Video: Debt collector calling? Know your rights

By Tonya Stumphauzer


If you find yourself hiding from debt collectors, you may not be alone.

According to the Urban Institute, more than a third of Americans have debts reported to collection agencies. While the best way to avoid this is to pay your bills, if debt collectors do come after you, you still have rights that protect you from harassment, thanks to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

"By law, the first step that debt collectors must take when reaching out to consumers about a debt is they must inform them of their consumer rights, and that's known as a mini-Miranda," explains Melinda Opperman, senior vice president at Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management, Inc.

By law, debt collectors must state the amount of debt and the name of the creditor. They also must state that unless you dispute the validity of the debt within 30 days, the debt will be considered valid, and that you can ask for verification of the debt.

That's all well and good if debt collectors play by the rules, but many step out of bounds in order to make you fearful. Some threaten to contact your employer, sue you or have you imprisoned. But you cannot be thrown in jail for debts.

Debt collectors cannot legally:

  1. Use abusive or obscene language.
  2. Harass you with repeated calls, or call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  3. Call you at work if you've asked them to stop.
  4. Tell your friends or relatives about your debts.
  5. Demand that you pay more than you owe.
  6. Threaten to sue unless they intend to take legal action.
  7. Make up consequences for not paying your debt.

So what should you do if your rights are being violated?

"Consumers," Opperman says, "when they feel their rights are violated, should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or their state attorney general."

To help with this, has assembled sample letters to send to debt collectors, such as a verification of debt request, and cease communication forms.

Next time your phone rings and it's a debt collector calling, remember there are laws protecting you, and you shouldn't have to avoid those calls out of fear. For more information about your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, visit or read more about it in 8 things debt collectors may not do.

See related: Tougher rules coming for debt collectors, How to fight phantom-debt collectors

Published: July 17, 2015

Join the discussion
We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.

The editorial content on is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company's business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.

Follow Us

Updated: 10-23-2016

Weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, advice, articles and tips delivered to your inbox. It's FREE.