Why Debt Collectors Who Leave Voicemails Are Inviting A Lawsuit

Why Debt Collectors Who Leave Voicemails Are Inviting A Lawsuit

Illegal voicemails -- solution is to sue the debt collector

The solution to illegal voicemails by debt collectors is to sue them in federal court.

Introduction To Illegal Voicemails By Collectors

Debt collectors know what the law requires.

Collection agencies, debt buyers, and collection lawfirms spend lots of time and money going to seminars and workshops on how to avoid lawsuits.

The best way, of course, is to not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) law.

But despite all of their knowledge, when it comes to voicemails it seems that the collectors just can’t help themselves – they insist on leaving voicemails that violate the law.

In this short article we will give you the highlights.

There are three types of illegal voicemails that we will discuss in this article.

  1. First, illegal threats or lies.
  2. Second, third party disclosures.
  3. Third, failure to leave the mini-miranda.

First Type Of Illegal Voicemails- Threats Or Lies

We don’t see these as often as the other violations but they still are very common.

Debt collectors will say they are with the police or the district attorney’s office. Creditors Interchange, a well known debt collector from Buffalo, had a collector who lied by claiming he was the senior prosecutor for the state of Alabama.

Other companies have left voicemails threatening lawsuits that are supposedly filed but actually were not – instead these were blatant lies.

Other abusive collection agencies or collection lawfirms have threatened people with deportation or physical harm.

Any type of illegal threat or lie falls into this first category.

Second Type Of Illegal Voicemails – Third Party Disclosures

Abusive debt buyer, collection agencies, and law firms often leave voicemail messages knowing there is a chance that people other than the debtor/consumer will hear the messages.

Most answering machines play over a speakerphone so if the debt collector says “Mr. Consumer you need to call us back about this debt you owe right now” and a neighbor or family member (other than spouse) hears this, then a third party disclosure has occurred.

This is illegal.

So if the debt collector says “This is a debt collector and this is an attempt to collect a debt” and someone else besides your spouse hears this – the law has been violated.

Often times children or room-mates share a telephone line and voicemail (whether an answering machine or AT&T voicemail, etc) and so this is a serious and very common violation we see abusive debt collectors committing.

Third Type Of Illegal Voicemails – Failure To Leave Mini-Miranda

Debt collectors know when they leave voicemails they must leave the so called “Mini-Miranda” which is basically where they say “This is a message from a debt collector in an attempt to collect a debt”.

It prevents these abusive people from lying like they used to about the purpose of their call – it makes it clear to you that the call is a debt collection call.

However, many debt collectors refuse to follow the law and make the mini-miranda disclosure.

The reasons are many – but here are a couple.

First, it helps with collection efforts because it creates uncertainty in the mind of the consumer as to the purpose of the call. Do you call back or not?

Second, it helps to avoid making third party disclosures which we discussed above. But the problem with this second reason is it is no excuse to violate one part of the law because you don’t want to violate another part of the law.

Amazingly, harassing debt collectors believe they have a constitutional right to leave voicemail messages.

They don’t.

What To Do If You Have Received Illegal Voicemails.

Call us at 205-879-2447 and we can help you think through your options.  

Or you can contact us online here on our website.

We’ll see what the collector has done and listen to the voicemails to see if they are illegal or illegal.

If it’s legal, then that’s good for you to know the collector is not breaking the law with their voicemails.

But if it’s illegal, then you know you are dealing with an abusive debt collector and the best solution is to fight back by suing the collector in federal court for money damages.

Thanks for reading this and we’ll talk to you soon.

John Watts

PS — remember also that if the debt collector is using a robo dialer to blow up your cell phone, with or without voicemails, this normally will violate the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) which can entitle you to at least $500 per call and up to $1500 per call.


  1. […] This suit shows an example of debt collectors allegedly not giving proper disclosures and warnings to consumers.  This is not a secret or an obscure thing — instead it is well understood that collectors must leave voicemails legally, if they leave messages at all…. […]

  2. carol williamson says:

    Some law firms that defend debt collectors have been saying on their websites that the May 2012 Minnesota U.S. District court decision, “Zortman v. J.C. Christensen and Associates,” has now shown debt collectors how to leave voicemail messages without violating the FDCPA. The ruling is contrary to what many other courts have said about voicemail messages.

    Do you think that ruling will gain acceptance, particularly here in the 11th Circuit?

