Being in debt should not be a matter of shame. Many people face struggles in paying their bills. And there are many factors beyond a person’s control such as job loss or medical bills that can throw a family’s finances out of whack.
Fortunately, we don’t live in a society that throws people in debtor’s prison, as England did in the days of Charles Dickens. Instead, we allow many debtors to file for bankruptcy and get a fresh financial start.
The law also contains other protections for debtors, besides those conferred by filing for bankruptcy. A recent Texas case illustrates some of those protections.
A Texas woman owed a medical bill. The medical provider turned her account over to a debt collector. The collector attempted to contact the woman by repeatedly calling her boyfriend’s cellphone – despite the fact that her boyfriend had not co-signed for the debt. In fact, the collector did not only call the boyfriend. The collector told him how much his girlfriend owed and whom it was owed to.
The woman brought suit against the debt collector for wrongfully disclosing her debt to a third party and invading her privacy. Her suit is based on the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits such disclosures.
The fact that the disclosure was to a boyfriend adds to the sensitivity of the situation. According to media reports, dating couples are increasingly concerned about credit scores for would-be romantic partners. Disclosure about someone’s debts by a collection company to a boyfriend or girlfriend therefore adds to the sense of violation from such a disclosure.
Source: “Dallas woman sues debt collector after boyfriend in told about debt,” The Southeast Texas Record, Michelle Keahey, 1-21-13
Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post in the San Antonio area and statewide. To learn more about our practice, please visit our consumer bankruptcy page.