Example of an abusive third party contact (neighbors) by a debt collector

Example of an abusive third party contact (neighbors) by a debt collector

Example of an abusive third party contact (neighbors) by a debt collectorDebt collectors routinely violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). There are number of reasons that debt collectors violate the law, but the most common reason is simply that it works in getting people to pay debts, whether the debts are owed or not owed.

Let’s talk about a very common example of a debt collector violating the FDCPA — illegally contacting third parties.

The FDCPA says it is illegal to contact a “third-party” except in unusual circumstances. A “third-party” means anyone other than the consumer, the consumer ‘s spouse, and the consumer’s attorney.

A debt collector can only contact a third-party when it truly needs, and is actually looking for location information.

“Location information” only means:

  • Consumer’s home address
  • Home phone; and
  • Consumer’s place of employment

So let’s flesh this out a bit.

A third party does include:

  • Children
  • Parents
  • Ex spouses
  • Neighbors
  • Co-workers
  • Payroll department
  • Preachers and priests
  • In laws

Location information does not include:

  • Email address
  • Cell phone number
  • Where the consumer is at right now (store, gym, friend’s house, etc)
  • Consumer’s spouse’s name or phone number

So let’s take Brent who is being collected on by Midland Credit Management, a national collection agency which collects on thousands of accounts in Alabama.

Midland is frustrated because either Brent won’t talk to Midland or Midland doesn’t like what Brent is saying.  Midland has the location information of Brent but it needs to turn up the heat on Brent….

So Midland decides to call Brent’s neighbors.  Pretty easy to figure out how to do this — it can even be done with free tools online — so Midland gets a list of his neighbors and starts calling.

This is known as a “block party” and is a common dirty trick by debt collectors.


“Can I speak with Brent Smith, please?”

“Uhmm he doesn’t live here.  I think that’s my neighbor.”

“Oh I’m sorry I thought this was his phone number.  [This is a lie and violation of the FDCPA].  Have you seen him recently as I can’t seem to catch him on the phone?”

“Sure — see him every few days leaving for work.  What’s this about?”

“Well, I’m not legally allowed to tell you but I will say that he is in some trouble.  I would like to help him but I need to be able to talk to him.  Can you get him to call me or even just give him a message?  Maybe just walk next door and tell him to give me a call?”  [This is not asking for “location information” and it goes way beyond what the FDCPA allows to be said to a third party].

“I guess I can do that.”

“Thanks — this will really help him and he’ll thank you for helping him out.  You can ask him to call me at ….”

This is a common occurrence, but it is an extreme violation of the law.

Let’s look at some of the violations of the FDCPA by Midland (or any other collector who does this).

Midland was not calling for location information so it had no right to call.  This violates the FDCPA.

Midland has revealed private information — that Brent is in “trouble” which Midland is not allowed to say to a third party.

Midland has not asked for location information — which it has — and instead has asked a neighbor to go talk to Brent.  This is a gross violation of the law.


Think of this way.  How embarrassing if your neighbor comes up to you and you realize a debt collector has been talking to him.  He’s going to ask what kind of trouble are you in and can he help you?

Then imagine three other neighbors come up to you.

This is known in the industry as a “Block Party” — its sole purpose is to shame and embarrass you into making payments.

Collectors say “Well, it worked and Brent owed the debt so what’s the big deal?”

I suppose using this logic taking a baseball to Brent’s kneecaps would “work” also — so would shooting his dog or threatening his children.  I didn’t realize the “test” was whether it shook money out of people — I thought the test was whether the debt collector obeyed the law.

There are other violations committed but I think you get the idea of what is happening here and why this type of conduct is illegal.

Bottom line — if you are dealing with an abusive debt collector or have questions, feel free to contact us.

You can reach us by phone at 205-879-2447.

There are time limits involved and sometimes the law can be a bit confusing so we are happy to meet with you in person or by phone to discuss your legal options.  ]Tell the receptionist you are dealing with a debt collector and want to know your legal rights — she will connect you the right team member.

Or you can always fill out our contact form here and we will email or call you right back.


  1. Wow, didn’t know that! Reminds me of a call I got about a year ago – at 5:30 am – from a debt collector, telling me that my brother had died (my little brother, dead??) and asking who was handling his estate. All she got from me was some choice words about calling me at that hour. He is not dead, but my reaction to that death notice reverberates in me to this day because he is in such poor health. Wish you could handle an action for me, but I am on the west coast.

    • John Watts says:

      Sorry you had to deal with that — if it is a legitimate debt collector (i.e. not a scam place with no business, no physical location, etc) and if it was less than 12 months ago you can take some action. We do work in other states if there is a local lawyer involved.

      Crazy what happened to you — do you recall which collection agency it was?

      Thanks for commenting and have a great day.

      John Watts

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