    • JohnGWatts says:

      Carol, I don’t think that will be accepted in the 11th Circuit. We have cases here that say, in essence, if you choose to use the phone that’s ok but if you choose to leave a voicemail message, then you better make sure it follows the law and is not heard by someone else. We had a somewhat similar case in Alabama where a friend was over and a collector left a message on the answering machine.

      The answering machine played out loud and the friend heard it while the client was in another room.

      Court ruled this was a third party disclosure because it said this was a debt collector, etc.

      Collector argued “Well, we have to say we are a collector so this can’t be a violation.”

      Court responded — don’t leave voicemails or if you do understand there is a risk of violating the law.

      The better approach is to not leave a voicemail and to use letters but collectors love the power of a voicemail, particularly when someone else overhears it….

      Thanks for your comment!

      John Watts
      Birmingham, Alabama

  3. Megan says:

    I have a creditor calling my cellphone that states a “mini Miranda” in the beginning of the voicemail. However, as I have not given permission for my cell phone to be used and the voicemail has now been heard by another party (not a spouse) who also has access to my voicemail, is this breaking the law?

    Also if they speak to a parent and elude to the fact that they are a creditor is that illegal?

    • JohnGWatts says:


      Let’s take these issues one at a time.

      First, a third party (non spouse) over hearing the message that has the “mini-miranda” (“This is a debt collector” and “Attempting to collect a debt”) can be a violation of the FDCPA. We have filed cases like this before but only where it was clear that it was not our client’s fault that the third party overheard it. The FDCPA only applies to collection agencies (debt collectors) not to original creditors so keep that in mind as I think your comment referenced a creditor.

      I think our cases all involved answering machines that played out loud while a guest was nearby and our client could not shut off the machine.

      Second, the call to your cell phone — is it an automated call or pre-recorded message? Did you give permission to the creditor to call your cell phone? Sounds like you did not. If automated call or pre-recorded call, then this will normally violate the TCPA and may entitle you to damages of $500 or $1500 per call.

      About speaking with your parents, if this is a creditor, then there is no violation of the FDCPA. It might violate state law but if this was a collector, then it depends on exactly what was said to your parents.

      Keep us posted and if you live in Alabama feel free to contact us directly so we can chat. 205-879-2447.

      Best wishes!

      John Watts

  4. Brett C says:

    “Second, the call to your cell phone — is it an automated call or pre-recorded message? Did you give permission to the creditor to call your cell phone? Sounds like you did not. If automated call or pre-recorded call, then this will normally violate the TCPA and may entitle you to damages of $500 or $1500 per call.”

    Does this apply to TN as well? Is this a Federal Law? I am in TN and I keep getting this auto voice calling asking for someone else who I have no idea who it is. But they make me call a number to remove it from there list. I have done that and they keep calling. I have tried to call the number they requested the person to call and I get nothing. Also, I do record all phone calls. I know most states are 1 party, but can you go over this in a video? Thanks.

    • John Watts says:


      Thanks for your comment and questions. I’ll do my best to answer them. Let me know if still have questions.

      The $500 or $1500 per call is under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which is a federal law that applies everywhere including TN.

      I would be careful about recording calls as you need to make sure the other side agrees to it or that everyone is in a one party state. Now, if it is an automated or pre-recorded message, then it seems to me you have permission — they recorded it so you should be able to also….

      As far as dealing with “dead air” or not being able to reach them back, try to look up their number on google. Call the number back a couple of times. Sometimes it is a bogus place but often you are trying to call back an “auto dialer” and there is no human being on the other end. This is very frustrating and why, in part, this law was passed. I gave a national webinar for lawyers on this a few days ago and we talked about how frustrating this can be — one of the bill sponsors said these computerized calls want to make you throw your phone away!

      Document everything you can — time, date, number, etc. Take a screen shot with your cell phone (iPhone press both buttons at same time — Android/Windows I’m not sure but you can do it) to document.

      Welcome to call my office — ask for Carolyn and tell her your situation and that we have communicated through AlabamaConsumer. She’ll get the message to me and we’ll see if we can get you some help.

      Thanks again for your comment and I hope this problem will go away quickly….

      John Watts
      Watts & Herring, LLC
      Birmingham, Alabama

  5. LaTanya says:


    I have a voice mail that was left at my place of employment where not only I can hear it, but my supervisor or anyone else for that matter. How the voice mail went is listed below.

