When your phone rings at 8:30 in the morning, the last person you want it to be is a debt collector. If it's evening and you're eating dinner, you're probably equally annoyed. You might be surprised to learn that collectors are operating within the law if they call at either of those times. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the Federal law that sets guidelines for when debt collectors can and can't call.
Collectors Can Call Only Between Certain Hours
Debt collectors aren't allowed to call you early in the morning or late at night. The law specifically states they can only call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., your local time. Calling you at any other time is a violation of the FDPCA. If you'd prefer a debt collector to call you outside these hours—for example at 6 a.m. because of your work schedule—you can request that they call you at that time.
They Can't Call You At Work If You Ask Them Not To
Debt collectors can get your work phone number from the original creditor, from your credit report, by calling asking your family and friends, or by researching you online. You may be surprised to know that they can call you at work unless you tell them to stop calling you at work.
If your employer doesn't allow you to receive personal calls at work, let the debt collector know that they should not contact you at work again. The collector may follow up by asking for the best number to reach you, and you can give them a more convenient contact number for them to call in the future.
They Can't Call You Repeatedly
The FDCPA doesn't specify how often a debt collector can call, e.g., weekly, daily, or multiple times a day. However, it does prohibit collectors from "causing the phone to ring repeatedly or continuously to annoy" you. In other words, debt collectors shouldn't be calling you back to back, especially immediately after you've spoken to them or after you've asked them not to call.
Collectors are required to let consumers know they're a debt collector and any information obtained will be used for collecting a debt. This disclaimer is frequently referred to in the financial industry as the "mini-Miranda."
They Can Call Your Cellphone
There's nothing in the law that says debt collectors can't call your cellphone. If your cellphone number is the number you provided to the creditor when you applied for the loan or credit card, that's the number debt collectors will use to contact you. Debt collectors can also retrieve your cellphone number from your credit report if you've given it to any of your other creditors.
They Can't Call If You Tell Them to Stop
To stop debt collection calls completely, you can send a written cease and desist letter telling them not to call you anymore. After the debt collector receives your letter, they can only contact you once more to let you know what action they plan to take next if they plan to take action at all.
You have to make your "don't call" request in writing for it to legally stick. Send your letter via certified mail so you can track it and have proof that the debt collector received it.
They Can Call Your Family But They Can't Talk About Your Debt
Debt collectors can contact your family, friends, and neighbors to get information about you, but they're not allowed to reveal that they're a debt collector. They're also not allowed to reveal anything about your debt.
Weekend and Holiday Calls May Be Considered Inconvenient
What about weekends and holidays? Fortunately, many businesses, including collection agencies, are closed on weekends and holidays. Although the FDCPA doesn't specifically state which days of the week collectors can and cannot call, it does state that collectors cannot communicate with you during times "which should be known to be inconvenient."
If a collector calls at a bad time, simply say, "This is not a convenient time" and let them know specifically what time is convenient. The debt collector is required to honor your request, even if you make it verbally. Make a note of this conversation, including the date and time. Make note also of any future calls the debt collector makes to you at the time you've told them is inconvenient. You may have grounds to sue the collector if they continue calling you at a time you've stated is inconvenient for you.
How to Handle Excessive Collection Calls
If you believe a debt collector is violating the law by calling you outside the allowed times or by calling more frequently than they should, especially after you've sent a cease and desist letter asking them to stop calling, you can report them to the CFPB and your state's attorney general. With enough consumer complaints, the authority may impose a fine on the debt collector and require them to stop violating the law.