Know Your Rights with Debt Collectors

Nothing can ruin your day like a call from a debt collector, whether you were expecting to hear from them or not. Bill collectors are pros. It’s their job to collect money, and the less reputable ones don’t even care whether you owe it or not!

If you’re not careful, you may end up saying or doing something you’ll regret – like paying a debt collector a small amount to “get him off your back” and, by doing so, extending the amount of time he can collect from you. That’s why it is essential to know you rights when dealing with a debt collector. Use our guide to figure out what to next if a debt collector calls.  for additional information, please visit

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

A strong federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, protects consumers against certain unfair collection practices. It applies only to outside, or third party debt collectors (not creditors collecting their own debts) and only for personal (not business) debts.

State laws may provide additional protection.

Every year, the Federal Trade Commission makes a report to Congress describing the debt collection complaints they received. According to that report, the FTC received 140,036 complaints about debt collectors—up from 119,609 in 2009.

1. Calling You Repeatedly To Annoy Or Harass You

Number of complaints: 54,147

The law: Collectors can’t call repeatedly just to harass you.

(However there is no specific number of calls that they can make within a given time period. That’s left up to the courts to decide.)

Tip: Keep records of when they call!


2. Trying to Collect More Than You Owe

Number of complaints: 10,614

The law: Debt collectors can’t charge more than the amount described in the original contract or what is permitted by law.

In other words, they can’t illegally inflate debts. But that doesn’t mean they don’t try!

3. Fail to Send a Written Notice of the Debt

Number of complaints: 32, 477

The law: Within five days of initially contacting you, the collector must send written notice of the debt that includes:

  • The amount of the debt
  • The name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed
  • A statement describing your right to dispute the debt


4. Threatening Violence

Number of complaints: 4,182

The law: Debt collectors may not threaten violence when collecting debts. Period.

5. Threatening Dire Consequences

Number of complaints: 27,554

The law: Collectors can’t threaten a lawsuit, criminal prosecution, wage garnishment, jail time, or to ruin your credit rating, etc. unless they have the legal authority to do so, and intend to do so. These threats are often illegal! Collectors must usually take you to court first and win before they can take these kinds of actions—if they are legal in the first place.

6. Using Obscene, Profane or Abusive Language

Number of complaints: 17,532

The law: Obscene, profane or abusive language—including racial slurs—is illegal.

Debt collector going overboard? Take notes and tell them you’ll be taping the conversation.

7. Calling Before 8 am or After 9 pm

Number of complaints: 12,871

The law: Collectors may not call before 8 am or after 9 pm (unless you’ve given them permission to do so), or at times you’ve told them are inconvenient.

8. Revealing Debt to Third Parties

Number of complaints: 13,568

The law: Collectors can call third parties such as neighbors, friends or co-workers only to locate the debtor.

When they do, they can’t reveal the debt and there are limits on repeated calls.

9. Calling You at Work After You’ve Told Them to Stop

Number of complaints: 17,008

The law: If you tell a collector not to call you at work to discuss the debt, those calls must stop.

10. Failing to Verify Disputed Debts

Number of complaints: 11,492

The law: If you dispute a collection account in writing, the collector must stop trying to collect until it provides written verification of the debt.

11. Ignoring Cease Communication Requests

Number of complaints: 7,343

The law: Consumers have the right to tell a debt collector, in writing, to stop contacting them. Once the debt collector gets that notice, contact must stop, except to send notification of legal action against the debt collector.

Get Help
If you think a debt collector has broken the law, you can:

  • Complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and your state attorney general, and/or
  • Contact a consumer law attorney. You may be entitled to damages and/or attorney’s fees.

About jenniferhamby

Jennifer Hamby, Executive Vice President of My Credit My Future, has worked in the financial sector since 1996. She is dedicated to educating consumers on financial education and responsibility. Having worked in Data Facts’ Nashville office since 2007 as an account executive, Hamby realized the need for financial education that was informative, yet easy to understand and attainable. Partnering with both Junior Achievement, and Tennessee Jump$tart, in providing financial education, opened her eyes to the tremendous benefits in providing financial literacy and resources for consumers to aid in making better financial decisions.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s