Help Desk FAQ

Collections

 

What can I do if I’m being harassed by a collection agency?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a federal law, protects consumers nationwide from harassment by debt collectors. However, the law applies only to third-party collection agencies and those agencies collecting debts on behalf of original credit grantors, not to the original creditors when they are collecting debts owed to them.

Under the FDCPA, collectors cannot:

  • Contact you at inconvenient times or places. 
  • Call you and not identify themselves as bill collectors.
  • Contact you if you have requested in writing that they stop, except to tell you that collection efforts will end or that specific legal action will be taken against you. (Asking them to stop calling does not make the debt go away or prohibit the collector from taking legal action against you.)
  • Contact you if they know you are being represented by an attorney, unless you give them permission to contact you, or your attorney is unreachable or unresponsive.
  • Contact you between the time you request verification of the debt or information about the original creditor (within 30 days of receiving the written validation notice) and when the verification or information is mailed to you.
  • Continue to collect on a debt that hasn’t been verified (if you request verification).
  • Contact third parties regarding your debt other than your spouse, attorney or co-debtors, or your parents if you’re a minor.
  • Contact third parties to locate you after they know you have an attorney. They also can’t tell third parties (such as neighbors and coworkers) who they work for (collection agency name) unless asked directly, reveal that you owe a debt, or contact a third party more than once unless they have a valid reason to do so (such as believing that previously provided information was incorrect and that the third party has correct information).
  • Try to collect inflated amounts resulting from fees and interest not authorized in the original credit agreement or allowed by law.
  • Use abusive language or profanity.
  • Do things to harass or publicly embarrass you, such as call you repeatedly or send you a postcard or letter that indicates to anyone who sees it that a debt is being collected from you.
  • Threaten you with violence, property damage, arrest, jail, harm to your reputation, etc.
  • Lie to or mislead you—for example, by impersonating an attorney or law enforcement officer or threatening arrest, a lawsuit, garnishment, etc. if the action would be illegal or they don’t intend to follow through. If you ask for the statute of limitations on the debt—and you should—and you get an answer, it must be the truth.
  • Report inaccurate information to the credit bureaus, including failing to report that you dispute a debt.

Be aware that telling a debt collector to stop calling you does not stop the collector from listing the debt on your credit report or suing you. Learn more about your rights under the FDCPA in Consumer Action's "The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: How it restricts collectors and protects consumers." 

States may have their own laws that offer consumers even greater protections. For example, the California Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies to original creditors, too.

There are penalties for collectors who violate the FDCPA and state laws. If you believe your rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the U.S. government’s two consumer protection agencies. The FTC enforces the FDCPA, while the CFPB regulates the collection industry.

CFPB: 855-411-CFPB (2372) / CFPB complaint webpage

FTC: 877-FTC-HELP / FTC Complaint Assistant

Contact your state attorney general's office to find out if the collector has violated state law. Find your state AG online.

 

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