You should record all collection calls if it is legal for you to do so.
You need to keep a record of any agreements you make with the debt collector (like a payment plan) or promises the debt collector makes (like stopping collection activity while you are current on your payments). Without a recording, any agreements or promises will be difficult, if not impossible, to prove.
You also need to protect your legal rights. If a debt collector violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act during a call, you need to be able to prove what they said or did to violate the FDCPA. And if a debt collector does violate the FDCPA, you are entitled to up to $1,000 — or even more for egregious violations. A jury in Texas awarded [$1.5 million for 8 especially racist voicemails](](http://caveatemptorblog.com/3627/jury-awards-1-5-million-to-consumer-abused-by-debt-collector/). While that sort of verdict is far from ordinary, the point is this: it can be well worth your time and a little bit of money to record your calls.
Step 1: Read This Before Recording Any Calls
Before you record any calls, refer to the RFCP guide to recording phone calls in all 50 states. If the first column is checked for the state the other person is calling from, you must obtain the consent of the other party before you record the conversation.
Also, it is a federal crime to record other people’s conversations — conversations you are not a part of — without their knowledge and permission. This is wiretapping, and the civil and criminal penalties for it are severe. Do not do it.
Whether or not you can record your collection calls, you should still take careful notes and keep a call log that shows the date and time of calls, the name of the person you talked to, and your notes about what was said. Accurate records are critical when dealing with debt collectors.
Step 2: Get a Recording Device
The easiest way to record collection calls from any kind of phone is by using an Olympus TP-8 telephone pick-up microphone and a voice recorder. To record a call, just plug the TP-8 into your recorder, put the TP-8’s earbud in your ear, put your phone up to the same ear, and start recording on the voice recorder. Then, you can answer the phone or place a call. (You can obviously start recording in the middle of a call, too. That’s better than not recording it at all, but it is best to get the whole call if you can.) The TP-8’s microphone will pick up both ends of the conversation.
Make sure you take the time to learn how to use your recorder before you start trying to record phone calls. Test it with a friend a few times to make sure you can get a good recording every time.
There are smartphone apps that supposedly work for recording calls, but they don’t work very well. Also, they only work on your smartphone; you can’t use them if you receive place or receive calls from another phone. Go ahead and get an app if you want to, but consider it a backup. Use the TP-8 with a voice recorder as your primary way to record calls.
Step 3: Save Your Recordings
Don’t leave your recordings on your recorder. Save them to your computer as soon as you can so you don’t lose them, and so you can share them with your lawyer or post them online. If you have a digital voice recorder, just connect your recorder to your computer with a USB cable to transfer the recordings.
Once the recordings are on your computer, make sure to back up the files. And if you have captured behavior by a debt collector that you think is harassing or abusive, talk to a consumer rights lawyer as soon as possible.
- 2011-10-04. Originally published.
- 2015-03-28. Updated and republished.