Know your rights when debt collectors call

“I’ll send you to collection” shouldn’t be used as a threat, as collection services are a legitimate and legal way for a business to get the money that they’re owed that has been promised.

Many businesses prefer to contract with third-party collection firms to help with this service since these firms have the expertise. That doesn’t mean a bunch of big tough people will threaten you with physical harm either if you don’t pay pronto.

This is an unfortunate and incorrect stereotype that the industry and the Federal Trade Commission have worked hard to change over the years.

Modern collection agents must follow certain rules of conduct, and consumers also have rights. If both groups adhere to these, it can make repayment discussions much more productive and less scary and lead to more positive resolutions all around.

Some customer rights include:

  • No collection calls before 8 a.m. or 9 p.m.
  • No calls at your work if you inform the collection service you can’t receive calls there.
  • You can request all information about you, including what you’re said to owe, to whom, and when the debt occurred. This also has to be presented within five days of initial contact.
  • You can also send a letter within 30 days of disputing this information. Any further collection efforts must stop until the client or collection agency verifies this.
  • If you don’t believe it’s your debt, you can request that any further contact stops by sending a letter to the agency by certified mail. They only have the right to continue contact if they proceed with a lawsuit to garnish your wages.
  • Collection agents can work with your attorney and not talk directly to you if one is representing you.
  • They must always be honest, not threatening and refrain from rough language. They also are not allowed to repeatedly call you.
  • Agents can only talk to a spouse or anyone you authorize about your debt (not a co-worker, family member  or roommate) although they can ask how to reach you.
  • If you ‘re feeling intimidated or believe violations occurred, you can contact the FTC, the attorney general in your state or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for guidance or file a report.

Consumers need to be aware that there are some scams that involve debt collection as a way to either gain personal information or even money. They’re very good at trying to intimidate or scare people and making them off guard, including threatening people with arrest.

Actual collection agencies may have the ability to file a civil suit if negotiations break down but criminal arrests are not legal.

It’s possible that you might have some debt in the past that you didn’t know about and no one tried to collect from you. However, this business may sell your debt and other debt to others and become more aggressive about collecting. Each state differs in how long ‘time-barred’ debts can be collected upon.

Want to learn more?