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From the Experts at

Understanding Your Debt Collection Rights

Debt Collection Rights

You just gave a telemarketer your credit card number. Or you owe a bank money for your new car or family home. Maybe you are falling a bit behind on your payments, or maybe someone else claims you are falling behind – but you’re not. You may be receiving phone calls from the bank, credit card company or collection agency. Sound familiar? No fun, is it?

There are things you can do to make sure you are a bit more in control of those pesky debt collectors. Read our summary of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, passed by Congress to protect consumers like you from illegal debt collection activities today.

Find Out Where You Stand

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15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 – 1692o
This information was updated as of June 2, 2005 and is believed to be accurate as of this date. We assume no responsibility to update this information.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was passed by Congress to protect consumers by making some debt collection activities illegal. Some of those practices and activities which are illegal are described below.

Definitions Used on this Page:

If you owe money or use a credit card, you are a Consumer. Consumer also means your spouse, parent, if you are a minor, guardian, executor or administrator.

If you owe a Debt, you owe money to a Creditor for anything that you owe for personal, NOT business or commercial purposes.

If you ever fall behind in paying your Creditor you may be contacted by a Collector. A Collector might be an individual, an attorney, or a company, who ordinarily receives a payment from your Creditor for collecting on your overdue payments. A third party Collector collects Debts owed to someone else – your Creditor.

Can Collectors Contact You? If so, When can They Contact You?

Yes. Collectors may contact you in person, by telephone, fax, mail, or telegram. Collectors may not contact you at unusual times or places such as before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. unless you tell the Collector that they may contact you at any time.

In general they may not contact you if you tell them you have an attorney and your attorney is handling your debt(s) for you.

TIP: It would smart to keep track of all of the communication between you and the Collector including his or her name, the date of the communication, and what you discussed.

Can Collectors Contact My Family, Friends or Workplace?

A Collector may not contact anyone else to discuss the Debt with them. Collectors may contact other people, one time only, to find out where you live, work and what your phone number is.

A Collector may not:

  • Contact another person more than once –unless that person tells the Collector it is okay to call again; or
  • Tell the person he contacts that it is in the debt collection business; or
  • Send them a postcard or any type document with any information or marks on the envelope that may communicate that the Collector’s purpose is to collect a debt.

A Collector may only make contact once with your employer. A Collector who has not contacted your employer can send a letter asking for verification of your employment. Collectors are not allowed to ask your employer or co-workers personal information about you. If the Collector contacts your work-place more than one time, for the same purpose, you may tell the Collector not to phone you at work because your employer does not want you to receive those kinds of calls at work.

Your friends and family may tell the Collector not to phone them any more after the Collector has phoned there the one time allowed under the Act. The Collector is not allowed to continue contacting them unless they tell the Collector to continue the contact.

NOTE: Telling a Collector “don’t call,” will NOT make the Debt go away – it only prevents the Collector from hassling you.

A Collector may contact your attorney, if you have one, and discuss the Debt with your attorney.

Can You Stop a Debt Collector from Contacting You?

Yes, but only if you write them a letter telling them to stop contacting you. Be sure to keep a copy of the letter. Once the Collector receives your letter, they may not contact you about the Debt again, except to tell you that the Collector or the Creditor will take a specific action to resolve the Debt. For example, the Creditor may decide to sue you to recover the Debt.

NOTE: Sending a letter to the Collector will NOT make the Debt go away.

What if You Have an Attorney?

If you have an attorney helping you settle your Debt, tell the Collector the name of your attorney. If you prefer that your attorney handle the situation, you can tell the Collector not to contact you again. The Collector will not contact you again unless your attorney gives the Collector permission to contact you, or unless your attorney fails to respond to the Collector in a reasonable amount of time.

What Should a Debt Collector Tell You About the Debt?

The Collector has 5 days after the first contact with you to:

  • Notify you in writing that you owe the Creditor money;
  • Notify you of your right to dispute the Debt.

The written notice must include:

  • Amount of the Debt;
  • Name of the Creditor;
  • Your right to dispute, all or part of, the Debt, in writing, within 30 days of you receiving the notice.

NOTE: The 30 day time frame starts running on the day you receive the notice NOT the date of the letter or the postmark.

What if You Think You Don’t Owe Money to the Creditor?

If you think you don’t owe the Creditor money, you must send the Collector a letter stating that you do not owe the money to the Creditor. You must send this letter to the Collector within 30 days of the date you receive the written notification of the Debt.

You may tell the Collector not to contact you until you receive proof of the Debt. If you decide to do this, you must do it in writing.

