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When a Debt Collector Calls: What are Your Rights? - Liberty Law

You’ve just gotten your first call from a debt collector. The experience may have left you confused and upset. Here are a few things you should do when a debt collector contacts you:

1. Know your rights.

Collection agencies are restricted in how they can collect a debt from you by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). They cannot use abusive or profane language. They cannot contact you at any unusual time—only between 8 am and 9 pm, unless you agree otherwise. Collectors cannot contact you at work if they’re told that you’re not allowed to take calls at work. They are limited in what they can say to your friends or family members. See the section below, Inform Others of their Rights.

An original creditor can be exempt from the FDCPA. Business debts are not covered by the FDCPA.

2. Verify who is calling. Make sure you owe the debt.

The collector must send you a “validation notice” five days after they first contact you. This notice tells you how much you owe and the name of the creditor, as well as how to file a dispute if you don’t agree that you owe the money. If the collection agency does not send this to you, notify the collector in writing that you want a verification of the bill. If you dispute this debt, you must send a written response within thirty days to inform the collector of this. If you agree that you owe the money, you can set up a payment plan with the collector and/or contact an attorney to discuss your case.

3. Make sure all communication is in writing. Keep copies of all letters, payment agreements, bills, and processed checks.

It is a very good idea to make sure all your communication with the debt collector is in writing. If you don’t want to speak to the collector on the phone, write them a letter telling them they must communicate with you in writing to collect the debt. Make sure to include a statement that your letter is not meant in any way to acknowledge that you owe this or any other sum of money. Send the letter (and other correspondence) by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested.

A debt collector cannot contact you directly if you are represented by an attorney.

4. Inform others of their rights.

A debt collector cannot ask your family, coworkers, or employers or friends anything other than your current location and how to contact you. Collectors cannot tell the third party you owe a debt, unless that third party is a cosigner, executor of your estate, or your guardian (if you are under age 18). If they are calling you at work, make sure to tell them your employer does not permit such calls during the workday and the calls must stop. If you or your family feels that you are being harassed by a collection agency, keep a written record of all your calls and contacts. Contact an attorney.

This list is not intended to be comprehensive, and does not constitute legal advice. For a FREE consultation, contact Liberty Law today: 801-709-6309.

Other helpful information:
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm.