How To Make Debt Collectors Pay For Illegal Voicemails

Published: 06th June 2009
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Voicemails from bill collectors are a reality when you have been turned over to collections. The dirty secret debt collectors don't want you to know about is that they very often violate the law (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act - FDCPA) when they leave a voicemail message.

They know they are violating the law but they still do it.

In this short article we will give you the highlights and if you want our free report on "How To Make Debt Collectors Pay For Leaving Illegal Voicemails" you can contact me through my website listed in the resource box.

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

First, illegal threats or lies.

Second, third party disclosures.

Third, failure to leave the mini-miranda.


Threats and lies are more common over the phone as collectors are somewhat reluctant to leave a threatening message on a voicemail. Lately, we have seen more threatening voicemails so perhaps the collectors are getting more bold in breaking the law.

When they do leave threats and lies (which violate the FDCPA) here are some typical examples:

*Debt collectors will say they are with the police or the district attorney's office. I recently sued Creditors Interchange, a famous debt collection firm who left a voicemail claiming the collector was a prosecutor for Alabama.

*Collectors like to leave a message on your answering machine that a lawsuit has been filed against you when it in fact has not been filed - instead these were blatant lies.

*Abusive collectors will look to lie about anything that may cause a payment - for example if the collector is talking to a Hispanic person the collector will threaten deportation.

The list can go on and on but any type of illegal threat or lie falls into this first category.


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 speaker-phone 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.

Or 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.

Other times the collector intentionally leaves a message on a third party's voicemail for the purpose of intimidating you. These are certainly illegal as well.


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? We sometimes feel a need to always call people back to find out why they called us.

Ever call a cell phone and not leave a message and then the person calls back demanding to know who you are? It is that need to know who called and why they called that debt collectors are taking advantage of when they fail to leave the mini-miranda.

Second, it helps to avoid making third party disclosures which we discussed above.

It is a lousy argument for a collector to say he should get off the hook for violating the law because he did follow another part of the law.

Abusive debt collectors seem to think they have the absolute right to leave voice mails. They don't.


First, save the message! Record it onto a digital recorder or onto your computer but make sure you have a back up of the illegal voicemail.

Second, contact an experienced consumer attorney in your area to see if you have a case so you know what your options are. When I meet with people I listen to their situation and then explain the good and the bad of each option they have so they can make an informed decision.

Third, if you have a case then take action against the collector so others will be spared the illegal abuse of this collection agency.


Most voice-mails from debt collectors violate the law. Having the knowledge to recognize this, the determination to save the messages, and the follow through to meet with a consumer lawyer to see if suing is in your best interest is critical. If you have the knowledge, determination, and follow through then you can help stop the abusive collector from harassing you.


John G. Watts is a well known consumer lawyer who has litigated many cases against abusive debt collectors for leaving illegal voicemails.

His firm website is at

His consumer blog is

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