Fair Debt Collection Act

The Fair Debt Collection Act prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair or deceptive practices to collect from you. This includes creditors, lenders, collection agencies and lawyers who collect debts and companies.

Contacting You - A debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree to it.  And collectors may not contact you at work if they’re told (orally or in writing) that you’re not allowed to get calls there. If a collector contacts you about a debt, you may want to talk to them at least once to see if you can resolve the matter --- even if you don’t think you owe the debt, can’t repay it immediately, or think that the collector is contacting you by mistake. 

Asking Collectors to Stop Calling - If you decide that you don’t want the collector to contact you again, tell the collector -- in writing --- to stop contacting you. Make a copy of your letter.  Send the original by certified mail, and pay for a “return receipt” so you’ll receive written verification that the collector received the letter.  After the collector receives your letter, they are not allowed to contact you again, with two exceptions: a collector can contact you to tell you there will be no further contact, or to let you know that they or the creditor intend to take action like filing a lawsuit. Sending such a letter to a debt collector you owe money to does not get rid of the debt, but it stops the contact if that is what you desire. The creditor or debt collector can still sue you to collect the debt.

Written Notice - Collectors must send you a written “validation notice” telling you how much money you owe within five days after they first contact you. This notice also must include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and how to proceed if you don’t think you owe the money.

Harassment - Debt collectors may not harass or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, they may not use threats of violence or harm, publish a list of people who refuse to pay their debts, use obscene or profane language, or repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone.

False Statements - Debt collectors may not lie when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, they may not:

  • Falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives
  • Falsely claim that you have committed a crime
  • Falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company
  • Misrepresent the amount you owe
  • Say that you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt
  • Claim that they’ll garnish your wages or seize, attach or sell your property unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so
  • legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.

Unfair Practices - Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when trying to collect a debt.  For example, they may not try to collect any interest, fee or other charges on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt --- or your state law --- allows the charge. 

Your Right to Sue - You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered (lost wages, medical bills, etc.) as a direct result of illegal collection practices.  The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000 even if you can’t prove that you suffered actual damages.  You can also be reimbursed for your attorney fees and court costs. 

Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General’s office and/or the Federal Trade Commission.