How long before collection agencies start calling personal references?

Out of the blue I got a call today from a collection agency looking for my old college roommate. We were best friends in college and when it was time for grad school, we listed each other as personal references on our student loan applications. It didn’t put either of us on the hook for the loans. Just a contact name.

I haven’t spoke with him in years. No real reason, it just kind of happened. We moved a lot and lost each others phone numbers.

So I started doing a little searching on my own. The last known address I can find for him is from 2003 which is roughly the last time we spoke. The guy has literally vanished.

How long does a collection agency try to get in touch with a debtor before reaching out to personal references? Does this call tell me that he has just defaulted on his student loans or have they been trying to find this guy for years?

What they did was illegal Debt collectors cannot talk to third parties about your debt.

Yes, but according to the FTC, they can contact someone else in order to find you, which is what seems to have happened in the OP.

I thought, however, that they weren’t supposed to disclose to anyone except the debtor that they were calling about a debt. Yet my husband and I get calls for a couple of his sisters all the freaking time, and many of them leave messages on our answering machine saying they’re looking for (sister) and that this is an attempt to collect a debt.

There also those Canadian companies like Global Credit & Collection which call persons in the US asking for persons by name who apparently are just phishing and are not really collecting. Elsewhere on the web there are threads railing against them going back as far as 2008. No one seems to know how they make their money.

I’m sure there is no definitive answer. However, I will give you a timeline of recent events in my life.

September 09: Death of person who took out student loans on which I was a personal reference.

January 2010: Letters and phone calls to my parents address (the address listed for the personal reference), addressed to me, asking information on the whereabouts of the decendent.

March 2010: Letters and phone calls to my parents address, addressed to my Mother, claiming she was a reference on the decedents student loan applications (false), asking for information on the whereabouts of the decedent.

And if you are wondering why I don’t just provide the student loan lenders with the info they are asking for, I have many times. It just seems like the account gets passed from department to department and then from agency to agency.