When Can Debt Collectors Contact You?
Your debt collection attorney can tell you that under FDCPA, a debt collector may contact you by mail, in person, by telephone or by telegram during “convenient hours” (commonly between 8 AM and 9 PM). Within five days of the first contact with you, the debt collector must send you a written notice telling you:
- How much money you reportedly owe;
- The name of the creditor to whom you owe the debt;
- That unless you, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, dispute the validity of the debt or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed valid by the debt collector;
- That if you dispute the debt in full or in part within that thirty day period, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt and mail it to the consumer; and
- That upon your written request within the thirty day period, the debt collector will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
The first notice must also include certain warnings including a statement that the communication is from a debt collector and that any information obtained may be used to collect the debt. Except for pleadings associated with a legal action, all subsequent communication from the debt collector must also include this warning.
Your debt collection attorney will want you to remember that the thirty day notice requirement does not limit the debt collector from taking other measures to collect the debt during that initial thirty day period, including starting a lawsuit against you.
Things Debt Collectors Cannot Do?
Debt collectors cannot take any actions against you that are deceptive, fraudulent, or designed to harass or intimate you. In other words, a debt collector cannot take any action designed to force you to pay a debt against your will. For example, a debt collector cannot:
- Threaten to refer your account to an attorney, harm your credit rating, repossession or garnishment, without actual intention of action on the threat.
- Make repeated telephone calls or telephone calls at unreasonable times;
- Place telephone calls to an inconvenient place. For example, contacting you at work in violation of a policy by your employer that the debt collector knows or following a request by you that they not contact you at work;
- Inform your employer of the purpose of the call, unless first asked by the employer;
- Use obscenity, racial slurs or insults;
- Send letters which appear to have come from a court;
- Seek collection fees or interest charges not permitted by your contract or by state law;
- Request post-dated checks with the intention to prosecute if they bounce;
- Make false representations in association with efforts to collect the debt, including the false claim that the person contacting you in relation to the debt is an attorney, falsely claiming to have started a lawsuit, using a false name, or using stationery that is designed to look like an official court or government communication;
- Use false claims to collect information about the you, such as pretending to be conducting a survey;
- Threaten you with arrest if you do not pay the debt.
Can Debt Collectors Call Other People About Your Debt?
If you do not have an attorney, the debt collector may make only those inquiries necessary to determine where you live, what your phone number is, and where you work. If your current address is unknown, the debt collector may have permission to send a single letter to your last known employer inquiring about your present address. Ordinarily, other than your debt collection attorney, a debt collector may make only one inquiry about you with any given third party.
How Do You Get Proof of the Debt?
If, within thirty days after receiving written notice of the debt from the debt collector, you send the collection agency a letter asking for proof of the debt then the collector must stop contacting you. The notice must be in writing. You must also hand deliver or postmark the letter within thirty days of the first written notice from the debt collector. The debt collector may renew collection activities if you receive proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount claimed by the creditor.
How Can You Stop Collectors From Contacting You?
If you have a debt collection attorney, you can instruct the debt collector to make all inquiries about the debt through your attorney. Once the debt collector receives instructions to make inquiries through your attorney, they no longer have permission to make any direct contact with you.
If you simply want the debt collector to stop contacting you then you must send a written notice instructing them to stop. Once the collection agency receives that letter, they may contact you only one additional time to notify you that the collection agency or creditor intends to take a specific action in relation to the debt.
Sending this type of notice does not resolve the debt. For example, the creditor may file a lawsuit against you in order to collect the debt, even if you prohibit further contact by the collection agency.