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Do You Know Your Rights When it Comes to Debt Collection?

by Miranda Marquit

One of the most difficult financial issues that many people have to deal with is debt. Not only can debt weigh you down when it comes to money, but it also causes stress in other ways. And once your debt is turned over to collections, it can become especially burdensome and stressful. Dealing with debt collectors is one of the top consumer complaints.

However, it’s important to realize that you do have rights when it comes to debt collection practices. The fact that the FTC has just fined one debt collector $3.2 million for harassing behaviors underscores that you do have rights, and you can see that they are enforced.

The FDCPA and Your Rights

Debt Collection Laws

Do you know your rights regarding debt collection?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) outlines the types of protections that consumers have when it comes to dealing with people who are trying to collect on a debt that you owe. It’s important that you understand your rights, since many debt collection agencies bend the rules a bit. And once you start receiving harassing calls, it’s hard to stay positive and try to work through the issue to find a solution.

Here are some of the debt collection practices that are not allowed under the FDCPA:

  • Discussing your debt with family members, friends, and employers. Debt collectors are not allowed to public shame you. They are only supposed to talk about the debt with you and/or your designated representative.
  • Call before 8 am or after 9 pm, unless you actually agree to have them call during these times.
  • Pretend to be someone other than the debt collector in order to get you to answer the phone or to talk to them.
  • Continue to contact you by phone after you have asked (in writing) for the debt collection calls to stop. You can still be contacted through the mail, or sued, but debt collectors can’t keep calling you. Also, if you indicate that the collectors are only to contact your representative/attorney, they are supposed to honor that.
  • Call you at your work if it has been indicated that these types of calls are not allowed.
  • Threaten you with anything. Whether it’s a threat that a warrant will be issued (you can’t be arrested for debt), or a threat of violence, debt collectors shouldn’t be threatening you. They also can’t threaten you with property seizure or wage garnishment unless they are actually planning to initiate legal proceedings to make the attempt. Finally, debt collectors can’t use profanity or obscenity or insult you when attempting to collect a debt.

It’s also worth noting that debt collectors are required to send you a “validation notice.” It must contain information about how much you owe, the creditor involved, and what you need to do if you don’t feel as though the debt is actually your responsibility. This notice has to be sent within five days of the first contact made to you about the debt.

What Can You Do If Your Rights are Violated?

Debt collectors can continue to try to get the debt from you, demanding full payment. They can even reject debt settlement offers and sue you. However, if you don’t want to be called about the debt, and if you want to restrict communication to the strictly legal, you have that right, and debt collectors are supposed to honor it.

And if they don’t, they can be fined. So, if you feel as though a debt collection agency is behaving in an inappropriate manner, you have recourse. Document the actions as they happen. Depending on your state, you may or may not be able to record the calls made to you. However, even if you can’t record the calls, you can document the incidents. Write down what company called, along with the date and time. Write down what was said, and the actions taken. If you sent a letter asking the agency to stop contacting you by phone, keep a copy. Send your letter via registered mail so that the agency has to sign for it, and keep the receipt proving that the letter arrived. Then record every instance that you are contacted after that.

You can contact your state Attorney General, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, with your concerns and your documentation, and the company, if found in violation, can face fines.


Published or updated July 16, 2013.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jake @ Common Cents Wealth

These are great points. I don’t think many people realize what rights they have and how to use them. Debt collectors can be incredibly pushy and often don’t adhere to the rules. If you know what you can do about this, then you can get them off of your back.

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2 Derek | MoneyAhoy.com

I had a friend in debt collection 15 years ago, and he would break some of these rules all the time (pretending to be someone else). I’m glad to know that there are protections in place for people now.

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3 AWB

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply to debt collectors of Federal Student Loan Debt even when it is sold to and serviced by a separate financial institution according to the Federal Reserve Board.

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