Home > Managing Debt > 5 Things a Debt Collector Should Never Say

Comments 0 Comments

Getting a call from a debt collector is something most consumers dread. It can be scary at times, but if a debt collector doesn’t play by the rules, chances are they’re banking on you not knowing your rights. Don’t let a debt collection agency bully you into anything — learn your legal rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and defend yourself against predatory collectors. If you hear anything like these lines, know that they’re out of bounds and you can lodge a complaint:

1. “Let’s see what your boss has to say about this.”

Debt collectors cannot legally tell or threaten to tell anyone about your debt. They may contact your friends, neighbors, workplace, etc., once in order to locate you, but cannot reveal details about your debt to any third party, and they can’t contact anyone other than you more than once (unless that person gives permission). When it comes to your job, debt collectors are not allowed to threaten your employment, nor garnish your wages without permission of a court.

2. “We’re going to have you arrested if you don’t pay.”

Debt collection agencies can’t threaten to do anything to you that they have no legal right to do—and that may even include lawsuits if they don’t have the legal standing to sue you. They can’t threaten to arrest you or haul you into court because you can’t pay your debts. Similarly, threats to have you arrested for “check fraud” are a tip-off that you are dealing with a rogue collector or scammer.

3. “Pay us now, or we’re going to ruin your credit score.”

Debt collectors cannot say that your credit report or credit score will be negatively affected if you don’t pay them immediately, and similarly, they cannot misrepresent themselves as working for a credit reporting agency in order to scare you.

4. “I don’t have to tell you that.”

As soon as a debt collector contacts you the very first time, ask for written notice of the debt. Under the law, a collector must provide this notice with the amount of the debt, name of the creditor and statement of your right to dispute the debt, within five days of initial contact. Don’t do anything until you receive confirmation that your debt is real, and they’re not trying to scam you. Debt collectors are also legally required to reveal what company they work for, should you ask. And if you dispute a debt in writing, the collection agency must stop contacting you until it provides written verification of the debt.

5. “I’ll keep calling.”

Collection agencies can’t call you before 8 A.M. or after 9 P.M., and if you ask that they stop calling you at work (orally or through written request), they’re legally required to stop. You also have a right to tell the collector to cease contact altogether (or to work through your attorney, if you hire one). Your request to stop contact must be in writing, so make a copy of your letter and send the original via certified mail, to know when they’ve received it. Once they have, your debt isn’t gone, but they cannot contact you unless the creditor is taking specific legal action, like filing a lawsuit.

Threats of violence or profanity and abusive language are also all strictly forbidden in these exchanges. If any of the above happens to you, don’t hesitate to take action. You can contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint, or call 1-877-FTC-HELP. You can also file a complaint with your state’s office of the Attorney General, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, online or by phone at (855)-411-CFPB. You also have the right to sue a collector in Federal or State court within one year of the violation. In some cases, your best recourse may be to contact a consumer law attorney.

The bottom line: If you’re not sure a debt collector’s threats are legal, speak up. Document what’s happening and get help from a consumer law attorney or consumer protection agency.

(If you’re worried about how a collection could be impacting your credit, you can check your credit score using a free tool like Credit.com’s Credit Report Card, which gives you your score plus a breakdown of the major components of your credit score – payment history, credit usage, length of credit history, mix of credit and new credit – to see what areas you need to work on. You can then do a deeper dive by checking your three major credit reports, which you can get for free every year.

Image: Wavebreak Media

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team