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How to Legally 'Stalk' a Debtor

Stalking is a crime, even when collecting a debt.

So how can you "legally" stalk a debtor? It can be done, but requires due diligence.

In other words, you can be the bad guy if you follow the laws of your jurisdiction. After all, as Dirty Harry said, "man's got to know his limitations."

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The FDCPA is a federal law that was created solely to protect consumers from harassing debt collectors. States like California often have more protections.

But the list of wrongful practices is long. Of particular interest to attorneys, the FDCPA prohibits:

  • Misrepresenting or deceiving
  • Threatening arrest or legal action
  • Communicating with a consumer who is represented by an attorney

There's also a list of things that debt collectors must do:

  • Notify the consumer that a communication is from a debt collector
  • Give the name and address of the original creditor
  • File a lawsuit in the proper venue

A license to practice law is not a license to collect debts, and so the FDCPA also applies to attorneys. Ethics rules, such as maintaining client confidences and avoiding conflicts of interest with former clients, may also factor in.

Legal "Stalking" Practices

Gathering information, such as searching for assets and public records, should precede debt collection. These are legal within the parameters of the applicable jurisdiction.

Using the information -- or as Brian Grossman describes it, "legal stalking" -- to collect from a debtor can pay off if you do it strategically.

"One of the best things an attorney can do when enforcing a judgment is not necessarily collecting the money from the debtor, but rather putting enough pressure on the debtor to convince them to just pay the judgment," he writes for Above the Law. "The reason I say that judgment enforcement is like stalking the debtor is because by the end of enforcement you know everything there is to know about the debtor."

After a diligent asset search, the lawyer/debt collector should wait for the right moment to collect -- when the debtor has the ability to pay. Yeah, like Dirty Harry waited to enforce the law...

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