Know Your Rights When It Comes to Debt Collection

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) makes it illegal for debt collectors to use abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices when they collect debt and it’s enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FDCPA does NOT regulate creditors or their internal collections departments, only collection agencies or lawyers who perform collection functions.

What are debt collectors not allowed to do?

• Threaten you with violence or harm, or use obscene or profane language.
• Use the phone to harass you.
• Lie or misrepresent the amount you owe.
• Falsely claim you’ll be arrested or claim legal action will be taken against you if it’s not true.
• They can’t engage in unfair practices such as trying to collect interest, fees, or other charges on top of the amount you owe.
• Deposit a post-dated check early.
• Threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally.

What types of debt are covered?

• Credit card
• Auto loans
• Medical bills
• Student loans
• Mortgage loans
• Other household debts

Business debts are not covered under the FDCPA.

How can you be contacted by a collector?

• Phone
• Letter
• Email
• Text message

When can a debt collector contact me?

Collectors can’t contact you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., unless you agree to it. They can’t contact you at work if you tell them not to.

Can I tell a debt collector to stop contacting me?

Yes. You can send a letter by mail asking the collector to stop. In order to have a record of it, send it by certified mail with a return receipt. You may want to talk to a collector at least once to confirm whether it’s your debt or not. If it is your debt, you can find out more information about it.

If an attorney is representing you, inform the collector. The collector must then communicate with your attorney, not you, unless your attorney fails to respond.

What does the debt collector have to tell me about the debt?

Within five days of first contacting you, a collector must send you a written “validation notice” stating:

• The name of the creditor you owe
• How much money you owe the creditor
• What you can do if you don’t think the debit is yours

Can a debt collector contact other people about my debt?

A collector can’t discuss your debt with anyone by you, your spouse, or an attorney if one is representing you. Other people can be contacted to find out information such as your address, home phone number, and where you work.

Is there a statute of limitations on debt?

Yes, but it depends on what kind of debt it is and the laws in your state or the state specified in your credit contract.

Is there anything I can do if I think a debt collector has broken the law?

Violations should be reported to the FTC at 877-382-4357. A collector can be fined up to $1,000 for each violation. You can sue a collector directly up to one year from the time of the alleged violation.

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