A Foreign State.
We are often asked about Alabama consumers recording conversations here and isn’t it legal since Alabama is a “one party state”?
Alabama is a one party state, but you can still be prosecuted.
One party state means that only one person in the phone conversation needs to consent to the recording of the conversation.
So, if you are on the phone with an abusive collection agency, and you consent, that is one person so you can record.
Sounds simple, right?
Well, that is the advice we gave years ago but we have changed now.
In a two party state, both parties have to agree to the recording.
This is why you often hear “This call may be recorded” when you call certain companies.
Some of these two party states take the position that even though it may be legal for you in Alabama to record the call, it violates the law of their state and so they will prosecute you in their state. I think this is bogus and against the law but you need to know about it if you decide to record a call.
Also keep in mind that often times we cannot tell where a debt collector is calling from or where our call is going to as the larger collection agencies may route calls through different offices and you can’t tell this through caller ID.
The letter from the collection agency may say “Atlanta” but when you call the collector may pick up the phone in Florida, a two party state.
So here is how this can work against you.
Let’s say an abusive debt collector keeps calling.
You secretly record the phone call.
Congratulations, you’ve captured this abusive call on tape, and you’re ready to sue this disgusting collection agency.
You then file suit and your lawyer sends over the recording.
Instead of the collection agency offering you money, your lawyer gets a nasty letter informing him that you have violated the laws of the state of, say, Florida and the district attorney where the collector is located (and employs lots of people) is looking at opening a criminal prosecution against you in Florida.
The unstated but clear message is if you drop the civil case you will not be prosecuted.
(This is almost universally forbidden to blackmail someone like this but we are talking about realities here, not a fantasy world).
So, what do you do?
Move forward and hire a lawyer in Florida (or California or wherever) to defend you?
Or do you drop the suit and hope you won’t be prosecuted?
This relatively new approach by two party states is the primary reason we tell consumers not to record phone calls.
If you don’t record phone calls, you don’t have to worry about being prosecuted somewhere else.
[Please note – this does not apply to voicemail messages. The debt collector knew he or she was leaving a recorded message – that’s the whole point of a voice mail! So there is no issue with consent as the collector consented by leaving the message.]
[Clarification: It is not wrong to record a call just make sure you are comfortable doing it the right way to protect yourself.]
But, if you can’t record then how can you prove your case?
This leads us to the second reason not to record….
REASON TWO – IT IS NOT NECESSARY
Many consumers believe that if they do not have the abusive debt collector on tape, then there is no case.
Some debt collectors and their defense lawyers act the same way – as if there is no proof if there is no recording.
This is simply not true.
You are qualified to testify to what the debt collector said to you.
The best practice is to make notes as you are on the phone.
You can do this on your computer or on a notebook or on a collection log. (See our article on “How To Use The Collection Log When Dealing With Debt Collectors“).
Immediately after hanging up the phone, review your notes and see what changes are needed to make them as accurate as possible.
Did you abbreviate some words?
Make a note what the words mean.
If there is anything unclear, make it clear right after you hang up the phone.
Note the time and date of the call and who called you.
Here is why some consumers believe recordings are essential:
The debt collector will not put in its notes that it used profanity or threatened you with jail time for not paying a bill. Our response? Big deal.
Of course the debt collector will not record entries into the collection notes that will open the debt collector up to a lawsuit or expose the individual collector to being terminated.
We can show that collector notes are almost always unreliable.
So it comes down to your testimony versus the debt collector’s testimony.
The collector will say he has no memory of threatening you or cursing at you.
He will say he remembers the call very well.
Of course the next question we ask is, “Tell us about the call right before the one with my client.”
Or the one five people after our client.
These collectors have dozens of calls in a day and yet they claim they can remember what they told you six months ago?
The reason you can remember is you have had just a few collection calls and because you carefully and faithfully note all the calls you get in your computer, notebook, or other collection log.
If you are a credible and believable person, then who needs a recording? In our judgment a recording is just not that important for most cases.
BUT IF YOU DO RECORD, HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS:
If you decide to go ahead and record, then here are some suggestions.
First, make sure that your recording device/app is working properly. If you are going to take a chance recording, make sure you get something out of it. Test out your recording device with a friend who is agreeable to you doing this.
Second, tell the debt collector at the beginning of the conversation that you are going to record the call.
Tell the collector if he or she keeps talking you are going to assume they agree to be recorded.
[Here is an option — if the collector or a recording says “This call may be recorded” then it is reasonable in my opinion for you to take the position that they are agreeing to the recording. So you have the collector and you agreeing — that’s good for a two party state.]
If they won’t agree, then end the call.
Third, do not act any different on the recording.
Once you have permission from the debt collector, then proceed with the conversation as if nothing is different.
This also means do not try to trick or trap the debt collector. Instead you are trying to gain information from the collector.
Fourth, as soon as the call is over mention on the recording the time and date of the call if you did not do so at the beginning of the call.
Fifth, transfer the recorded call to digital media as soon as possible. Get it on your computer or somewhere safe. You don’t want to go through all the effort to get a recording and then the recording is lost or misplaced.
We hope that this information will help you make the right decision in dealing with abusive debt collectors.
Keep in mind that whatever decision you make on calls with abusive debt collectors, remember you have rights and the better you document the abuses of debt collectors, the greater likelihood that you can stop them from ever abusing you again.
If you live in the state of Alabama, feel free to call us at 1-205-879-2447.
I look forward to chatting with you!
Have a great day.