    This message is for LaTanya (last name) my name is Ms. Gayle. I am calling you from Revenue Management Consulting Group you have a pending matter that has been placed in my office I need an immediate phone call from you or your attorney my number is 866-967-5817 ext. 314. When calling refer to your personal file #. This is a time sensitive matter and an immediate call is needed. Good Luck Ma’am.

    At the end of the phone call all you hear is her pushing buttons I guess to see if she can send the call through or perhaps listen to what she stated on the voice mail. However, at my place of employment messages left on voice mails can not be retracted by callers once message have been left. From the sounds of it I know this has to be a debt collector due to the way she left the message.

    Did this debt collector violate the law by leaving a voice mail at my place of employment? Any help will be appreciated.


    LaTanya C.

    • John Watts says:


      Thank you for leaving a comment for us.

      Several thoughts for you.

      First, a debt collector can call you at work unless it knows that you are to not receive these types of calls at work. You can tell the collector not to call you at work as almost every business has a policy that it does not want its employees getting non work related calls, especially ones that can be upsetting as most collection calls can be.

      Second, the debt collector cannot leave a message where others can hear it. It sounds like others could have heard this but only you did so I don’t think the collector violated the FDCPA just because others could have heard the message.

      Third, the debt collector must identify himself as a debt collector and that this is an attempt to collect a debt. It does not sound like Revenue Management Consulting Group did that in this voicemail message. Assuming this is a personal debt (i.e. not a debt for your work or job), and the FDCPA applies, then this failure to leave the disclosure (“Mini-Miranda”) is a violation of the FDCPA.

      My suggestion is to save this message and get it where you have it digitally. So if you can email it to yourself, that’s great. Or play it out loud (where no one can hear) and record it onto your phone or laptop, etc. Then get with a consumer lawyer in your state.

      In Alabama we have routinely sued debt collectors for this type of conduct. They hate these lawsuits but there is very little defense they can offer up.

      When these guys break the law, there are consequences.

      Keep us posted on what is happening and if you live in Alabama you are welcome to give us a call at 205-879-2447.

      Take care….

      John Watts
      Birmingham, Alabama

  6. jump Manual reviews says:

    Great article. I will be dealing with some of these issues as well.

    • John Watts says:

      I’m glad you liked it. If you have debt collectors collecting against you, then it is very likely they will leave voicemails. Save those voicemails and get with a consumer protection lawyer in your state to help you understand your rights and options.

      Best wishes

      John Watts

  7. Debt Collector : Lowell Portfolio

    Report Info : My report from Experian mentions that I am a defaulter with 54 GBP in debt with 3G which is complete allegation. They harrassed me and I sent a letter that I will sue them for bugging me for no reason and proof. They stopped sending mails but made a remark in my report. I am going to apply for home loan and I am really worried.

    Please help !

    • John Watts says:

      I’m not sure I follow your question.

      If you have false information on your credit report, then you need to dispute it properly. Or if it is a debt collector that has put false information, then you may have the option to directly sue the debt collector under the FDCPA.

      I hope this answers your question — if not then let me know.


      John Watts

  8. Working in a office says:

    I work for a office that we do our own collections and I have a coworker that leaves the amount of the balance on the recorder for our patient. No one has said anything to her however i do not feel this is correct… We are not a collection company we just do all of our collections in house. Is this breaking any law?

    • John Watts says:

      I can’t give you legal advice as I don’t represent you and don’t represent businesses doing collection work. I will tell you this that you need to have your company lawyer look at this because depending on what state you are in you may be covered by a state version of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

      If a company is covered by the FDCPA (or a state equivalent) then leaving the balance on a voicemail is potentially a violation. If a third party overhears the message — say it is a shared family voicemail or the message plays out loud while being left — then I have successfully sued companies for doing this.

      Best wishes and definitely get with your company lawyer to figure out if this is a wise practice. I think your instincts of not feeling comfortable with it are good instincts…. especially if this is medical related.

      John Watts

      • Tim says:

        John I thought many rules and regulations with the FDCPA only cover 3rd party collections and that in house collections have many of the consumer protections removed.

        • John Watts says:


          That is normally true — the FDCPA covers 3rd party debt collectors.

          It also, in some circumstances, can cover “in house collections” — let me give you some examples.

