What are my rights when it comes to debt collection?

Are debt collectors harassing you?  If you have fallen behind on your bills and you are anticipating they will go to collections soon, or if you’ve already started receiving phone calls from debt collectors, it is important that you understand your rights.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency.  They enforce the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  This law prohibits collection agencies from using abusive, deceptive, and unfair practices to collect a debt from you.  While it cannot eliminate your debt, the FDCPA prohibits a debt collector from harassing you.

What type of debt is covered under FDCPA regulations?

Personal, family and household debts are generally covered.  This would include credit card debt, car loans, medical bills and mortgages.  If you are a business owner, FDCPA doesn’t cover debts accumulated through your business.

What is considered “harassing”?

A debt collector has every right to contact you and try to recoup the debts you owe. That said, like any other industry, there are certain regulations they must follow.

Debt collectors can’t:

  • Contact you at all hours of the day. They should generally be contacting you during normal business hours unless you agree to speak with them at other times.
  • Call you at work unless you tell them it is ok.
  • Threaten to harm you, arrest you, seize your property, garnish your wages or sell your property.
  • Pretend to be someone else, like an attorney or government agency.
  • Contact others about your debt. If you are working with an attorney, the debt collector may be able to contact the attorney to find out basic contact information, but in general, they shouldn’t be discussing the specifics of your debt with anyone else.
  • Publicize your name as someone who isn’t paying their debts.
  • Use profanity during your conversations.
  • Make false statements to get you to give them money.
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