How Do I Record An Illegal Debt Collector?

Shannon keeps getting calls from a debt collector that violate the law so she wants to catch them in the act. The collector calls herself “Investigator” and claims that Shannon is part of a “serious investigation” and has threatened her with jail time if she doesn’t pay up. The “Investigator” keeps calling her at work and has also called up her coworkers and told them that Shannon is part of an investigation. Shannon needs help figuring out how to record these calls.

First off, let’s leave the issue of the nature of the debt aside. It’s not germane to the discussion of how to record an illegal debt collector.

There’s a lot of options but since they are calling you at work you will probably want to get some equipment that hooks up to your landline there. You can get what you need for under $10 on Amazon. Just choose from one of the several different devices that provide a line-in to a recording device from the phone. There’s ones that adhere to the phone and pick up the vibrations and one’s that split the signal. For the actual recording you can hook the line-in to a tape recorder or a computer.

Laws regarding recording calls vary state by state. Some are one-party consent states and others are two-party. You should apprise yourself of your state’s laws before recording any calls.

After you record the calls, you can fight them on your own and sue them in small claims for statutory damages for breaking the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (like this guy does for fun and profit) or you can get a lawyer.

Comments

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  1. Smudgepot_theATTackDonkey says:

    Send them a strongly worded cease and desist letter via certified, return receipt requested mail. The harrassment will stop after that.

  2. Smudgepot_theATTackDonkey says:

    Send them a strongly worded cease and desist letter via certified, return receipt requested mail. The harrassment will stop after that.

  3. PunditGuy says:

    If single-party notification isn’t legal in your state, you can still use the equipment after asking for consent. If they hang up each time you ask, they’ll stop calling after a while. That won’t net you a wad of cash in court, but it’ll stop the harassment.

    • Gman says:

      Yah I imagine this is the best way to go about it. I would still ask a lawyer to get a double check of course.

    • Rocket80 says:

      I’m pretty sure the laws only say that both parties have to be INFORMED, not that they have to consent to it. That’s an important distinction.

      • PunditGuy says:

        Continuing the call would be implied consent, no?

        Oh, and:

        California prohibits telephone monitoring or recording, including the use of information obtained through interception unless all parties to the conversation consent (California Penal Code Sections 631 & 632).

        • Emperor Norton I says:

          Just say the following: “This call is being recorded. Your continuing this conversation is your implied consent to record this call. If you don’t want to be recorded, hang up now.”

          That should satisfy even the strictest laws on recording.

          • Jasen says:

            That’s not even truly needed. When you call in to a company, you will hear the disclaimer “This call may be recorded.” It doesn’t ask you to consent or inform you that continuing the call constitutes “implied consent.” If it’s good enough for them…

            • Difdi says:

              They may be calling from federal land, an indian reservation or a one-party state. If you’re in a 2-party state, they may be able to get you arrested for doing that, or at least, get the court to throw out the recording. Don’t assume.

  4. Hi_Hello says:

    you think they can add a record button to cell phones so people can record any call to VM with just a press of a button??

    That would be neat.

    • nbs2 says:

      My old Motorola (T720) from many years ago had a physical button that would let me do that. My old SE (T637) had a menu option that would let me do that. My iPhone lets me use the Voice Memo app to do that.

      I don’t remember what the others offered, as those are the only three I tried it with.

      • Southern says:

        My old Motorola SLVR would do that, it would save the conversation to a “Voice Memo”.. it beeped every 15 seconds, of course.

        Google Voice is an option also, it has the ability to record calls to it’s voicemail system, but that would probably require them to call your GVoice number in order to get that working correctly.

    • dush says:

      I had an LG cell phone that let you start recording in the middle of calls.
      It was great. Got a new LG phone and they had taken away that feature. Sad.

    • agtwork says:

      Several phones out there already let you do so.. Usually it involves just holding down the camera shutter button or any other non-volume hardware key on the side of the phone. The odd thing is that the collector was always aware of when I was using it – They must have some way of detecting recording equipment.

  5. ConsumerA says:

    Many VoIP services allow you to easily record calls. You can set calls from a certain number to be recorded automatically and then the recordings are sent to you via email or available online. You also have the option of recording outgoing calls by entering a few digits before dialing the phone number.

