Your Rights When the Debt Collector Calls

If you owe money and fell behind, it’s important to know your rights when the debt collector calls.

Lawyer Susan Shin with the New Economy Project formerly Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project ( NEDAP), says that federal law gives you the right to stop debt collectors from contacting you.  If you write to a debt collector to say you don’t want them to contact you, they must stop.   But if you owe money, this doesn’t mean the debt goes away. 

There is still a possibility you could be sued for the debt.  You also have the right to dispute the debt, in writing, and demand that the debt collector verify it. 

Verification means that debt collector gives you enough information so that you can determine if you actually owe the money. 

If you make this request for verification within 30 days of receiving the initial written communication from the debt collector, the collector must verify the debt or else stop all collection efforts against you for the disputed debt, according to federal law.  Very simply, if you don’t recognize the debt or if you want to dispute the debt, you can send a letter to the debt collector and say so.

Debt collectors are not allowed to call you before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night.  They can’t call you at work if you tell them not to.  

They also can’t make false threats, such as saying that you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay.  They can’t make false claims to you while they are trying to collect, or pretend to be lawyers or law enforcement officials.

If you think you are being treated unfairly or if you think a debt collector is violating the law, contact your state attorney general and also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission.


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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.

One thought on “Your Rights When the Debt Collector Calls”

  1. Wasn’t aware that you could have debt collectors discontinue contacting people, especially when it’s done at your place of work. Very informative

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