Top 5 FAQs About Dealing with Debt Collectors
The information on this blog is provided for educational and informational purposes only. Such information or materials do not constitute and are not intended to provide legal, accounting, or tax advice and should not be relied on in that respect. We suggest that you consult an attorney, accountant, and/or financial advisor to answer any financial or legal questions.
If you’ve fallen behind on bills and allowed your debts to go delinquent for several months, it’s likely that your creditor will sell your debt to a collection agency. Dealing with collectors, especially more aggressive ones, can be a really intense and distressing experience if you don’t know your rights.
We’ve answered some of the most common questions people have about dealing with debt collectors so if you’re ever contacted by one, you know what to do!
1. What questions should I ask a debt collector?
When you’re first contacted by a debt collector, you might feel stressed and confused—especially if you’ve never dealt with a collector before. So what should you do if you’ve been contacted by a collector? Start by asking for the following information:
- The name, address, and phone number of the collector
- The total amount of debt, including any fees or collection costs
- The original creditor
- What the debt is for and when it was first incurred
- Information that determines whether you or someone else owns the debt
Additionally, if the debt collector first contacts you by phone, you should insist that they send notice to you in writing as well. Be sure to keep copies of all the written correspondence between yourself and the debt collector.
2. How do I get debt collectors to stop contacting me?
Believe it or not, you have the right to ask debt collectors to stop contacting you. This does not mean that your debt will go away, but it might alleviate some of the stress of being called by aggressive collectors.
To get debt collectors to stop contacting you, you must send them a written request via mail. In addition to a request that they stop contacting you, the letter should include the following information:
- How they first contacted you (phone, mail, etc.)
- Date of first contact
- Information they gave you about the debt (amount, original lender, etc.)
For documentation purposes, it’s helpful to send your letter via certified mail, requiring the collector to sign upon receipt. That way, you’ll have proof that they got your letter asking them to cease contact.
After you send your letter to them, the collector can send you one last letter to let you know that they received your request to stop contacting you. They are also allowed to send you a letter to let you know that they could sue you—or that they intend to sue you—to recover the debt.
If you're working with an attorney regarding your debt, you should direct the collectors to contact the attorney instead of you. Once you let them know that you’re working with an attorney, they cannot continue to contact you about the debt and must instead go through your representative.
3. How many times can a debt collector call before it’s considered harassment?
While there’s no specific number of times that a debt collector is or isn’t allowed to call you, it is still possible for them to take it too far. According to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), collectors are legally prohibited from using methods to harass, oppress, or abuse you or anyone else they contact about your debt.
Harassment by a debt collector isn’t always cut and dry and can show up in a lot of different ways. Here are just a few examples of when debt collectors’ efforts might cross the line into harassment:
- Calling repeatedly with the intent to harass, abuse, or annoy you or anyone answering the phone
- Making contact without identifying themselves
- Using profane language
- Threatening violence
- Publishing of a list of people who owe them money (not including reporting to a credit bureau)
If you believe you’re being harassed by a collector, you may wish to consult an attorney who deals with violations of the FDCPA.
4. Can debt collectors call your family, employer, or neighbors?