          1. The original creditor is collecting but is using a different name — example is Brookwood Hospital and the chain that owns it uses in house collection but they give it a different name so the consumer thinks it is an outside collection. The FDCPA will apply.

          2. In house collection is collecting but the company bought the debt when it was in default. So if GreenTree or Nationstar buy a mortgage debt when it is 1 day late (in default), then they normally will be considered a debt collector.

          There are other situations but these are the most common.

          Let me know if you have specific questions about a situation you are facing and I’ll be glad to help any way I can.


          John Watts

  9. Bill says:

    Can a company call you to collect someone else s debt ( leave it on the answering mach .) and get nasty and threaten you with the police for not giving them any info on the person they are trying to collect from. I do not have a number for the other party I called them back and told them that and got nasty and started yelling at me and telling me they wre going to call the police and have me arrested. I ask for info from the person I was speaking to and they refused to give me any names .

    • John Watts says:


      This sounds like you are dealing with a typical scam collection agency. These are not real collection agencies but are “outside the system” and threaten people with arrest, etc.

      Best way to deal with them is ask them to send you a letter if collecting against you. In your case, however, if they threaten again offer to conference in the police. They will hang up I bet.

      Sorry you are having to deal with this type of insanity…..

      John Watts

      • Felicia says:

        We are dealing with one of those right now.. fiancee never gave them my cell… and they threatened him on my voicemail, gave info they shouldn’t have on it. They never verified this # with him and I left them a message over a with ago telling them not to use it. He spoke to the cops after the first call… I told Mr Chris Anders at 855-772-7761 off, pointed out a few of the laws/procedures they are breaking. He tried to argue back and I hung up. On the 3 phones he called I believe we have 4 or more breaking law on whats said in the voicemail… especially on mine that states my name so there is no mistaking that it isn’t his phone. Who should we take these to…. we wish to get these people to stop breaking law with us and others…. complaints all over net about this group! others have demanded mail and got swore at, harassed more and hung up on. They do the dirty work tactic too apparently after told not to..

        • John Watts says:


          It is frustrating dealing with debt collectors that break the law.

          Sometimes the companies are “scam debt collectors” — not real companies. Some jerk with a prepaid cell phone or they shut down and slink across town to a new location with a new name.

          You might find this post helpful — https://alabamaconsumer.com/2012/04/harassed-by-foreign-debt-collector-over-pay-day-loan/

          It deals with foreign debt collectors but we are seeing more of “good old fashioned” Americans doing this same type of scam.

          If you live in Alabama you are welcome to call my office at 205-879-2447 and we can listen to the voicemails and talk to you about your options. Wherever you live, save your voicemails and documentation on the phone calls (screen shots of missed/received calls, etc) and get with a financial protection attorney.

          Best wishes and sorry you are having to deal with these idiots.

          John Watts

  10. sherry says:

    I was just notified by an employee who works in the same school system as i do that a credit card company has left a message on her voice mail for me…staying who they was and that i needed to call Tracey at **** ext ***. Our names are totally different and also since the person would have to push an extension # there is no way she could have made an accident…my last name starts with A & hers starts with an L…I am trying to see if i can get a copy of the voicmail sent to me. A third persons VOICEMAIL in whom i am not related to and also have only spoke to twice in 2 years heard the message …WHO else have they left this message to.,..this scare me at work.
    IS this a violation of my privacy? and what can I do about this?

    • John Watts says:

      This may be a violation of privacy — do you know if it was an actual credit card company or was it a debt collection company?

      Good idea to get the voicemail transferred to you and then save it on your computer or cell phone.

      Sometimes debt collectors do what’s called an “office party” where they call your co-workers to intimidate you — it is normally illegal.

      If you are in Alabama feel free to get in touch with us at 205-879-2447 and we’ll be glad to discuss this with you further if you like.

      Best wishes….

      John Watts

  11. I have had 3rd party collections call and leave automated voicemails… I didn’t think they had the authority to leave automated messages anymore… Can someone please help me on this and what I could do? This is from a cell phone bill that me and my ex shared almost 7 years ago

    • John Watts says:


      Automated voicemails can be legal but often are not.

      Definitely save your voicemails so a lawyer can listen to them.

      Here are some questions to consider:

      ** Did you give your current cell phone number to the agency or the original cell phone company?
      ** Have you received any letters from the debt collector?
      ** Have you checked your credit reports to see if the cell phone company or the debt collector is on there?

