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Getting a call from a collection agency looking to recoup an old debt you owe is more common than you think. A lot of people have to field debt collection calls during holiday dinners or family gatherings. Are you one of them? Here are some frequently asked questions about debt collection calls during the holidays and what you can do about them.

Can Debt Collectors Call You on the Holidays?

There aren’t any specific guidelines for holidays like Chanukah, Christmas and New Year’s. But you could argue that these calls on the holidays are annoying and inconvenient. To do this, make sure you note the date and time of every call you receive.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), it’s legal for a debt collection agency to try to recoup an outstanding bill you actually owe, but there are restrictions about how and when they can do so. For instance, debt collectorscan’t call you at times they know are inconvenient. That includes calls early in the morning or late at night. They also can’t call you at work if you ask them to stop, and they can’t call repeatedly throughout the day. Keep an eye on the calls you get from a collection agency in case they’re committing FDCPA violations.

How Can I Keep Debt Collectors from Ruining My Holiday?

If you’re getting calls from a collection agency around the holidays and want to try to put an end to them, try these strategies. They may help you curtail some of these phone calls.

1. Ask Them to Stop

If you’re on a collection agency’s radar and you don’t want them calling during holidays, you can ask them to stop calling you. Under the FDCPA, you have certain rights. One of which is if you send a written request asking a debt collector to stop contacting you, they must do so. However, it’s important to note that this request doesn’t absolve you of the debt—or the ramifications of letting a long-overdue bill you legitimately owe go unpaid.

That account could still wind up on your credit report and do big damage to your credit score. And the collector could elect to seek a judgment against you to recoup the debt, which could result in garnishment and further hurt your credit. You can see how any collection accounts are affecting your credit by viewing your free credit score, which is updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

2. Negotiate a Repayment Plan

Negotiating a repayment plan could stop the collector from taking further action against you. If you do work something out, be sure to ask the collector to put your agreement in writing. That helps ensure they stick to what was agreed.

If you have an unpaid bill that hasn’t gone to collections yet, like an old medical debt, you may want to touch base and see if you could work something out with the creditor. They may be more willing to waive some fees, lower an interest rate or take a large lump sum payment that’s less than what you actually owe. Many creditors or service providers wait at least 90 days before turning a debt over to collections.

3. Seek Legal Advice

If you truly don’t owe the debt or you think a debt collector has crossed a line, you can consult a consumer attorney about whether you have a FDCPA claim and what your next steps should be. Remember, when it comes to debt collection, it helps to know your rights and educate yourself on the process.

Other Common Questions

Can debt collectors call from restricted numbers?

Debt collectors are allowed to call from private numbers or block caller ID from catching the number. However, they cannot purposely mislead you by acting like the call is coming from an attorney or an official agency. If you get a call from a spoofed or misleading number, it could be a scammer.

How many times can a debt collector call you?

There are no specific guidelines for how many times a debt collector can call you. However, repeated calls in one day, or those early in the morning or late at night, may be considered harassment. Keep notes about when debt collectors call you in a small notebook or phone so you can demonstrate that they’re crossing lines if you want to make a case against them.

What happens if you ignore debt collectors?

It depends on the type of debt as well as the amount and the age. In some cases, nothing will happen if you ignore the debt collectors, but in others, you may end up taking a large hit to your credit and face possible lawsuits and wage garnishments. This is common in cases where the debt is legitimate and the collector has made attempts to receive payment without your cooperation.

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