Feeling short of money or falling behind on loan payments is an experience that no one enjoys. Constant collection calls from creditors make this situation even more challenging for the borrower. But things can get real distressing when your creditor turns your case to a debt collection agency. Now, rather than getting phone calls from your creditor, you have started receiving calls from the collection agency that is making every effort to collect on the debt.

The good news is that being a borrower, you have rights—in fact, a lot of rights—thanks to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that has laid down a set of rules, which is a must for third-party collectors to follow when contacting a debtor. Above all, the FDCPA was instituted to get rid of abusive collection practices and to give borrowers a way to dispute and obtain validation of information regarding debt, so that they can ensure that the information provided to them is accurate.

How and When Can a Debt Collector Contact You?

A debt collector can contact you by mail, telegram, telephone and fax, or even in person. But under no circumstances are they allowed to get in touch with you through postcard. Furthermore, they can only make contact with you from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Any calls before or after these hours are considered a serious violation of FDCPA rules, unless you have allowed them to call at other times.

However, debt collectors can call at your place of work unless you request them not to or if they find out that your employer doesn’t allow such calls. Being a borrower, you must also know that even if a debt collector calls at your workplace, the collector cannot reveal to your employer or anyone else that you owe a debt.

Can a Collection Agency Call Your Friends or Family Members?

In the way that a collection agency is allowed to call your employers, likewise it can make contact with your friends and family members—but only in limited circumstances. As per FDCPA rules, debt collectors are not allowed to reveal their identification, nor can they tell anyone about the debt that you owe.

Additionally, the debt collector is highly unlikely to call your friend or family member more than once, unless they are being asked to call again or when they doubt that the person hasn’t provided them with accurate or complete information.

How Many Times Can a Debt Collector Call You?

Although the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from calling a person repeatedly or continuously with an aim to harass, abuse or annoy, it is not easy to determine whether and when a collection consultant has crossed this boundary.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that a debt collector is certainly allowed to call you more than once, but six calls during a day is perhaps too many. Therefore, the difference between the two extremes is usually judged through the facts of a particular case.

How to Stop a Debt Collection Agency from Contacting You

If debt collection calls have become a serious annoyance for you, then there are two ways to stop a collection agency from contacting you:

  1. You can have your attorney write a letter to the collection agency and prevent them from contacting you.
  2. In case you are unable to acquire the services of an attorney, you can write a brief letter to the collection agency yourself and stop them from contacting you. Don't forget to keep a copy of the letter or any other thing that you send to the collection agency.

A collection agency is legally bound to honor such a request. But ceasing collection calls doesn’t mean that you won’t have to pay a legitimate debt. A collection agency or your creditor can still sue you for the debt that you owe.

What if the Debt Collector Declines to Stop Contacting You?

If a debt collector declines to stop contacting you even after receiving a cease letter, you can sue the collector in a court of law and have the court order them to stop contacting you. However, to file a lawsuit, it is essential that you have two pieces of proof: (1) the collector received the cease letter from you; and (2) the collector continued to get in touch with you even after receiving it.

Using certified mail with a return receipt request will help you gain proof of the first, whereas recordings of the telephone calls will enable you to get proof of the second. Maintaining a log of the debt collector’s calls is the least that you can do.

Is It Lawful to Record a Debt Collector’s Calls?

The law varies in U.S. by state. In New York, you are legally allowed to record a debt collector’s calls, and you are not required to advise a collector when recording the calls. However, in some states, it’s illegal to record your own calls, which can result in a criminal prosecution. It is therefore suggested that you familiarize yourself with the recording laws in your state before taking such a step.

Can a Debt Collector Abuse or Threaten You?

The FDCPA rules strictly prohibit debt collectors from using profane language or threatening customers when contacting them to collect on the debt. This means that no debt collector can threaten to have you sent to a prison if you fail to pay the debt.

Also, debt collectors cannot threaten to take legal action against you, unless they actually mean it. Additionally, the FDCPA also forbids debt collectors from falsely implying to the clients that they have committed a grave crime by not paying their bills.

Is a Debt Collector Required to Send You Debt Details?

After making first contact with you, the debt collector is bound to send you a written notice that will reveal the exact amount of debt to you along with the name of the creditor. Furthermore, the notice must also explain what actions you can take if you think that you do not owe the debt.