      This sounds similar to what a company known as “Diversified” does with millions of old Sprint accounts.

      If the message is left wrong, or if it is to your number and you never gave your number to the cell phone company when you opened the transaction, then the calls are likely violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which can mean $500 or $1500 in damages.

      Per call.

      Very powerful law.

      If you live in Alabama feel free to get in touch with us at 205-879-2447 or fill out our contact form on this website and we’ll get right back to you.



  12. shawna says:

    I too have recieved many phone calls from a chris andrews at my work saying he has a summons from dallas county but doesn’t want to bring it to my place of employment yet keeps calling up here and telling my managee. Then he called my cell which is undermy boyfriends name. I looked him up n many people have complained about him. What can i do

    • John Watts says:


      Sorry you are dealing with this frustrating situation.

      If someone says they have sued you or have a summons or arrest papers, ask them the case number so you can verify. If it is true, they will give you the information.

      If false, they won’t.

      Do you know what the debt is supposed to be over? A payday loan or online loan?

      If you want help to think through this call us at 205-879-2447 thanks.

      John Watts

  13. Kate says:

    I recently moved from Canada to the US, MS state. I have not been able to work, due to the fact that I wasn’t legally able to work here yet, waiting for legal paper work to process, my work permit, and green card. I am way behind with my credit card payments, and collections agency calling here, what is the best thing for me to do? I have missed several calls at home on land line, and cell phone from the collections agency, while I was out, what do I do, what is the worst thing that can happen to me, or about this debt? its a seven thousand dollar debt on an AMEX credit card.

    Thank you for your advice

    • John Watts says:


      I hope the move to America has been good for you. I don’t practice in Miss so I can’t tell you the laws there but I can tell you some general things that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) covers everywhere — some courts interpret it different but these are good general rules.

      First, we need to make sure that the AMEX credit card being collected on is considered “personal” or “consumer” debt instead of business debt. So what were the charges made for? Your business or work? Or were they for personal expenses — groceries, gas, vacations, medical bills, home repairs, education, etc.?

      Second, we need to know what the collectors are saying and doing. So we look at credit reports to find out if the collector is on our credit reports. We look at the collection letters the collector is sending. Save those including the envelopes. We listen to voicemails — save those. Often the law is violated in the voicemails.

      Third, we talk to the collection agency to see who the collector is, what the debt is, how much is claimed to be owed, and what the options are. Think of this as the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” type of questions. Same as if someone showed up at your door asking for money you would ask these questions before you reached into your wallet to pull out money.

      If the collector has the right to collect the debt, then you should look at paying the collector if you legally owe the debt.

      Often the collector will not show it has the right to collect or that you legally owe it or the collector will break the law. I personally don’t think it is smart to pay a collection agency that is willing to lie and cheat. Pay AMEX but not a lawbreaking company that may just steal your money.

      And if the collection agency is breaking the law, including the FDCPA, then look to sue the agency under the FDCPA in Federal Court. You can look to do that in Miss or if it is a national collection agency (most are) you can sue in most any state’s federal court. We just filed a case for a consumer in Arizona, dealing with a northeastern collection agency, in federal court in Alabama. There are advantages and disadvantages of doing this that you should consider.

      Best wishes and I hope this information gives you a bit of insight so you can know the right questions to ask and also know who to look for in Miss to speak with about your legal rights and options.

      John Watts

  14. Paula says:

    I keep getting a call from a collection agency and it goes as follows.

    Paula ____, if we have reach the wrong number for Paula ____ please call 888-691-0047 to remove your phone number.

    If you are not Paula ____, please stop listening now to this call and hang up as this is a personal call for the person mention.

    If you are Paula ____, please continue to listen to message or press number one to be connected to a member of our staff to discuss the nature of this call. You should not listen to call this message so that other people can hear it because it contains personal and private information. This is the of law office of Don Conrad, this an attempt to collect a debt by a debt collector and any information obtain will be used for that purpose. please contact us about an important business matter at 877-827-3860 or press 1 now to speak with a member of our staff.

    There are several problem I have with this matter. First off they have no confirmation that they have the correct number. Secondly they left a message on a VM where anyone can hear it.

    Is this in violation of FDCPA?


