11 Ways A Debt Collector May Be Breaking the Law

by Gerri Detweiler on 04/11/2011

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Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

A strong federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, protects consumers against certain unfair collection practices. It applies only to outside, or third party debt collectors (not creditors collecting their own debts) and only for personal (not business) debts.

State laws may provide additional protection.

Every year, the Federal Trade Commission makes a report to Congress describing the debt collection complaints they received. According to that report, the FTC received 140,036 complaints about debt collectors—up from 119,609 in 2009.

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Gerri Detweiler Credit.com's Personal Finance Expert, Gerri focuses on financial legislation, budgeting, debt recovery and consumer savings information. She is also the co-author of Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights, and Reduce Stress: Real-Life Solutions for Solving Your Credit Crisis. Reach Gerri at creditexperts@credit.com.


{ 9 comments… add a comment }

Jill Burkett April 13, 2011 at 3:26 PM

For over a year I have received calls from a hospital for collections in the name of Karen Hornbeck. I have told them over and over that my name is Jill Burkett, and I have had this cell phone number for about 8 years, please stop calling me. Now a collection agency is calling me. I told them the same thing but I’ll bet you $100.00 they will call me again. What is my recourse on this, should I get an attorney?


Gerri Detweiler April 15, 2011 at 11:29 AM

Funny you should ask Jill, I just wrote that story! Here you go:



Phillip Rhinehardt April 16, 2011 at 11:00 PM

I get calls from Capital One from time to time over a debt thats over 10 years old. Can i sue them for harassment?


Joe B. April 20, 2011 at 7:46 PM


You cannot sue for harassment for calling to collect on a time-barred debt. They may be breaking other laws when they speak to you (or leave messages). However, they cannot sue YOU to obtain a judgment against you once the statute of limitations has been reached.


Gerri Detweiler April 21, 2011 at 9:48 AM


I beg to differ. I am not an attorney, but am familiar with these issues. Collection agencies sue consumers to collect time-barred debts all the time. The problem is that most times consumers don’t know their rights and never respond. The collector gets a default judgment and then can often go after wages, bank accounts, etc. That’s why it is so important for debtors to know their rights.

And Phillip – you may be able to use a debt collector if it misrepresents the nature or status of the debt. Creditors collecting their own debts are not covered by the FDCPA, however there may be state laws that apply. Check with an attorney for advice.

In no event should a 10 year old collection account be on your credit reports Phillip, unless there is a judgment.


Gerri Detweiler April 18, 2011 at 9:03 AM

Phillip – Talk with a consumer attorney. You can visit Naca.net to find one. If you have a good case the attorney may take it on a contingent fee basis, which means there is no fee unless you recover.


J.F. April 19, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Can a collection agency re-age the purge from date on a credit report? I had a collection on my credit report that was scheduled to be removed on 3/2010. I checked my credit report in 3/2010, and noticed the date had been changed to 8/2011. I have repeatedly contacted all three credit bureaus, and they refuse to remove this account stating it is accurate. This account was opened, and closed while I was living in California. I now reside in Houston, and can only assume that the date was changed due to the fact that the statute of limitations is different in TX. The account first went delinquent in 2003, and after the collection agency changed of date on my credit report, it reflected the date of last activity. I called to ask about this, and they stated I had made a payment in 9/2003. Is this legal? What statute of limitations would this account fall under, CA or TX?


Gerri Detweiler April 19, 2011 at 4:07 PM

J.F. – Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, a collection account may be reported for seven years and 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor, period. That date cannot be changed just because you don’t pay the bill, or because it is sold to another collection agency.

If they collection agency changes the date in order to report the information longer than is legally allowed, it may be breaking federal law (as well as state law).

In addition, under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are not allowed to misrepresent the character or status of a debt. This means that the debt collector who changed the date on this account could potentially be breaking two federal laws, as well as any state laws that apply. If a debt collector violates the FDCPA and you successfully sue, you may be entitled to both damages as well as your attorney’s fees.

I would recommend you go ahead and contact a consumer law attorney in Texas who has experience with debt collection and credit damage cases. You can visit NACA.net to locate a consumer law attorney in your area.

Do let us know how this turns out.


Credit Cards Lawsuit August 17, 2011 at 2:04 AM

Although I had spoken to many debt collection agencies regarding the fair practice of debt collection but founds some wrong event every time, the issues introduced by Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by being very informative and valuable to know the brief details of the complaints against the debt collection process.


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