When a debt collector contacts you, they have to identify themselves as a collector and tell you they're trying to collect on a debt. This is sometimes called a "Mini Miranda” requirement. This requirement was created to prevent unfair questioning and practices in the debt collection process. These rights are updated occasionally to address new communication technologies.
Written by Attorney Paige Hooper.
Updated November 11, 2021
If you’ve watched any American movies or TV shows, you’re probably familiar with the Miranda warning used by law enforcement during an arrest: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. You have the right to an attorney…” and so on.
“Mini Miranda” is the unofficial nickname for the information that third-party debt collectors must disclose when they communicate with consumers. Like the true Miranda warning, the Mini Miranda requirements were created to prevent unfair questioning and practices. This article covers the updated Mini Miranda requirements that are effective as of November 30, 2021.
What Are the Mini Miranda Requirements?
Under the Mini Miranda rules, when a debt collector contacts you, they must:
Identify themselves as a debt collector,
State that the communication is an attempt to collect a debt, and
Warn you that any information they obtain from you will be used to assist in their debt collection efforts.
Most of the time, a Mini Miranda warning sounds something like: “This is a communication from a debt collector attempting to collect a debt. Any information obtained from you will be used for that purpose.”
The Mini Miranda disclosures are required under a federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). It was initially signed into law in 1977 to prevent debt collectors from using unfair practices to collect debts. The law prohibits debt collectors from using deceit, harassment, intimidation, and other unfair collection tactics.
The FDCPA requires bill collectors to include the Mini Miranda disclosures at the beginning of their first communication with you, whether that’s a letter, phone call, text message, or email. The rules apply even if you contacted the collector first instead of the other way around. Responding to a collector’s voicemail also counts as an initial communication. If the first contact is a phone call, voicemail message, or other oral communication, and the collector later sends you written correspondence, the collector must also include the Mini Miranda disclaimer in the written contract.
Even after these initial contacts, each time a debt collector contacts you, they must tell you that the communication is from a debt collector. But collectors don’t have to repeat the full Mini Miranda warning in these later communications.
Who Is Required To Give the Mini Miranda Disclosures?
The Mini Miranda requirements apply to all third-party debt collectors, such as debt buyers and collection agencies. It’s important to note that these rules don’t normally apply to your original creditors. Your original creditor is the creditor that initially loaned you money. To be exempt from the Mini Miranda requirements, though, a creditor must clearly identify itself as your original creditor. If they contact you using some other name, then the Mini Miranda rules apply.
If a debt collector violates your Mini Miranda rights under the FDCPA, you can file a lawsuit against the debt collection agency and the individual collector in either state or federal court. You must file the case within a year after the violation happens. To win the lawsuit, you’ll need evidence that the creditor failed to make the required disclosures. If you prove your case, you can get a money judgment against the debt collector that could include:
Actual damages: The amount of money that the violation cost you. For example, if the collector harassed you at work, you might have lost wages. You’ll need to document these amounts.
Statutory damages: Even if you can’t prove any actual damages, the law says you can still collect up to $1,000 per violation.
Attorneys’ fees and court costs you had to pay throughout the lawsuit.
In addition to filing a lawsuit, if a collector violates your Mini Miranda rights, you can also report the violation to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and your state attorney general’s office.
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Why Do the Disclosure Requirements Exist?
The Mini Miranda laws were created to protect debtors from being deceived by shady debt collectors into giving out damaging information. Some dishonest debt collectors have attempted to trick borrowers into disclosing information or making payments under false pretenses. For example:
Sending borrowers “phishing” emails or text messages impersonating the borrower’s bank to trick the borrower into providing bank and account information.
Leaving threatening voicemails pretending to be the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or other government agency to fool borrowers into providing a Social Security number.
Claiming to be a lawyer or process server and threatening to proceed with legal action against the borrower to frighten the borrower into making a payment.
These kinds of violations and deceptive practices illustrate the need for consumer protection laws like the FDCPA.
New CFPB Rules Go Into Effect on 11/30/2021
The FDCPA was first passed by Congress in 1977, before the rise of the internet or modern communication like voicemails, emails, text messages, social media, and messaging apps. The law has been amended over time to address the ways collectors can and can’t use these kinds of communications.
Most recently, on October 30, 2020, the CFPB issued the latest rules for interpreting and enforcing the FDCPA. These new rules take effect on November 30, 2021. The new rules say that debt collectors may contact you using electronic and digital means, such as email and text messaging. But collectors can’t use these methods to harass or intimidate you.
The new rules clarify what counts as abusive and unfair communication in the digital age, such as an excessive number of contacts in the same day, for example, or communications at unreasonable times. They also require that consumers be allowed to opt-out or unsubscribe to digital communications from debt collectors.
The new rules also limit what information a debt collector can leave in a voicemail. These limits are necessary because of the risk that someone other than the borrower might hear the message. The “limited content” rule says that a voicemail from a collector can only include specific, neutral information such as a request for a return call, a callback name and number, and business hours. The Mini Miranda requirements don’t apply to voicemails under the new rules.
Like the well-known Miranda warning, which protects arrested people from unfair interrogation by law enforcement, the Mini Miranda warning protects borrowers against deceptive practices by debt collectors. Under the Mini Miranda requirements, debt collectors must identify themselves as debt collectors and warn borrowers that the communication is an attempt to collect a debt and that information gathered will be used for that purpose. Generally, the Mini Miranda rules only apply to third-party collectors. There are more requirements for initial contacts than for later correspondence.
Communications technology changes frequently, and these changes often give rise to new deceptive and unfair collection practices. The FDCPA and the Mini Miranda requirements were recently updated to combat these practices and clarify the rules for modern communication methods.