Can I record debt collector calls that are already recording me?
April 5, 2012 1:47 PM   Subscribe

LegalFilter: I'd like to record the debt collection calls I'm getting. Assuming the call center requires me to consent to their recording, is that consent reciprocal?

I ask because it's become a hobby of mine to crank the debt collectors hounding me and I'd like to record these calls, perhaps upload a few of them to youtube for some quick lulz.

How legal is this? I've researched the statutes and generally understand the all-party consent laws but I'm still unclear on whether I have to get consent to record someone who is already recording me.

Anyone know anything about this before I call in a favor with a lawyer or two for proper legal advice? Thanks friends...
posted by willie11 to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What state are you in?
posted by sanka at 1:49 PM on April 5, 2012

The notification rules go to the stricter of the states where callers are, so if the people calling are in a two-party notification state you would have to adhere to those laws, and since they probably aren't saying what they are, you do need to assume that you need to get consent from everyone. Which of course doesn't answer your question, but just wanted to mention that it doesn't matter that much where you are located.
posted by brainmouse at 2:17 PM on April 5, 2012

Best answer: recording is one issue; dissemination/broadcasting of the recordings (e.g., uploading to youtube) is a second issue.

I have no advice about either, but these are separate issues.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:26 PM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Some of the debt boards years ago advocated simply asking if the call was being recorded. Since it usually was on the other end they'd say yes and that was believed to be sufficient. That's a little too tricky-dicky for my taste but depending on your purposes...

Better would be to rely on the information at several of the media sites regarding one-party-consent. You may want to be particularly careful based on some of what's at RCFP.
Federal law requires only one-party consent to the recording and disclosure of a telephone conversation, but explicitly does not protect the taping if it is done for a criminal or tortious purpose. (emphasis mine)
Meaning that if you're sharing these in a way that crosses lines you could have an issue. If you're selectively editing you could be hassled with libel suits. Maybe public revelation of private facts, depending, though it seems hard to uphold that if they tell something to a random stranger.

The notification rules go to the stricter of the states where callers are

It is nowhere near that cut and dried. You'll see in that link that there have been cases where the less stringent standard was applied. However when you're dealing with conflict of laws you should worry about whether their state is one you're close enough to potentially have it applied to you. If they're in an all-party state across the country it'll be harder for them to apply their state's standard to you than it would be if you were, say, just across the state line from them - then they could make the case that you could just drive your happy ass over there for your court date.

Since you're always the call recipient I'd say you have a marginally better case for applying your state's standard, but as with all things legal it can be expensive to eventually be right.

But I'd say that THAT is sort of your real answer here. Your odds of being pursued by these folks for snarky recordings are what I'd consider real low. In part because these junk debt buyers are as attention-adverse as roaches. Suing you in less than a slam dunk case would get them way more attention than they're usually comfortable with.

Uploading some poor jerk's attempts at collecting on some old bad debt that has been bought and sold by several collection agencies is another issue, mainly one of not being overly dickish.

Attempting to collect on statute-limited debt is so slimy that this is more a question of getting yourself muddy by wrestling with the pig than it is one of being a dick.
posted by phearlez at 2:58 PM on April 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

Interestingly enough, if you tell them you're recording, they'll hang up. Try it.
posted by mikewas at 8:46 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I worked at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in their Loss Mitigation department (past-due mortgages), we were instructed that if a customer stated that they were recording the call, we could not proceed. I think that Wells was just covering their bases since we would talk to people in all 50 states.

Also, I feel sorry for the poor temp on the other end of your calls. They really don't want to talk to you either.
posted by stompadour at 7:36 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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