FAQs: Debt Collectors and Your Rights
Is anyone who collects a debt considered a debt
No. A debt collector is a
company that regularly engages in the collection of debts for
another. That means that the original creditor is not a
collector for purposes of this law. If a new creditor buys
the debt from your original creditor, that new creditor can be
deemed a debt collector if they bought the debt after the account
was already in default. Any person or company that takes on
collecting a delinquent debt for the creditor is a debt
Do all debts fall under the protection of the FDCPA?
No, only consumer debts, which is
defined as those engaged in for personal, family or household
purposes. Therefore, business debts are not covered and you
have no protection for collectors of business debts under this Act.
There is also the requirement that the debt be one that was
transacted for as opposed to being involuntarily placed upon
you. That means debts such as parking tickets or municipal
fines are not covered.
Can collectors call my family, friends or co-workers?
A debt collector can make a call
to a family member, friend, relative, or neighbor in order to seek
your location information. That is all they can do, and they can
only call a person once. They may not, however, disclose that
you owe a debt to anyone at any time. Also, if a collector is
advised that you cannot take any calls at your place of employment,
they may not call there at all.
Are there limits to times and places that a debt collector can
The only limit actually placed on
collectors by law is that they cannot call before 8:00 a.m. or
after 9:00 p.m. However, a debt collector cannot call you at
any time that is known by them to be inconvenient. Therefore,
the debt collector would be violating the law if they ignored a
request, such as no calling on Sunday or if you advise them you
work a night shift and sleep certain day hours.
How do I know if what a collector is doing is harassment?
There is no set rule on what is
or what is not harassment. What may be harassment to some may
not be to others. Profanity, obscenity and inflammatory
remarks are not allowed. Also, if a collector is causing your
phone to ring a large amount of times (several times in a day) just
for the purpose of annoying you, that would be
Do they have to tell me who they are and disclose their company
A collector must make meaningful
disclosure of their identity. They cannot hide who they
are. Therefore, a collector should give you a name (though
many do use aliases to protect their identity and this is legal)
and the name of the company they care calling you from. If a
debt collector will not identify their company name or is at all
reluctant to tell you, chances are they are not a legitimate
company collecting a legitimate debt.
Can a debt collector threaten to sue me or garnish my
A debt collector cannot threaten
to take any action at all that they do not truly intend to
take. Unless a collector truly has an intention on filing a
lawsuit against you, they cannot threaten to do so.
Typically, the decision to file a lawsuit is left to
attorneys. Therefore, if a non-attorney debt collection
agency that does not even own the debt is making a threat,
chances are, it is an empty one. In addition, garnishing
wages is not something done so easily. With the exception of
debts collected for the U.S. Government, no collection agency
can garnish your wages unless they have a judgment against
you. A judgment cannot be had against you until you have been
served with a lawsuit. Therefore, if a collector is
threatening to immediately garnish your wages and you have not even
been sued yet, then such a threat is improper.
Can a debt collector threaten me with criminal
A debt collector cannot imply
that you have committed a crime in order to abuse you and coerce
you to make a payment. Debt Collectors are not legal
authorities and cannot say whether what you did was a crime and
cannot say or make any determination that you should be
Can a debt collector get a post dated check from me?
A debt collector can solicit a
post dated check. However, when doing so, they may not
deposit the check early. Also, if the check is post dated by
more than 5 days, they must give you written notice of their intent
to deposit the check at least 3 days before it is
Can a debt collector charge me extra fees?
A debt collector cannot charge
you anything more than the debt that is owed. While many
debts collect interest as long as the balance is unpaid, the debt
collector cannot add its own costs on UNLESS it is part of your
agreement with the original contract, or allowed by some other law
(such as a state law allowing collection fees on unpaid medical
bills). Otherwise, a debt collector cannot arbitrarily add on new
amounts to your debt or any sort of administrative
If I demand that the collector validate my debt, don't they
Not always. According to
the FDCPA, the collector must give you notice of your right to seek
validation of the debt within 5 days of their original contact with
you. That notice must provide you 30 days to seek validation
and it must be requested in writing. If you request
validation of the debt within 30 days of receiving their notice of
your right to seek validation, then the collector must provide that
validation before it can continue its collection attempts.
Any demand for validation outside of that period or done orally
does not necessarily require a response.