    • John Watts says:


      If someone other than you or your husband heard the message, then it would normally violate the FDCPA. If no one else heard it, then it would not (or at least not in a way that I think you can sue on as a practical matter).

      I am curious if this was left on your cell phone, your home phone, or a work phone? There are different implications for each type of phone.

      If cell, then it sounds like this was an automated message. The TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) can apply. Question is did you give the original creditor your cell phone number when you took out the loan? If so, then it should be ok (unless you revoked permission to call). If not, then the calls to your cell phone can be $500 or up to $1500 per call in statutory damages.

      If home phone, and no one heard it, then this message sounds fine to me. Assuming you owe the debt — if this is a debt you don’t owe then any collection attempt can violate the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act).

      If work phone, have you told the collector (lawyer Don Conrad) you are not allowed to get these calls at work? If so, then any call after that will normally violate the FDCPA.

      If you live in Alabama, feel free to give us a call at 205-879-2447 and we will be happy to help you think through your options.

      John Watts

  15. Wendy Bailey says:

    I keep getting calls for a number that has caller ID blocked. I do not answer and they leave messages that say they are trying to contact me in regards to a complaint but do not state what the complaint is. They also refer to me in my married name that I have not used since 2009. In the messages they say that if I do not comply they will report me to the County Clerks Office for failure to do so. They have called my family members and left the same messages. My brother and uncle actually talked to someone and they told them it was for a debt that I did not pay and that they would take me to court and garnish my wages for not complying with them. My question is can they do this and if not how can I stop them?

    • John Watts says:


      This sounds very illegal. Assuming this debt is covered by the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) then they shouldn’t be talking to family members about the debt (other than your husband).

      If you live in Alabama give us a call at 205-879-2447 and ask for Carolyn. Get her the information on the name of this company (if they have said it to anyone) and we’ll look them up and also see if there are any lawsuits listed in the Alabama online court system against you.

      I suspect this is a scam debt collector but doesn’t hurt to check it out and make sure.

      Save any voicemail messages.

      Do you have any letters from them?

      Is this company reporting on your credit reports (www.AnnualCreditReport.com is where you can get your free credit reports)?

      If you live outside of Alabama call a local consumer protection attorney — if in Alabama we’ll be glad to help you at 205-879-2447.

      Thanks and sorry you are dealing with this nonsense.

      John Watts

  16. Mike says:

    several members of my family and old employer have been receiving calls from an agency that informs them I am being I am being requested for an investigation into check fraud and my case has been referred tot he Attorney generals office. They went on to say that I am going to be arrested, should not have animals, family or anyone near who might be a witness. If on probation, I should contact my p.o and so on.

    How do I stop these calls and what rights do I have.

    • John Watts says:


      This sounds like a bogus debt collector. Probably related to an online loan or payday loan.

      The only way I have found to stop it is to call the place, tell them you want to receive a letter (a real letter by mail) from them. Not an email. Not a fax.

      A real letter laying out what they claim you owe and how they are going to press charges etc against you.

      They tend to go away after that.

      You can also ask them for their business name (they don’t like to give it out) and their address.

      Tell them you have heard of a lot of scams and you want to make sure they are legit — if not you’ll report them to the federal government.

      They may still call some but they will normally go away once they realize you won’t be intimidated.

      If by some chance it is legit, they will send you a letter in the mail.

      I’ve never had this situation prove to be legitimate — you might also read this article — https://alabamaconsumer.com/2012/04/harassed-by-foreign-debt-collector-over-pay-day-loan/ This article was written when there was a huge problem of foreign companies doing this. Now a lot of “Americans” are doing it also.

      We could sue if we could find these people and if they had any money but they normally are operating off the grid. No bank accounts, etc.

      Usually a thug living in his mother’s basement with prepaid cell phones.

      Annoying but try the above approach if you like and let us know how it turns out.

      And if you are concerned about the attorney general or district attorney, give them a call and ask them. I think they will tell you the same thing I’m suggesting above.

      Best wishes

      John Watts

  17. Mary Robinson says:

    Hello: I live in Nebraska and am wondering if I have a case here. I am recently widowed and have gone back to my maiden name, which is indicated on my voicemail. I have a debt collection agency with a bill of mine from when I had my married name. The gentleman that keeps calling me on a daily basis, leaving voicemails each time, originally was leaving messages for my married last name, and is now attempting to guess at my maiden last name, leaving voicemails for Mary Robinson instead of my married last name. He has also tried to combine my dead husband’s first name and my last name together, which is clearly different from the account, and very offensive considering this company was made aware of my husbands passing.

