Whether you over-extended yourself, lost a job or became sick, it's tough owing credit card debt that you can't pay. Hassling by debt collectors makes it even tougher. However, just because you owe money doesn't mean a collector can harass you day and night or bother you at work. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act outlines when and where a creditor can call you.
While a debt collector can call you at work, they can't harass you. Verbally asking the collector not to call your place of employment will buy you 10 days with written requests lasting indefinitely.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, overseen by the Federal Trade Commission, stipulates exactly what credit card and other debt collectors can and cannot do when contacting debtors. The FDCPA refers only to personal debt, not debt incurred by businesses. Debt collectors can contact you in person or by phone, email, regular mail or telegram. By law, once a collector contacts you by phone, he must send you a written notice detailing the name of the creditor and the amount owed within five business days.
Calling at Work
If you're harassed at work by a debt collector, getting her to stop calling you there is simple. Under FDCPA regulations, you must inform the collector – either verbally or in writing – that you can't receive calls there and not to call you at work again. If you tell the collector over the phone that you can't receive calls, that prohibition is good for 10 days. If you send the information in writing to the collection agency, its collectors can't call again unless you send a letter or email allowing them to do so.
Other Calling Prohibitions
Although debt collectors can call you at home or on your cellphone, they can't do so at unreasonable hours. By law, that's before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you give permission to call you at other hours. Debt collectors can't force you to accept collect calls from them. A collector can hound you about money owed, but he can't use obscene or abusive language or make violent threats.
If you're hassled by debt collectors, caller ID is your friend. However, debt collectors know that debtors decline to pick up the phone when spotting an unfamiliar number. If a collector constantly calls your number, that falls under the "harassment or abuse" provision of the FDCPA. The law specifically states that, "causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass," is a violation.
- Federal Trade Commission: Debt Collection FAQs
- Federal Trade Commission: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
- Massachusetts Attorney General: Fair Debt Collection
- Illinois Attorney General: Debt Collection
- Consumer Finance Protection Bureau: What Information Does the Debt Collector Have to Give Me About the Debt?
A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt's work has appeared in dozens of publications, including Sapling, Zack's, Financial Advisor, nj.com, LegalZoom and The Nest.