Debt Collectors

Debt collectors are not permitted to do just anything to collect debts, although sometimes they may act that way.  The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives you certain rights and prohibits certain methods of attempting to collect debts.  This may entitle you to recover any actual damages plus statutory damages of up to $1,000.  Additional damages may be available under other state and federal laws.



Common Violations

Debt collectors violate the federal law when they:

  • Call you at work despite you or your employer’s requests to stop.
  • Call you at home despite your requests to stop.
  • Make abusive or harassing phone calls to you.
  • Talk to others about your debt.
  • Add unauthorized collection charges.
  • Threaten you with criminal prosecution or reporting to Internal Revenue Service.
  • Threaten you with garnishment unless they already have a judgment against you.
  • Do not state the exact amount of the debt in initial demand letters.
  • Insist on payment within less than 30 days of their initial demand letter.
  • Bad debt buyers attempting to collect old debts they cannot substantiate.
  • Failing to notify you of your right to ask that they verify the debt they are collecting.
  • Failing to give you a written notice of the debt within five days after you are first contacted.

If you wish to stop a debt collector from contacting you, you can write a “cease communication” letter. 


If you wish to dispute the validity of a debt, you should do so in writing, and you should do so within thirty days of receiving the debt collector’s initial communication letter.  


Common Misconception

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply to your original creditor.  It does not provide you with the right to stop communications from them, nor the right to get written notices of dispute and validation.  However, if the creditor becomes abusive or harassing, there may be other (state) laws that are applicable.


Statutes of Limitation

The time limitation for filing these cases is very short.  You have a right to sue a debt collector within only one year from the date the law was violated.  You have a right to the protections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. 


Other Helpful Information