Consumers are protected from unfair debt collection practices by the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, or FDCPA. This act, passed in 1978, applies to third-party debt collectors, not your original creditors. Some states have passed laws that make the rules applicable to original creditors as well. The FDCPA forbids creditors from contacting you at inconvenient times (such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.) or places (your workplace if you're not allowed to take calls), but doesn't restrict what days you can be called.
Debt collectors can't call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you've given them permission to do so. They also can't talk about your debt to other people who answer the phone, although they can ask about your address, your home number and where you work. Debt collectors also can't call repeatedly; once or twice per day is the maximum contact allowed. They are also required to follow up their initial phone contact within five days with a letter explaining the reason for the phone call.
Stopping Collections Calls
Debt collectors can't call you if they know you're being represented by an attorney and they have the attorney's contact information. If this is the case, let them know by phone or in writing. Debt collectors also have to honor any written requests to stop collections calls. You can also request to have the debt validated; you have to make the request within 30 days of the initial letter sent by the creditor and then the debt collector has to furnish you with proof the debt is valid. All written communication with a debt collector should be sent via certified mail with a return receipt.
Harassment and Abuse
The FDCPA forbids debt collectors from using obscene or abusive language, threatening you or calling you without identifying themselves. They can't say they're an attorney unless they actually are an attorney. They also can't imply that not paying your debt will result in your being arrested or having your wages garnished and they can't say you're going to be sued unless you're actually going to be sued.
If you think that a debt collector has violated the FDCPA, you have the right to sue. If you win, the collector can be ordered to pay you damages of up to $1,000 plus attorney's fees and court costs. You can also report the debt collector to your state attorney general's office or the Federal Trade Commission. Calling on a Sunday isn't a violation, though, unless you've written the collector and asked him to stop calling you.
Melinda Hill Sineriz has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She worked as an editorial assistant for Forward Movement Publications in Cincinnati, Ohio. She wrote for several years for allmusic.com and edited and wrote a chapter for a book with Wooster Press. She graduated from Miami University in Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She has a master's degree in teaching.