What Collection Companies Can Do to Collect Credit Card Debt

by Craig Berman ; Updated July 27, 2017
Collection agencies will use any means at their disposal to get you to pay.

Collection companies can seem relentless when trying to get you to pay a credit card debt, but the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act limits the tactics they can use. Companies can attempt to contact you, but they can’t be abusive or profane and can’t call friends and neighbors to use peer pressure to persuade you to pay them. They can, however, file suit. If they win a lawsuit, they can use the court system to compel payment.

Call Times

Debt collectors can contact you at a convenient time and place. The time is generally defined as between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. They’re allowed to call you at home, but you can prevent them from calling you at work by saying you’re not allowed to receive calls there. An oral declaration that you can’t be called at work suffices. Collection agencies can only contact you, your spouse and your attorney, if applicable, to discuss the debt. They can contact others, but only to obtain your contact information and information about where you work.

Limited Tactics

Debt collectors are limited in the tactics they can use to collect the debt. They can’t lie, use obscene language, threaten jail time or repeatedly use the phone to annoy you. They also can’t give false information about you to credit reporting agencies -- for example, “re-aging” a debt by falsifying your payment record to make a debt that’s passed beyond the statute of limitations seem collectable still. They can, however, indicate that you’re late in paying off the debt if it’s legitimate.

Stopping Contact

If you want to forbid debt collectors from contacting you entirely, you can make that request in writing. Send it by certified mail with return receipt requested, stating that you’re demanding the agency stop contacting you in accordance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Once that happens, the collector can contact you again only to confirm no further contact will be made and to alert you that it intends to take a specific action, such as filing suit in state court. Because the latter remains a possibility even when contact ceases, you may want to try to reach an agreement with the agency before cutting off communication.

Going to Court

Should you fail to respond to the collection agency or pay the amount you owe, the collection agency can file suit to compel payment. If you don’t respond, it likely will ask for and receive a default judgment. This in turn permits the collection company to get a garnishment against your wages or bank account. If, however, you think the debt collector has violated your legal rights, you can file suit as well. But even if the agency is convicted of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in its collection attempts, that doesn’t make the obligation go away.

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