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The short answer
The short answer to this question is that no, a debt collector is not supposed to contact your employer unless you have given that person permission to do so. In fact, thanks to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that was passed by Congress several years ago, there are a number of things that debt collectors are not permitted to do.
What they can't do
According to the FDCPA debt collectors are not allowed to call you before 7 AM in the morning or after 9 PM at night. As I noted above, they are not to contact your employer unless you give them permission. They cannot use vile or profane language and cannot discuss your debt problem with a third-party i.e., your employer. They are not allowed to call you at inconvenient times or in inconvenient places, they cannot misrepresent the amount of your debt or call you repeatedly.
How to step the harassment
If you feel you are being harassed unmercifully, there are steps you can take. The first is to write a "cease and desist" letter to the collection agency. You can find samples of this letter online. One good one is at http://www.bendover.com/cdletter.asp. Be sure to send the letter registered and return receipt requested so if necessary, you can prove the collection agency received it.
Make the agency verify the debt
Another way to get a debt collection agency off your back is to make it verify the debt. Collection agencies generally "buy" debts from other companies. The paperwork supporting these debts can be lost, misfiled or even attributed to the wrong person. Don't just take the collection agency's word that the debt is yours. Make it confirm the debt. The Internet page http://www.creditinfocenter.com/forms/sampleletter9.shtml" target="_blank" has an example of a letter you could send to the debt collection agency requesting validation.
What us required to validate a debt?
If you read this letter, you will see it requires the collection agency to explain what the money you owe is for, how it calculated what you owe, and who was the original creditor. It also requires the agency to provide copies of any documents that show you agreed to pay what is owed and a copy of any judgment if applicable. Plus, it requires the agency to prove that the statute of limitations has not run out on the debt and that it is licensed to collect debts in your state.
Many debt collectors will just drop the matter
Many collection agencies will just drop the matter if they receive one of these validation letters. Their time is money just like everyone else's and having to validate a debt can require more time and effort than what they could expect to earn by collecting from you.