  6. Dollie says:

    Use an old fashioned answering machine, either digital or tape. I recorded a debt collector claiming to be a marshal who said I had a warrant and was threatening to send people to my home to come arrest me. I didn’t know what to do, so I called the cops and asked them if I had a warrant. They said no, asked why I was asking, I told them and they sent an officer to my house. As he was listening to the recording, my phone rang and it was my friend the marshal calling. Deputy Dawg answered the phone and said “Hey buuuuddy, impersonating a police officer huh?”

    Next thing I know, a police investigation is opened and the collection agency shut down just a few months later because of their practices.

  7. Hoss says:

    Just file a complaint with your attorney general and send/Fax a copy to the collector. They will stop right away

    • bethshanin says:

      There are some FDCPA attorneys who work on contingency. http://www.LegalHelpers.com has a huge network and can probably help.

      • Pax says:

        ARE there, now?

        My partner is having some issues with a debt collector right now – despite having paid the original debt in full, to the original creditor.

        The thing is, that debt collector still wants another $180 (30% of the original debt), which is apparently a fee or surcharge of some sort. We’ve requested a copy of the actual contract from the original creditor, to see if there’s a clause in there which permits that sort of thing … but the creditor (an online school in another state) is dragging their feet getting it to us. And we will need to find out if our state permits such fees (they had her physically sign, and then mail to them, a copy of the original contract – meaning, her signature happened in OUR state; in retrospect, we should have made photocopies of the damned thing).

        I suspect we may end up having to fight this out in court, one way or another. So your news that there are attorneys willing to undertake FDCPA cases purely on comission is very, very welcome here. :)

  8. TooManyHobbies says:

    With an existing landline number this doesn’t work, but if you use Google Voice and possibly some VOIP systems, you can just press “4″ during an incoming call and it’ll begin recording.

    Otherwise, yeah, I just use a Radio Shack call recorder. In my case it goes into the line input on my computer and I just have a free audio recorder sitting in the task bar all the time, I can just click it and hit “start recording”.

    With an actual tape recorder, one of the Radio Shack models will auto-start the recorder every time you pick up the phone.

    • framitz says:

      It depends on the phone. My house phone system has a record button on every handset, and it works great.

      I had a ‘collector’ calling constantly for a debt I have never owed. I said ‘this call will be recorded, hang up now if you don’t want to be recorded, you continuing to speak will serve as permission to record.

  9. Rose says:

    I recommend the use of the free program Audacity, along with an $8 boom mike from Wal-Mart. Out your phone on speaker and let the mike catch it all.

  10. ARP says:

    I think we’d need to know what your goal is. If you just want them to stop, tell them that they are not allowed to contact you or anyone else in your office by phone anymore, mention the FDCPA specifically, and tell them you will be reporting them to the local prosecutors and/or lawyering up if it continues. That should stop all but the most idiotic collectors.

    If you’re angry and want a bit of revenge (not judging BTW), then go the record route and sue them. Make sure you get enough information to figure out who this person is (name, address, TRUE phone, etc.) or else it going to be difficult to investigate.

  11. Gman says:

    Get a google voice number. Have your current phone forwarded to it. They easily let you set up recording and also announce a call is being recorded [might scare the person off or force him/her to act legally].

  12. KillerBee says:

    Just tell them “This call may be recorded for quality control purposes”. That’ll shut them up.

  13. Rachacha says:

    While these are a bit more expensive than the solutions offered in the article, I have had very good luck with the products from this manufacturer:

    Cell Phone recording: http://jkaudio.com/celltap.htm
    Landline Phone (requires a corded phone w/ wired handset) http://jkaudio.com/that-1.htm
    Landline phone interface to your PC: http://jkaudio.com/voice-path.htm

    Alternately, forward your phone number to Skype (you need Skype In credits) where you can record the conversation using applications such as Pamela http://www.pamela.biz/en/

    • shabamma says:

      http://www.ipadio.com/ is a free service that lets you record calls on your cell phone. When you sign up, you get a number to call and a PIN. Call the number, enter your PIN, start the recording then conference the collector in. When you’re done there will be an mp3 of the call that you can download from the site.

  14. shabamma says:

    http://www.ipadio.com/ is a free service that lets you record calls on your cell phone. When you sign up, you get a number to call and a PIN. Call the number, enter your PIN, start the recording then conference the collector in. When you’re done there will be an mp3 of the call that you can download from the site.

  15. Gandalf the Grey says:

    I know that according to the law in Indiana, if the person on the other end of the line (or a recorded message) sates “This call may be recorded” they have also given consent for you to record the call. And you’re not limited to “Quality and Training Purposes”.

