Debt Collectors Are Calling Me. What Can I Do?

According to a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the total amount of household debt in December 2016 was $12.58 trillion. Millions of Americans find themselves with at least one debt in collection. 

Contact from debt collectors can be scary and overwhelming, especially when they begin to call more frequently, contact your family, or threaten you. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was created to stop debt collector harassment and protect Americans from unfair and abusive collection tactics. 

Here’s what collectors can and can’t do, and what you can do to get the calls to stop. 

FDCPA Violations

The FDCPA provides guidelines that debt collectors are required to follow when they contact you about your household debt. This may be debt from medical bills, utilities, a loan, or credit cards. 

Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are not allowed to harass, intimidate, abuse, or threaten you. They can’t threaten IRS reporting or a lawsuit if it’s untrue. You also can’t go to jail for owing money. Collectors should only contact you between 8am and 9pm, unless you give them permission to do otherwise, and they can’t contact family members or friends and discuss your debt. 

Debt collectors also cannot: 

  • Continue to contact you after you write to them and ask that they stop
  • Contact you after you’re being represented by an attorney
  • Tell you false information about the debt, like exaggerating the amount
  • Fail to tell you that they are a collector 
  • Say they work for a credit bureau or give incorrect information about your debt to a credit bureau
  • Fail to report a disputed debt as disputed to the credit bureaus
  • Call your cell phone without permission
  • Place private and personal information in a visible area on a mailing envelope 
  • Threaten wage garnishment, which is illegal in Pennsylvania 
  • Continue trying to collect after you file for bankruptcy 

If a debt collector violates any of your rights, you may be able to sue, and the collector will be responsible for the cost. 

How Do I Get Debt Collectors to Stop Calling?

You can get a collector to stop contacting you if you write a cease and desist letter. Under the FDCPA, the collector is required to stop calling. Keep in mind that this does not mean the debt no longer exists. 

You can also contact a debt collection lawyer to stop debt collector harassment. If the collector is abusive and you hire an attorney, send a letter to inform them that all further contact should be through your attorney. 

If the debt seems incorrect or inaccurate, be sure to make the debt collector aware of this. Ask them to send a validation of the debt. If you disagree with the collector’s calculation, send documentation that proves you paid or states why you don’t owe the amount that they claim. You should always send correspondence through certified mail with a return receipt so that you always have proof that they received your information.