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Can debt collectors tell other people, like family, friends, or my employer, about my debt?

No. Under federal law, a debt collector may contact other people but generally only to find out how to contact you.

General Limits on Contact

There are strict limits about what debt collectors can say or ask about you. A debt collector generally may only contact other people to find out: 

  • Where you live
  • What your phone number is
  • Where you work

Debt collectors usually can't contact people you know more than once and they can't say they're trying to collect on a debt. Generally, a debt collector can't discuss your debt with anyone other than:

  • You
  • Your spouse
  • Your parents (if you are a minor)
  • Your guardian, executor, or administrator
  • Your attorney, if you are represented with respect to the debt

If the debt collector knows an attorney is representing you about the debt, the debt collector must contact the attorney instead of you. The debt collector may contact you if your attorney fails to respond to the collector within a reasonable period of time or your attorney agrees that the collector can contact you.  

Tip: The CFPB has prepared sample letters that a consumer could use to respond to a debt collector who is trying to collect a debt. The letters include tips on how to use them. The sample letters may help you to get information, set limits or stop any further communication, or exercise some of your rights. 

Contact at Place of Employment

  • Debt collectors may ask your employer for your address or telephone number.
  • If your employer does not allow you to receive personal calls at work you should let the debt collector know that.
  • If a debt collector knows that you are not allowed to receive the debt collector’s calls at work then the debt collector is not allowed to call you there. 
  • If a debt collector calls your employer, you might want to talk to the person who took the call to find out what the debt collector said. A debt collector may not tell your employer that you owe a debt. If the debt collector has told your employer that you owe a debt, you may want to speak to an attorney about your rights.

If you're having trouble with debt collection, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).