    • AnthonyC says:

      I often wonder why they say “may” instead of “might,” since “may” denotes permission as well as possibility.

      Would it be a reasonable legal argument to say a reasonable person could think “This call may be recorded” is consent to be recorded? Not just in Indiana, but in any 2-party state?

      • coren says:

        I believe my state to be two party, and should I ever have to record a call, I fully intend to argue that they gave me permission/consented.

      • BBBB says:

        “I often wonder why they say “may” instead of “might,” since “may” denotes permission as well as possibility.”

        Two reasons
        - some companies only record some of the calls.
        - if the call includes their representative doing something bad and you sue them (or they are investigated), they can claim that that call was not recorded.

      • Linoth says:

        Interesting idea. I wouldn’t say you have a 100% chance of victory with that approach (and I normally hate it when people play with semantics,) but I could see an argument being made for it. I’d say the argument is more likely to fail than succeed, but it could be made.

        It would almost be vital to your case that the recording only state “this call may be recorded,” as opposed to “may be recorded for quality control purposes,” since that narrows the context.

  16. CityGuySailing says:

    If the caller is not in your state, the federal laws require only a single party with knowledge of the recording.

  17. Tim says:

    Even in two-party states, it’s always about notification, not consent. Once you figure out it’s a debt collector, just say “I’m recording this conversation.” Since they’re trying to collect a debt, they’ll most likely keep talking.

    For a good example of this, notice how all customer service lines simply tell you that you may be recorded, they don’t ask permission.

  18. Nighthawke says:

    RS SKU 15-1501, and a decent recorder of any type, may it be electronic or cassette.

  19. kingofmars says:

    I’m not sure if this would past mustard in two calling party states, but putting them on speaker phone and recording the conversation might be an option. You could even video tape yourself having the conversation and just claim you forgot the camera was on. I think this is how many reality shows get away with recording phone calls. Being on speaker phone implies that others can hear the conversation.

    Some employers record all phone calls. That became useful in a recent murder case where a woman disappeared after a concert. Check with your employer to see if they record calls or not, or if they have a call log.

    • Stannous Flouride says:

      The phrase is ‘pass muster’- from a naval phrase meaning to pass inspection. It is a common malapropism.
      Otherwise, your point is valid.

  20. yessongs says:

    You will never catch these guys, they are actually in India or Pakistan, and just have calls routed through the US. Just hang up on them.

  21. Froggmann says:

    Just a note, if you are using a Google Voice account just press 4. That starts the recording feature of GV. Once the call is done it is saved as a voice mail.

  22. sprybuzzard says:

    If I live in a two party state and I am called and the caller says “this call may be recorded” does that give me permission to record as well without saying I am?

  23. BoC says:

    “First off, let’s leave the issue of the nature of the debt aside. It’s not germane to the discussion of how to record an illegal debt collector.”

    The Germans ain’t got nothin’ to do with it!

    (Hope someone gets that.)

  24. bethshanin says:

    I recommend the DLI Personal Logger: http://www.amazon.com/DIGITAL-LOGGERS-Call-Recorder-Software/dp/B0009WZV4E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1293734246&sr=8-1

    You can find them refurbished for $30 online. Our company uses them extensively.

    • MountainCop says:

      I’ve used Digital Logger for over a year now – never have had a problem and the recordings are always clear as a bell.

      One party state here.. so no worries about notification. And it’s not about consent in the one party states, it’s the notification aspect.

  25. Pax says:

    Step one, get an attorney. (At least a free one, from your local Legal Aid Society.)

    Step two, accept their advice on how to proceed. If they say recording the conversations is kosher, go for it. If they say you’ get in trouble, don’t do it.

    Step three, sue the pants off the bastard(s).

  26. sj_user1 says:

    Next time they call, ask for the name and address of where they would like you to send a certified check or money order. If you can get them to give you a phone number that would be good but they may clam up if you start asking too many questions. Then call the police or any relevant state agency.

    I would also tell human resources and security where I work. They would be quick to pursue legal action against the debt collector for harassing their employees.

  27. FDCPA expert says:

    Forget it. No lawyer is suing these guys. It must be a registered corporation in one of the 50 United States to sue. Hang up, file a complaint with the FTC and your attny general. Also, anytime they call themselves “inspector”, or “officer” and threaten arrest within hours or days if you don’t send X amt of cash right now! It’s a scammer.