Debt Collection

If you are behind in paying your bills, you can expect to hear from a debt collector. A debt collector is someone, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to someone else. Lawyers who collect debts on a regular basis are considered debt collectors, too.

What You Need to Know

You have rights: Federal law requires that debt collectors treat you fairly. In short, that means:

  • A debt collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax, but may not contact you at inconvenient times or places – for example, before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m – unless you agree. A debt collector may not contact you at work if the collector is aware that your employer prohibits it.
  • If an attorney is representing you about the debt, the debt collector must contact the attorney, rather than you. If you don’t have an attorney, a collector may contact other people only to find out your address, your phone number, and where you work.
  • A debt collector may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact about you.
  • A debt collector may not lie or mislead anyone when collecting a debt.

The FTC at Work

Debt collectors generate more complaints to the FTC than any other industry group. In its lawsuits alleging illegal debt collection practices, the FTC has been able to ban some debt collectors from the debt collection business forever, and has gotten millions of dollars back for consumers. The agency held a workshop in 2007 to review the debt collection industry 30 years after the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act became law. Industry members, consumer advocates, state regulators, and academic researchers looked at changes in the industry, and whether the law is keeping pace with developments in the marketplace.

File a Complaint


Dealing with Debt Collectors

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