Twelve states have laws making it illegal to secretly record a phone conversation without both parties’ permission; Indiana’s not one of those. In our state you’re allowed to record a conversation as long as one party gives consent. That one party could be you, if you believe a debt collector has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. In order for you to gather evidence you can turn over to the Indiana Attorney General’s office (see Creditors In Contempt Of Bankruptcy Court), you might find that a recording device comes in handy. Some phones have a recording feature, but, lacking that, you might check the nearest Radio Shack or other electronics store.

It’s natural for creditors to try to collect the money they’re owed; it’s obvious no business can survive very long without getting paid for its products or services. The flip side of the situation, though, is that debtors need protection from extraordinary harassment and disturbance of their lives, and that’s what the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is all about. Some of the no-no’s enumerated in the FDCPA include creditors contacting a debtor several times in a single day in an effort to wear him/her down, calling earlier than 8 AM or later than 9PM (unless the debtor has asked to be called then), calling on a Sunday, or calling at work if the debtor has asked not to be contacted there. Creditors may not talk to your friends, relatives, or neighbors in an attempt to embarrass you, and they are not allowed to threaten you with jail. They can’t send collection notices in envelopes that indicate they’re coming from a collection agency, or envelopes that look like government or IRS correspondence.

Of course, as I stressed in Oh Yes, You Can Stop Being Harassed!, the moment you file bankruptcy in Indiana, an order goes out from the bankruptcy court to all your creditors, telling them to leave you alone. Under the “automatic stay”, almost all creditors can’t call and can’t send letters, because the whole concept behind the bankruptcy system is to buy time for honest debtors to restart their financial lives. Meanwhile, up until the time bankruptcy is actually filed, the FDCPA steps in, parent-style, saying in firm tones to creditors, “Now, you children play nice – or else!”