Getting deep into debt is never an easy experience for anyone. If you’ve missed paying your bills or you’ve defaulted on your loans, you’ll be hearing from debt collectors sooner or later.
According to the National Consumer Law Center, debt collectors are one of the top reasons behind the complaints on the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer website. Likewise, a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report said more than one in four US consumers felt threatened after communicating with debt collectors.
Harassment, threats, and abuse can take a toll on people who are already distressed by their piling debts. Having debt collectors call them repeatedly can do a lot of damage as well. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect consumers against out of control collectors.
Can a debt collector call multiple times a day? The FDCPA recently revised some of its debt collection rules and set a call limit of a maximum of 7 times per week per account. If you have multiple collection accounts, that means you might still have to deal with many calls. The new rules will take into effect in 2021. For now, there’s no limit to the number of calls that collectors can make per day or week.
What you should know, though, is that debt collectors are not allowed to harass or abuse you. That includes calling you or engaging in conversations with you repeatedly with the goal of annoying, abusing, or harassing you or any person that’s involved in the debt collection.
What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?
Since March 1978, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) has been protecting consumers from being abused, deceived, harassed, and treated unfairly by debt collectors. The federal law only applies to personal debt, such as credit card debt, medical debt, student loans, and other debts for household purposes.
How does the FDCPA protect you from debt collectors? Section 15 USC 1692c of the FDCPA offers the specifics about when, where, and with whom debt collectors can communicate.
1. Debt Collectors Cannot Call You Any Time of the Day or Night
Debt collectors cannot call you any time of the day or night. FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from calling you during unusual hours. Nobody wants to wake to a call from a debt collector at dawn or midnight. Generally, they can only communicate with you between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. They can only contact you outside these hours if you or the court has given them permission.
2. Debt Collectors Cannot Call You at Work if it’s not Allowed by the Employer
Debt collectors cannot call you in your place of work if your employer doesn’t allow such kind of communication. Otherwise, they can call your employer to confirm that you work there or get your contact information. They can’t reveal anything about your debt or that they’re debt collectors.
3. Debt Collectors Cannot Contact You Directly if You’ve Hired a Lawyer
If you have hired an attorney to handle your financial affairs, debt collectors, provided that they know the name and address of the lawyer, should get in touch with them first. It is only when your attorney is unresponsive that debt collectors can communicate with you directly
Who Can Debt Collectors Talk to When Collecting Your Debt?
Debt collectors cannot contact everyone you know about your debt. Aside from you, debt collectors can only talk to the following:
- Your attorney
- The consumer reporting agency (if allowed by the local law)
- The creditor
- The creditor’s attorney
- The debt collector’s attorney
Can Debt Collectors Call Your Friends or Relatives?
Debt collectors cannot contact your friends or relatives if you or your attorney are available and can be reached. Debt collectors can only contact them if they cannot locate you or your attorney for the purpose of getting your contact information. They can’t tell them details about your debt.
When communicating with other third parties, debt collectors must give out their name and state that the purpose of their inquiry is for the confirmation or correction of your location.
Debt collectors can only ask about the following information:
- Your home address
- Your telephone number
- Your place of work
Debt collectors can only contact third parties once unless they have requested additional contact or if the debt collector believes that they have been provided with incorrect or incomplete information.
Likewise, debt collectors can’t reveal what collection agency they’re from unless otherwise asked. They’re also prohibited from informing third parties about your debt.
Can You Stop Debt Collectors From Contacting You?
Yes, you can demand a cease of communication under section 15 U.S. Code § 1692c of the FDCPA. Send a formal request to the debt collector, in writing, to cease all further communication with you. Note, however, that doing so has consequences, as discussed in the next section. Once they have received your letter, the debt collector cannot contact you except to inform you that they:
- received your request
- will stop their collection efforts
- will file a lawsuit against you
How to Get Debt Collectors to Stop Calling?
Under the FDCPA, you should send a cease and desist letter to the debt collector and make sure to keep a copy of it. Send the original to the debt collector by certified mail. Don’t forget to pay for a “return receipt” so that you have proof that the collector has received the letter.
If debt collectors continue to contact you even after receiving your formal cease of the communication request, that’s a violation of the FDCPA rule. You can sue the debt collector, and if you win the case, they will pay for damages and your attorney’s fees.
