Debt Collection FAQ

What constitutes debt collection harassment?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) outlines what debt collectors can and can’t do. According to the act, debt collectors may not harass or oppress you or anyone they contact. Some examples of harassment include:

  • Repetitious phone calls designed to annoy, harass, abuse or intimidate
  • Not identifying themselves
  • Threats of violence
  • Profane language
  • Publication of people refusing to pay debts
  • Use of false or deceptive practices

Can a debt collector call my employer about my debt?

Generally speaking, a debt collector is not permitted to contact your employer or any other person for that matter regarding your debt. In most cases, these collectors may only speak with you, your spouse or your attorney regarding a debt. A debt collector may, however, contact your employer for employment verification purposes or to ask for your address or phone number.

How can a debt collection attorney help me?

A debt collection harassment attorney is a specialist in the area of debt collection and protection of your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. We can put an end to harassment by debt collectors and may also assist in the filing of a law suit against debt collectors if your rights have been violated.

Should I avoid debt collectors at all costs?

Like any other problem, debt needs to be dealt with. Many creditors will be willing to work with you to satisfy your debt. Some may be willing to provide payment plans or even reduce the amount owed. On the other hand, some will not be flexible. It is always best to try and deal with the situation head-on. If you are unable to work things out with a debt collector, or if a debt collector resorts to harassment or violates your rights in any manner, you may benefit from consulting an attorney experienced in debt collection harassment.

Can a debt collector have me sent to jail?

Absolutely not. A debt collector does not have the legal authority to issue warrants or make arrests. One must, however, obey court orders such as an order to appear. If a court order to appear is ignored, an arrest warrant may be issued.

How do I report an abusive debt collector?

If you feel that a debt collector is being abusive or otherwise violating your rights, you can contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by phone or online. In addition, you may also contact your state’s attorney general.

If you believe your rights have been violated, you may contact an attorney and possibly sue the debt collector.

Does a debt collector have to give me information about the debt?

Yes. A debt collector is required by law to provide you with certain information about the debt. This information includes the name of the creditor, the amount owed to the creditor and ways which one may dispute or verify the debt.

Will a debt collector stop calling if I dispute a debt?

A debt collector may not contact you again once you have initiated a formal, written dispute until after an investigation has been conducted. At that time, the collector is required to send you written verification of the debt prior to contacting you again.

Can a debt collector tell my family or friends about my debt?

No. While a debt collector may contact other people regarding your debt, they may only do so in order to obtain your address, phone number or place of employment. They may not disclose that they are trying to collect a debt.

Can a debt collector sue me?

If you are sued by a debt collector or creditor, the suit must be dealt with. Attempts to ignore orders to appear in court can result in a judgment against you for the amount owed. In addition, by not appearing you will likely lose your right to dispute a debt. You can respond to a suit yourself or through an attorney.

Can a debt collector call me at any time of day or night?

Absolutely not. Debt collectors may not call at times considered to be inconvenient such as before 8 am and after 9 pm. In addition, if you have made a debt collector aware that you are not allowed to receive these calls at work, then he or she may not contact you there.

Are there attorneys that specialize in collections and harassment?

Yes. Should you decide to seek legal counsel, you will want to find an attorney familiar with the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA). An attorney that is experienced in these matters can help you resolve your issue and make the harassment stop. In addition, they may also inform you of any potential legal recourse you may have.

If I sue a debt collector and win, do I still have to pay my attorney?

If you file suit within one year of a FDCPA violation and win your case, you may recover up to $1000 in statutory damages, amounts for any actual damages plus attorney’s fees and court costs.

I get constant calls from debt collectors and I’m scared. What should I do?

Debt is not something that will just go away. These problems need to be dealt with and the sooner they are handled the better. If you feel intimidated or unable to deal with the issue yourself, you may consider discussing your debt problem with an attorney.

Who is protecting me from unethical or illegal collections activities?

There are both state and federal laws in place designed to protect consumers from unscrupulous or illegal collections activities. If you feel you have been a victim of such activities or harassed by a collections agency or person, you should take action right away by contacting an attorney and/or the attorney general’s office in your state. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may also be reached by phone or online to address such complaints.

How can I get a debt collector to stop calling me?

While it may be wise to discuss your issue with a debt collector to see if it can be resolved, you can also prevent a debt collector from contacting you further. Here’s how it is done:

  • Send the debt collector a written request.
  • Make a copy of your letter to the debt collector.
  • Send the letter by certified mail
  • Get a return receipt so you have documentation on what the collector received.

At this point, a debt collector may only contact you to do one of two things:

  • To inform you that they will stop contacting you.
  • To inform you that the creditor or the collector will be taking a specific action i.e. filing a lawsuit.

Keep in mind that this will not make the debt go away but it should prevent further contact from the debt collector.

I had my identity stolen and the debts are not mine. How can I explain this to collectors?

In this case, you will want to send the debt collector any documentation you have regarding your case. Forms of documentation may include:

  • A police report
  • A fraud affidavit

When you have established the identity theft and provided the proper documentation to the collector, he or she should stop collection activities and open an investigation into the matter. They should also inform the creditor of the situation while providing you with information regarding the debt such as creditor name, amount, and any paperwork completed etc.

How long might a delinquent debt stay on my credit report?

A delinquent debt may stay on your credit report for a period of seven years.

I have a number of delinquent accounts on my credit report. Can I pay a company to fix them?

No. Companies that promise “quick” fixes to debts are simply scammers looking to take advantage of you and the situation. If accurate, these debts cannot simply be removed from a credit file.
Those looking for a “fix” regarding their credit situation may potentially benefit from credit counseling. There are many approved, non-profit agencies that can help one better manage credit and personal finances.

Can a debt collector attempt to collect a debt that is many years old?

While some states may have a statute of limitations on filing a lawsuit, there is not generally any time limit with regards to debt collection.

A relative passed away. Am I responsible for paying their debt?

No. You are not responsible to pay a deceased non-spouse relative’s debt. While debt collectors may attempt to collect from living relatives, you can simply inform them of the situation. You may also send a certified, return-receipt letter advising them to stop all contact.

What are some signs that a debt collector may not be legitimate?

Unfortunately, some will attempt to collect money fraudulently by posing as a debt collector. Some tell-tale signs of the possibility of fraud include:

  • A collector that won’t identify themselves
  • Requests for personal information from you such as your social security number, bank information or other credit account information
  • Abusive behavior
  • Threats of arrest or jail, lawsuits or garnishment of your wages

Debt collectors keep calling for the person who used to have my phone number. How can I make them stop?

Send a certified, return-receipt letter to the collector explaining the situation and requesting that all contact be halted.

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