Frequently Asked Questions
Can you stop a debt
collector from contacting you?
What types of debt
collection practices are prohibited?
Where can you report a debt
collector for an alleged violation?
What must the debt
collector tell you about the debt?
Who is a debt collector?
How may a debt collector
May a debt collector
continue to contact you if you believe that you DO NOT owe money?
What debts are covered?
What control do you have
over payment of debts?
What can you do if you
believe that a debt collector has violated the law?
May a debt collector
contact anyone else about your debt?
Definitions and general
Summary of illegal
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Can you stop a debt collector from contacting you?
You can stop a collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collection agency telling them to stop. Once the agency receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact. The agency may notify you if the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action.
What types of debt collection practices are prohibited?
Harassment: Debt Collectors may not harass or abuse you. For example, debt collectors may not:
- Use threats of violence or harm against the person, property, or reputation;
- Publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau);
- Use obscene or profane language;
- Repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone;
- Telephone people without identifying themselves;
- Advertise your debt.
False Statements: Debt Collectors may not use any false statements when collecting debt. For example, debt collectors may not:
- Falsely imply that they are attorneys or government representatives;
- Falsely imply that you have committed a crime;
- Falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit bureau.
Where can you report a debt collector for an alleged violation?
Report any problems you have with a debt collector to the office of your state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission. Many states have their own debt collection laws and your state attorney general can help you determine your rights. In addition, please report any debt collection problems to UCAN, either via online here or by calling (877) 462-UCAN.
What must the debt collector tell you about the debt?
Within five days after you are first contacted, the collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe, the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.
Who is a debt collector?
A debt collector is any person, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others. Under the 1986 Amendment to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, this includes attorneys who collect debts on a regular basis.
How may a debt collector contact you?
A debt collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax. However, a debt collector may not contact you at unreasonable times or places, such as before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., unless you agree. A debt collector also may not contact you at work if the collector knows that your employer disapproves.
May a debt collector continue to contact you if you believe that you DO NOT owe money?
A collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you are first contacted, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed.
What debts are covered?
Your personal, family, and household debts are covered under the act. This includes money owed for purchase of an automobile, for medical care, or for charge accounts.
What control do you have over payment of debts?
If you owe more than one debt, any payment you make must be applied to the debt you indicate. A debt collector may not apply a payment to any debt you believe you do not owe.
What can you do if believe that a debt collector violated the law?
You may have the right to sue a collector in a court of law. If you win, you may recover money for the damages you suffered and, in certain jurisdictions, you may recover statutory damages. In addition, in certain jurisdictions court costs and attorney's fees may also be recovered.
May a debt collector contact anyone else about your debt?
A debt collector may not contact third parties, except only to find information on where and how to contact you. Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting such permissible third parties more than once. In addition, the collector may not tell anyone other than you (or a co-signor)that you owe money or that they are a debt collector.
Definitions and General Provisions:
If you use credit cards, owe money on a personal loan, or are paying on a home mortgage, you are a debtor. If you fall behind in repaying your creditors, or an error is made on your accounts, you may be contacted by a debt collector. You should know that in either situation, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that debt collectors treat you fairly by prohibiting certain methods of debt collection. Of course, the law does not forgive any legitimate debt you owe. This section answers commonly asked questions about your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. To see the full text of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, click here.
Summary of Illegal Actions:
The following actions are illegal:
- A debt collector calls you at work and knows that it is inconvenient or that your employer forbids it.
- A debt collector calls you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. in your time zone.
- A debt collector makes an excessive number of phone calls to annoy or harass you.
- A debt collector knows that an attorney, whose contact information is known or is easy to locate, represents you and the debt collector continues to contact you.
- A debt collector tells a person other than you, your spouse, or your attorney that you owe money. (If you are a minor, the debt collector can tell your parents or guardians about the debt.) Debt collectors can only communicate with other people to obtain contact information about you.
- A debt collector misrepresents the amount, character, or legal status of a debt.
- A debt collector gives others credit information about you that is false, or should be known to be false.
- A debt collector fails to honor your dispute or cease communication rights.
- A debt collector threatens to take your property or garnish your wages when this action would not be legal or the debt collector does not actually intend to do it. Your property cannot be taken and your wages cannot be garnished without a court order (judgment).
- A debt collector uses, or threatens to use, violence or any other illegal means to harm you, your family, your reputation, or your property.
- A debt collector uses profane or obscene language when communicating with you.
- A debt collector threatens you with criminal prosecution or implies that you have committed a crime. Debt and credit issues are matters of civil law, not criminal law.
- A debt collector tricks you into accepting charges for collect calls, telegrams, a C.O.D., etc.
- A debt collector cashes, or threatens to cash, a post-dated check before the date written on the check, if the check is post-dated by five days or more.
- A debt collector does not give three to 10 days advance notice before cashing a check that is post-dated by five days or more.
- A debt collector claims to be an attorney or sends a letter made to look like it is from an attorney (unless the debt collector really is an attorney).
- A debt collector sends a letter that is made to look like a government or court document when it isn't.
- A debt collector sends a government or court document that is not recognizable as such.
- A debt collector threatens any action against you that is not legally feasible or that the debt collector does not intend to take.
No matter where you are in the debt settlement process, UCAN is here to listen to your issues regarding collection problems and address them with creditors and debt collectors. Call us at 1-877-462-8226 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.