Can a Debt Collector Threaten Security Clearance?

In order to receive security clearance, an applicant must pass a thorough background investigation. There are a number of negative factors in a person’s background that can make it so they are not approved for security clearance. Such factors include but are not limited to substance abuse, a criminal record, mental illness, and poor financial habits.

Poor financial habits? You read that right. If an applicant has bad credit, a recent Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, charge-offs, liens, foreclosures, etc., they can be denied security clearance. But what if someone has security clearance, can a debt collector call the debtor’s employer and have their security clearance revoked?

Debt Collector Abuse

In the 1980s and 1990s, debt collectors engaged in some shady tactics. They harassed debtors, called them names, threatened to hurt them, lied about fake lawsuits, threatened to call the authorities, and even called debtor’s employers to smear their good reputation – all in the name of debt collection.

Debt collector abuse got so out of hand that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act(FDCPA) was created by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Under Section 805(b) of the FDCPA, it’s against the law for debt collectors to communicate with anyone but the consumer or their attorney about the debt unless the consumer gives their express permission.

If you hired an attorney and you’ve notified your creditors about that, under most circumstances, they can only contact your lawyer in their debt collection efforts. If you have security clearance and you have a debt collector who is threatening to contact your employer about the debt, or if they are threatening your security clearance, you should fight back. The first step is to familiarize yourself with the FDCPA.

Do bear in mind that while debt collectors are prohibited from reporting delinquent debts directly to security clearance officials or employers, you may have the obligation to report the debt yourself if it becomes seriously past-due. For more information about your reporting obligation, contact our security clearance attorneys for assistance.