7 Things Debt Collectors Cannot Do

Protect yourself while reviewing your debt relief options. Learn what debt collectors can't do when trying to collect a debt from you.
A man with an angry expression looks at his cell phone

If you’ve never had to deal with a debt collector, you’re lucky. While some of them are courteous and professional, there are some that give the rest a bad name by badgering, threatening, and harassing debtors.

As the digital age brings the privacy walls down, debt collectors are coming up with some inventive ways to find you or your information. It’s important that you, as a consumer, know what your rights are when it comes to debt collection.

Fortunately, debt collectors are bound by certain laws as to what they can and can’t do when contacting you about a debt.

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Debt Collectors Can’t Do These Things

The Federal Trade Commission has some set rules about how far these debt collectors can go. Here are seven things that debt collectors cannot do.

Harass You

Harassment sometimes lies in the eye of the beholder, but the FTC has outlined what constitutes harassment when it comes to debt collection. Harassment includes repeatedly using the phone to annoy you or anyone you know in an effort to reach you.

Furthermore, debt collectors can’t threaten you with physical harm or use profanities.

Claim That You Committed a Crime

Not being able to pay your debts or forgetting to make a payment on one of your debts is not a crime. You can be sued in court for failure to pay, but it’s not a criminal matter.

While your credit report will show unpaid debts and your credit score will take a hit, you will not have a criminal record for failing to pay a debt.

Continue to Contact You

Debt collectors aren’t allowed to call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9 p.m. They can’t call you at work if you tell them not to.

Once you tell a debt collector to stop calling you, they can’t continue to do so. You have to make a formal request in writing to stop the phone calls, and they can still contact you via mail. Keep a copy of the letter you send and send it by certified mail with a return receipt re

Mail a letter to the collection company and ask it to stop contacting you. Keep a copy for yourself. Consider sending the letter by certified mail with a return receipt requested. Once you receive that return receipt, you know the collection agency has received your letter.

Once the collector receives your letter, they can only contact you to let you know they will cease contact or to let you know if they are going to file a lawsuit to collect the debt.

Threaten to Have You Arrested

Some debtors have complained about debt collectors threatening to have debtors arrested. You will not be arrested for your inability to pay your debts. Owing a debt is not a criminal matter.

Deposit a Post-Dated Check Early

Some debt collectors offer to take a post-dated check or to not put your electronic payment through until a certain date. They do this so they can secure payment from you even though you don’t have the money available at that moment.

It’s like making a promise to pay the debt on a certain date in the future. It’s up to you whether you want to do this, but the debt collector can’t take a payment that you’ve made for the future and deposit it before the agreed-upon date.

Lie to You

Debt collectors who lie to get money from debtors are in violation of FTC rules. They can’t:

  • Tell you they are from a different company
  • Claim you owe a different amount than you owe
  • Say they are from a governmental agency
  • Claim to be an attorney
  • Threaten to sue you unless they are actually planning to do so
  • Threaten to take money out of your paycheck without going to court first

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Know Your Rights When It Comes to Debt Collection

You have a right to fair debt practices. Your rights are protected by the federal government, and you can report any problems you have with a debt collector to the Federal Trade Commission or your State’s Attorney.

In extreme cases where you think a debt collector has actually violated the law, they can be sued. If you’re worried about how to handle debt collectors consider contacting AmONE to discuss your debt options.

Don’t let debt collectors bully you. Get to know your debt options by learning more about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

What If You Owe the Debt and Want to Pay It?

You have several options to pay the debt you owe, even if you can’t pay the full amount or haven’t been able to pay it in the past. Your options include:

  • Making payment arrangements with the debt-collecting agency
  • Offering to pay a lesser amount than you own in consideration for the debt being paid in full
  • Getting a debt consolidation loan, paying all your debts with the proceeds, then paying off the debt consolidation loan
  • Enter into a debt relief program

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can a debt collector garnish my wages?

Yes, a debt collector can take money from your paycheck or bank account, but it must get a court order before it can do so. Some federal debts, like IRS debts, don’t require a court order for wage garnishment. If you are called to court for a debt you owe, be sure to show up to court so you can try to make other arrangements besides having your wages garnished.

What is a debt judgment?

A judgment happens when a court makes a decision that you owe the debt and that the debt collector can use any means available, including wage garnishment and bank account seizure, to get paid. Once a judgment is entered against you, it will show up on your credit report and severely damage your credit.

Can a debt collector contact other people about my debt?

There are only a few instances in which others can be contacted about your debt. A collector may discuss your debt with your spouse or attorney. A debt collector can contact people you know to get your address or phone number, but they can’t discuss your debt with them.