When Can Debt Collectors Call?

Woman frustrated on the phone while holding baby
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When your phone rings at 8 in the morning, the last person you expect it to be is a debt collector. If it's late in the evening and you're trying to have dinner, you're probably equally as annoyed.  You might be surprised to learn that collectors are operating within the law if they call at either of these times. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the Federal law that sets guidelines for when debt collectors can call. There are limits on when debt collectors can call.

They Can Call Only Between Certain Hours

Debt collectors can't 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., 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 let them know they're not allowed to. For example, if your employer doesn't allow you to receive personal calls at work, let the debt collector know and they should not contact you at work again.

They Can't Call You Repeatedly

The FDCPA doesn't specify how often a debt collector can call, e.g. weekly or daily or multiple times a day. It does, however, prohibit collectors from "causing the phone to ring repeatedly or continuously to annoy" you. So, debt collectors shouldn't be calling you back to back, especially immediately after you've spoken to them and ended the call or after you've asked not to call. They must also deliver a mini Miranda

They Can Call Your Cell Phone

There's nothing in the law that says debt collectors can't call your cell phone. If your cell phone number is the number you gave when you applied with the original creditor, that's the number debt collectors will contact you on. Debt collectors can also get your cell phone number from your credit report if you've given it to any of your other creditors to contact you.

They Can't Call If You Tell Them Not to - In Writing

To stop debt collection calls completely, you can send a written cease and desist letter letting them know not to call you anymore. After the debt collector receives your letter, they can only contact you once more and that's to let you know what action they plan to take next. That's if they plan to take action at all. Note that 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 know the debt collector reecived 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. They can only contact your loved ones once and they can only call to findo ut your address, phone number, and place of employment.

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 note of this conversation including the date and time. Make note also of any future calls the debt collectors makes to you at the time you've told them is inconvenient. You may have grounds to sue the collector if it continues 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 Attorney General. With enough consumer complaints either authority may fine the debt collector and require them to stop violating the law.

Paying off the debt or making a payment arrangement will also stop collectors from calling you. Before you pay, make sure the debt is yours and that it's within the legally enforceable timeframe