Know Your Rights: Debt Collectors Contacting You

Even if you owe a debt, you have rights about when and how a debt collector contacts you.

What They Can and Must Do

When debt collectors contact you, they can

  • call you only between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. (unless you have requested otherwise)
  • ask for payment over the phone
  • mention legal action only if they intend to file a lawsuit

When debt collectors contact you, they must

  • give you their name and the name of the collection agency (if applicable)
  • tell you the truth about who they are and what they intend to do
  • tell you how you can contact them in writing
  • send you a written notice five days after they first contact you that includes information about how to dispute the debt (including the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a statement)

When debt collectors contact your family, friends or coworkers, they can

  • contact (regarding your debt) your
    • spouse
    • parent (if you’re a minor)
    • guardian
    • cosigner or guarantor
    • executor or administrator
  • contact your employer to get your address or telephone number (unless you’re in a state with stricter laws)
  • contact neighbors, family or friends for your contact information if they’re trying to locate you

When debt collectors contact your family, friends or coworkers, they must

  • identify themselves by name, but not as a debt collector
  • identify the name of the collection agency (only if asked)

What They Can’t Do

When a debt collector contacts you, they can’t

  • call you repeatedly
  • harass you
  • trick you into accepting collect calls
  • threaten you with a lawsuit just to get you to pay the debt
  • use obscene language
  • make negative comments about your character
  • make religious/ethnic slurs
  • threaten you with violence
  • call you at work if they know your employer doesn’t allow it (or you’ve asked them not to)
  • send a postcard with information about your debt
  • tell others that you owe a debt or discuss the details of the account.
  • contact others more than once unless they have reason to believe that person has new information

What You Can Do

You can

  • tell a debt collector to contact your attorney (they must comply with your request)
  • ask a debt collector in writing to stop contacting you (should stop phone calls, but won't stop the collection efforts)

What You Should Do

You should

  • keep notes (time, date and details) each time a debt collector contacts you (especially if you think the collector is violating the law/your rights)
  • save all letters, emails, messages or notices (and your responses) from the debt collector