A Debt Collector Has Been Contacting Me. What Do I Need to Know?

Consumers who are in debt may eventually receive a notice from a debt collector. The first time a consumer gets such a phone call or letter, they may quickly feel overwhelmed as if all of their debt is weighing on their shoulders. When a debt collector reaches out to you, it is important to know your rights to be sure the agency has not broken any state or federal laws. A debt collector must follow regulations similar to telemarketers, in how often and with what manner a consumer can be contacted. 

Can a debt collector call me anytime and place?

No, debt collectors are not permitted to contact you during inconvenient times or places. For example, a debt collector cannot call you after 9 p.m. or before 8 a.m., unless you have agreed to it. A debt collector cannot call you at work either, if you have been informed by your employer that such calls are not allowed. 

In what ways may a debt collector contact me?

A debt collector most commonly uses phone calls, letters, emails and text messages to remind a consumer about an overdue payment. Even though a debt collector may be able to use these forms of communication, there are regulations for how often a consumer can be contacted. Additionally, a debt collector who uses aggressive and threatening words may be violating consumer rights.

Is there anything the debt collector must tell me about the debt?

Yes, before calling you for the first time, a debt collector must send a validation notice letter that includes how much money is owed, the name of the creditor that you owe money to, and how you can respond if you do not believe the debt is correct. 

How do I know whether I am being deceived by the debt collector?

Not all debt collection agencies operate in a professional manner. A debt collection agency may try to harass or mislead you in order to pressure you into paying. Debt collectors are not permitted to do the following actions:

  • Threaten you with harm, violence, or arrest
  • Use profane and vulgar language
  • Repeatedly call to intentionally annoy and disturb you
  • Misrepresent the money you owe
  • Pretend to be an attorney or government representative
  • Falsely claim that action will be taken against you for not paying
  • Trying to collect interest fees or other charges in addition to what you owe (exceptions may be if your state law allows it, or you agreed to it when signing the original contract)
  • Depositing a post-dated check before the date

What if I think the debt collector has violated my rights or broken the law?

You may be entitled to receiving financial compensation for the violations and damages. A consumer may have tried to take care of the situation themselves, with no success. A consumer who has suffered debt collection harassment or deception may want to meet with a lawyer, as soon as possible.