What debt collectors can and can’t do

No one goes into debt with the intention of never paying it back, but sometimes life intervenes. An unexpected illness or job loss can make it difficult to keep up with bills, and once you fall behind, it can feel like an exercise in futility trying to catch up. On top of that stress, you have to deal with constant letters and phone calls from creditors, who often try to make you feel like a criminal for being in debt. They may even resort to illegal tactics to scare you into paying. Thankfully, we have the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which protects debtors from harassment.

The FDCPA outlines the following requirements for collectors:

  • They cannot call at inconvenient hours, specifically between eight o’clock in the morning and nine o’clock at night.
  • They cannot call you repeatedly in an effort to annoy or abuse you.
  • They must stop calling if you send a written request asking them to do so.
  • They cannot threaten you with legal actions or arrest.
  • They are prohibited from using profanity or abusive language with you.

Every time they call, they must also:

  • Identify themselves as debt collectors and give you the name and address of the creditor you owe.
  • If you ask for it, they must send you proof of the debt in writing.
  • They have to let you know that you can dispute your debt.

Creditors also cannot call you if you have an attorney representing you. For that reason and many others, it may be a good idea to speak with an attorney about your debt. He or she can help stop the harassment and may be able to help you get a fresh financial start.