9 Questions Everyone Asks About Debt Collector Tactics (FAQs)
Frequently Asked Questions
What times of the day may a debt collector call me?
Under the Fair Credit Collection Practices Act, 15 USC 1692, (FDCPA) collectors can only call you between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Early morning and late night calls are violations under the act.
Are leaving messages on my answering machine legal?
It depends. Generally, if they only leave their name and number, that’s fine. But if they leave any information that they are calling about a debt, which can be considered communication with a third party, it is a violation under 1692c. The reason it is a communication with a third party is because anyone can listen to that message Unless the collector is sure the consumer lives alone and no one else ever listens to the messages, there is a reasonable expectation a third party will receive the communication.
If I don’t owe the debt can they keep harassing me?
You should send a cease communication letter, a copy of one is on this website. Be sure to send it certified mail. If they continue to call you after you get the green card proving they got the letter, call a consumer attorney. They can call you one more time to tell you they are stopping collection efforts or that they are going to sue you, but they rarely do, for those purposes.
Can they call my work?
Under 1692b they can only call to verify your location information. If you tell them you aren’t allowed to get calls at work they must stop calling. They can’t say you owe a debt, or call more than once. Many clients tell us the collector calls their work repeatedly. This is a violation of the FDCPA and should be pursued with a consumer attorney.
What about garnishing my wages? One collector told me that he was going to call my employer and have my wages garnished if I don’t pay.
Yes they can BUT ONLY after they do all of the following
- win, and then
- get an order from the court and
- finally serve your employer with the order.
It often takes several months before they can start taking money out of your paycheck.
This can be fought but only if you go to court and fight them or get a consumer lawyer to represent you.
What about putting me in jail?
You cannot be put in jail for owing a consumer debt. Period. A collector who threatens you with jail is violating the law under 1692e(4)
I got a summons to appear in court. I’m afraid if I go they’ll lock me up. Will they?
No, see prior answer.
I have to be at work on my court date. Can I just call and get it continued?
No if you try that you will lose the case. Most court clerks aren’t allowed to continue a case for you over the phone. YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP.
My friend, spouse, neighbor boyfriend, girlfriend, said they’ll go to court for me. Is that good enough?
Probably not. Don’t take a chance. Go yourself or have a lawyer go for you.
A debt collector calls me 10 times a day. I asked him to stop but he said he’s going to call me repeatedly until I pay. Is that legal?
No. It violates 1692d(5) “engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse or harass”
What about calling my cell phone? I don’t know how they got my number. I never gave it to anyone or permission to call it.
This is a violation of both the FDCPA and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A) and entitles you to statutory damages, for each and every violation. If this is happening to you CALL US IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS A SERIOUS VIOLATION.
Why would they tell me these things if they are not true? Isn’t that lying and illegal?
Yes, it is. While most debt collectors are law abiding professionals, occasionally a collector or collection company will violate the law routinely because they know most people don’t know what the law is and therefore will not respond. It has worked for them thousands of times and they will continue to do it. They also know that people, especially the elderly or unsophisticated can be bullied and scared into paying money even if they don’t owe it.
You aren’t one of those people any more. If a collector violates your rights under the law, call a consumer lawyer, if you want, call us.