11 Consumer Rights You Should Know When Debt Collectors Call

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act defines what third-party debt collectors can and cannot do when they’re collecting a debt from you. Knowing your rights with debt collectors can save you much headache and even keep you from paying debts for which you have no legal obligation. Keep in mind the FDCPA applies to third-party collection agencies, not the original company you created the account with.

You can ask a debt collector to stop calling.

Denied credit card application
maybefalse / Creative RF / GettyImages

To stop debt collector calls, send a written letter letting them know you no longer wish to be contacted. It's just that simple. Once the collector receives your letter, they’re allowed one final written contact letting you know what, if anything, they’re going to do next.

You can ask the collector to call only at convenient times.

The law says debt collectors can only call between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. But, if there’s another timeframe that’s not convenient for you, for example before 10 am because you work the late shift, let the debt collector know and they're prohibited from calling you at that time.

You can ask the collector to verify the debt.

Soon after they first contact you, the debt collector is required to notify you of your right to dispute the validity of the debt. Then, you have 30 days to send a debt validation letter requesting proof that the debt is yours. After receiving your letter, the collector must stop collection activity until they’ve sent the proof.

Inaccurately reported collections can be disputed.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, only accurate, timely, and verifiable information can appear on your credit report. If you spot errors on your credit report, send a credit report dispute to the credit bureau to have inaccurate collection accounts removed from your credit report. Follow up with the collection agency if the credit bureau dispute is unsuccessful.

You have the right to stop collection calls to your job.

Debt collectors can’t call you at work if they know or should know you’re not allowed to receive those types of calls at work. If you do get a call from a debt collector while your at work, just tell the collector not to call your job. You can also send a letter for written proof that you've made the request.

You have the right to privacy regarding your debts.

Debt collectors can contact certain third-parties to get your contact information if they can’t reach you, but they can only contact these people once each. Collectors are generally not allowed to tell anyone else about your debt, even when they're trying to get your contact information. The exception is your spouse, your attorney if you have one, and your parent or legal guardian if you’re under age 18.

The debt collector owes you the truth.

Debt collectors are prohibited from giving false information. They’re not allowed to falsely represent themselves as attorneys or government agencies if they’re really not, nor can they accuse you of committing any crime. They’re not allowed to misrepresent papers as legal forms or say that papers are not legal forms when they really are.

You don't have to pay anything more than what you owe.

Collectors aren’t allowed to charge any interest or fees to your account unless the original contract or by state law allows it. You can dispute an amount that seems unreasonably high.

You can choose which debts to pay.

If you have more than one debt with a debt collector, you’re allowed to choose which debt your payment should apply to. Furthermore, the FDCPA also forbids the collector from applying paying to a debt that you’ve disputed.

You can avoid payment on an expired debt.

The statute of limitations is the amount of time a collector can sue you for a debt. The time limit varies by state and by type of debt. You still owe the debt after the statute of limitations has passed, however, you do have the right to withhold payment. Collectors can still collect on the debt and even list it on your credit report if it’s still within the credit reporting time limit.

You have the right to sue a collector who violates your rights.

You can sue a debt collector in state or federal court. You may receive actual damages, like lost wages, up to $1,000 in punitive damages, and reimbursement for your legal fees. If the same debt collector has violated you and several other consumers, you can form a class action lawsuit and receive up to $500,000 or 1% of the collector’s net worth.