When third-party debt collectors contact you by mail or by phone, one of the first things they'll say is, "This is an attempt to collect a debt, and any information obtained will be used for that purpose." This statement is commonly referred to as the "mini Miranda," because it is similar to the Miranda rights that law enforcement must use to warn suspects of their right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to a court-appointed attorney if the person can’t afford one.
Instances When the Mini Miranda Must Be Stated
Debt collectors are required to give the full mini Miranda in their initial communication with you, no matter what form. The first time a third-party debt collector speaks with you on the phone or sends you a letter, the mini Miranda statement must be included. The disclaimer keeps debt collectors from tricking you into giving up information that can be used against you.
If a third-party debt collection agency or collection attorney contacts you and doesn't give the disclosure, it has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. That law governs what debt collectors can and can't do. Also, if a debt collector recited the mini Miranda during a phone conversation in the past, but it now mails you a letter, the law requires debt collectors to repeat the mini Miranda in this first written instance of communication.
Even if you initiate contact with a third-party debt collector, they are still required to read you the mini Miranda. If the debt collector fails to tell you your mini Miranda rights at the beginning of any of these forms of communication, you may have grounds to sue the debt collector.
Instances When the Mini Miranda Doesn't Have to Be Stated
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act only requires third-party debt collectors to read you your mini Miranda rights. Your creditors have no such obligation under this law. If the company from which you initially borrowed money decides to contact you—whether by phone or by mail—they only need to identify themselves as your original creditor to avoid having to inform you of your mini Miranda rights.
For this exception to apply, the creditor must identify themselves properly as your creditor and not as a third-party agency attempting to collect your debt. If they do not identify themselves accurately and fail to include the mini Miranda statement, they might be in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Understanding How the Mini Miranda Helps You
When you're under arrest, you must be careful about what you say so as not to incriminate yourself. The same thing goes for talking to debt collectors—anything you say in the conversation can be used to help the debt collectors pursuing you. If you're dealing with a debt that's past the statute of limitations for your state, something as simple as an admission that the debt is yours could restart the clock on the statute, giving the collector more time to sue you for the debt.