    Do I have any options?

    • John Watts says:


      Sorry you are dealing with this after your loss. I can’t speak for the law in Nebraska but if you were here in Alabama, I don’t think that would be enough to be able to sue. Now there might be more details that would make me think differently and you would certainly have some options to to get them to stop.

      But here’s my suggestion — get with a consumer lawyer in your state. I don’t know anyone personally there but sure there is someone. Have them talk to you over the phone (or in person if close by) and see what your options are — especially if there are any Nebraska laws that might apply. I know the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) likely will apply but you may have state laws that could help you.

      Sorry again for your loss and I wish I could help you directly — get with a lawyer in your state and I bet you can get some help.

      Best wishes….

      John Watts

  18. think you need to rethink your message portion. First it isn’t clear in all jurisdictions if it is a violation or not. Second, You can leave a message, albeit a long one,
    ““This is a message for [debtor]. If this is not [debtor], please hang up or disconnect. If you are [debtor], please continue to listen to this message. There will now be a 3 second pause (wait three seconds).

    • John Watts says:

      Thanks for comment — I tried to respond but must have been operator error as I don’t think my response came through. 🙂

      Yes you are right there are some jurisdictions that treat messages differently — however I’m writing this for consumers living in Alabama and our judges (and frankly most in the nation) agree.

      The message you indicated can be left — the danger for collectors is if a third party overhears it being left on an answering machine. So we had a case where a guest is over at the house (very small house) and the consumer is getting ready in the bedroom. Call comes in, answering machine picks up, and the message is left. Guest hears it.

      I suppose he could have run out of the house to avoid hearing it but federal judges don’t require that.

      So leaving voicemails has danger to debt collectors — federal judges have said, “Don’t leave one if you don’t want to run any risk.” Letters can be sent instead.

      Thank you for your comment and suggestion.

      Have a great New Years!

      John Watts

  19. Stacy Wester says:

    A voicemail was left on my cell phone by a debt collector. The name that they had given was actually my mom but I’m unsure how they got my number. They said I (my mom) needed to call them regarding a time sensitive matter and they were considering a lawsuit. This was a person, not a prerecorded message. My mother was very upset they left that on my cell number that even has my name on it when they voicemail box picks up. Are they allowed to just leave this type of information on a cell phone when they don’t even have the right number? She feels like her privacy was breached. Thanks

    • John Watts says:


      That’s a great question. It’s interesting — if it was NOT a computer calling you then the human being should have realized that the name was different.

      So on the one hand they will deny it was auto dialed or even a human pre-recorded message because they could get sued potentially under the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act).

      But on the other hand, hard to explain why a human did not notice the name on the voicemail.

      I would save the voicemail. Get it on dropbox/google drive/evernote/etc. Some cloud based service.

      Then get with a consumer lawyer — if you are in Alabama, you can call us at 205-879-2447. We’ll listen to the voicemail, have you and your mom pull credit reports, pull any collection letters, etc. Get a good feel for the situation and then let your mom know if she has any claim. And if they keep calling you, you may have a claim also.

      Best wishes and feel free to reach out to us.

      John Watts

  20. TP says:

    A relative had a debt collector call and leave two voicemails in which they disclosed my address. I know they can contact relatives if they are unable to get in touch with me, but isn’t disclosing my address an FDCPA violation? Supposed it was an abusive ex boyfriend and they’ve now given him my location. I don’t even know how many other people they’ve called and given my information to. Do I have a case? What should my next step be?Oh also, a few months ago they called me and I answered even though I didn’t recognize the number. I hung up on them after I had already verified who I was (so they know they have the right phone number for me) and they identified themselves as a debt collector. After I hung up they called back and left a voicemail that said, “Dun dun dun! (My name), this is not going to go away! You cannot run from it. We will be sending a carrier out with very important documents tomorrow between 3-5pm. If you are not available, make yourself available.”, in what I can only imagine was supposed to be a menacing voice, but he just came off as a cornball. By the way, no one showed up with papers. They’ve left that message three times over the past 6-8 months and no one shows up. I don’t have that voicemail anymore, but if they leave any more of that nature, would that be considered “threatening” considering he was attempting to strike fear in me?

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