Always remember that even if the debt collector isn’t allowed to contact you, it can still pursue other actions to collect the money you owe like filing a lawsuit against you or leave a negative mark on your credit report.
Can Debt Collectors Contact You Through Other Channels?
The recent revisions to the FDCPA rules that will take effect in 2021 will allow debt collectors to contact you through other channels, such as emails, text messages, and social media messages. They don’t need to ask for your permission before they can communicate with you through these options, but like the phone calls, you can request them to stop contacting you, and they must honor that.
When Should You Tell the Debt Collector to Stop Contacting You?
When you feel that you get too many calls or messages from debt collectors, take action. Send a letter to the debt collector to stop communicating with you, especially if it is threatening to use violence or other criminal means to force you to pay the debt.
Other forms of harassment include using obscene or profane language or calling you repeatedly. How many calls from a debt collector is considered harassment? There’s no specific number until the new rules take effect in 2021, but under the FDCPA, repetitious phone calls about your debt may be considered harassment.
Expired Statute of Limitations
You can tell the debt collector to stop the collection calls if the statute of limitations has expired on your delinquent loan. The statute of limitations is the period when the creditor can sue you for the unpaid debt. It varies between states.
Once it expires, the creditor can no longer sue you to collect the debt, but debt collectors may still get in touch with you to collect the owed amount. That’s illegal and definitely harassment. Most states have laws similar to the FDCPA, including the Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices laws that also protect consumers.
Debt Is Not Yours
The debt collector has to send you a validation notice containing information, such as the amount of the unpaid debt, the name of the creditor you owe it to, and instructions on how to proceed if you think it’s not your debt. The notice must be sent to you within five days after your first contact.
If you believe that it’s not your debt, you can send a letter about it to the debt collector. If you managed to do so within 30 days after getting the validation notice, the debt collector must stop trying to collect the debt until it secures and sends you a written debt verification. It’s a good idea to ask the debt collector to verify the debt first to make sure that it’s not yours before sending a letter asking them to stop contacting you.
You can also request the name and the address of the original creditor within 30 days after receiving the written notice. During this period, collectors must stop all debt collection activities until you get the information you need.
What are the Other Illegal Debt Collection Practices?
1. False or Misleading Representations
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from claiming that they are attorneys, law enforcement agencies, employed by a credit bureau, or connected to the local, state, or federal government. They’re not allowed to use a false business name or say that you’ll go to jail or they can have your assets seized if you don’t pay.
2. Unfair Practices
Debt collectors must not engage in unfair practices when trying to collect a debt. These include the following:
- coerce you to pay
- collect any form of fee that’s against the law or not part of the original debt agreement
- deposit a postdated check before the indicated date
- threaten you of repossession of assets
- cause you to incur communication charges by not informing why they’re contacting you
How to Minimize Debt Collection Problems?
If you feel that you’re being harassed, deceived, or treated unfairly, you have the right to ask the debt collector to stop contacting you. But if you know that the debt is yours and the debt collector has not violated any section of the FDCPA, the best thing you can do is face it head-on.
Ignoring debt collectors won’t make them stop their collection efforts or make the debt go away. It may lead to repossession of assets and a poor credit rating if they file a negative report to the credit bureaus. It may even force them to file a lawsuit against you. If they win the case, they may obtain a court judgment for wage garnishment, which is a legal procedure that orders the employer to withhold your earnings to settle an unpaid debt.
If you can’t afford to make payments yet, inform the debt collector and negotiate a more favorable arrangement. If you wish to file a complaint against a debt collection, you can submit an online complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or call (855) 411-CFPB (2372).
Debt collectors have one goal and that’s to collect the unpaid debt. They can use different collection methods but their tactics are limited thanks to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. It is a federal law that protects consumers from getting harassed, deceived, and treated unfairly by debt collectors.
Calls from debt collectors can be frustrating and annoying. Although there’s no specific number of times a debt collector is allowed to call you per day until 2021, you have the right to tell them to stop calling you by sending them a cease and desist letter. By 2021, they’ll be limited to 7 calls per week per account. Unfortunately, with the other channels, such as text messages, emails, and social media messages, the limit has not been set. Your only way to avoid harassment is to tell the collectors to stop by sending a formal request that they have to honor.