Once you dispute the Debt in writing, the Collector must stop trying to collect money from you until you receive written proof that you really owe the Debt from the Collector. Proof should include a written document with your name, and the name of the Creditor and the amount you owe.

NOTE: This will NOT make the Debt go away. The thirty day period is NOT a grace period – it is just a period of time during which the Creditor must prove that you owe the Debt to the Creditor.

TIP: It may take the Collector a long time to get back to you with the proof you request. There is no time limit for the Collector to provide proof. If the Collector cannot provide the proof you request, it may sell the Debt to another company to try to collect from you. If this happens, repeat the above steps again until you get actual proof of the Debt.

What if the Amount is Incorrect?

If you don’t think the amount of money the Collector is trying to collect from you is the correct amount, you must send the Collector a letter stating that you do not owe the amount of money the Collector is asking you to pay. You must send this letter to the Collector within 30 days of the date you receive the written notification of the Debt.

If you negotiated with the Creditor on partial payments, you may be frustrated if the Collector refuses to accept partial payments. The Collector is allowed to demand larger installments in an accelerated time frame. Although this may be frustrating to you, it is not a violation of the law. The Collector is allowed to negotiate its own terms, but the Collector may not make any false statements or use misleading ways to collect a Debt from you. So, if you suggest a partial payment knowing the Creditor will accept a partial payment, the Collector is not allowed to tell you “only full payment is acceptable.”

In general Collectors may NOT add interest, fees, expenses or charges of any kind to the original debt. However a Collector may charge an additional amount if:

  • The Creditor included a condition for the fees or expenses in its agreement with you when you incurred the Debt; or
  • If it is allowed in the State where the contract was created;
  • If it is allowed in the State where a judgment was entered.

What if You Owe Multiple Debts?

If you owe more than one debt and you make a payment to a Collector, the Collector must follow your instructions apply the money to the debt you tell them to apply it to – it cannot apply it to any other debt.

What Happens During the 30-Day Dispute Period?

The 30 dispute period is NOT a grace period. Until you dispute any or all of the Debt in writing, within 30 days of receiving the notice of Debt, (NOT the postmark or the date of the letter) the Collector can continue to try to collect the Debt from you.

TIP: Dispute the Debt immediately. A Collector may report the Debt to a Consumer Reporting Agency, or send you notice of the Debt the same time it sends you a summons to appear in court. If you receive a summons to appear in court after you disputed the Debt in writing — go to court! Bring a copy of the letter you sent the Collector disputing the Debt, and tell the Judge that the Collector did not send you proof of the Debt.

Collectors are required to tell you who they are, who they are collecting for (the name of the Creditor) and the amount of the Debt.

They may NOT:

  • Contact you by postcard;
  • Use a false name;
  • Give you false contact information;
  • Tell you owe more than you really do (unless they were given the wrong information from the Creditor);
  • Tell you they work for a credit reporting agency;
  • Tell you are guilty of a crime;
  • Tell you they will sue you if they don’t intend to sue you, or don’t expect the Creditor to sue you;
  • Tell you they are an attorney if they aren’t;
  • Tell you they represent an attorney if they don’t;
  • Send you something that looks like an official court document if it is not;
  • Send you papers and tell you the papers are not legal forms if they really are legal forms;
  • Give false information to anyone about you;
  • Tell or threaten to tell anyone about your Debt;
  • Tell you, you will be arrested if you refuse to pay;
  • Harass you by threatening you with violence or harm;
  • Threaten you, any members of your family, workers, or friends;
  • They may not threaten to or publish your name as someone who refuses to pay his or her Debt, except to a Credit Reporting Agency;
  • They may not use obscene language;
  • If you tell them not to contact you in writing, or tell them that you have an attorney, they may not continue to contact you;
  • In most States they may not collect an amount greater than the amount of your Debt. (NOTE: Some states allow an additional charge for Collectors);
  • They may not deposit a post-dated check prematurely; or
  • Threaten to take your property unless the Creditor or Collector can do so legally.

What to do if You Think a Debt Collector Broke the Law?

Credit.Com encourages you to report any problems you have to:

  • The Federal Trade Commission: The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and abusive business practices. To file a complaint visit or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
  • File a complaint with your state’s office of Attorney General.
  • You have the right to sue a Collector in either a Federal or State Court within one year of the date the law was violated. If you win your case against the Collector you may recover damages. You may wish to contact an attorney to help you with this process. If you do not have an attorney or cannot afford one, contact the Local Legal Services provider, or Lawyer Referral Service of the state, county or local bar association near your home.

Consumer Protection is different in every State. The Federal Act does not change the laws of any State Debt Collection Practice unless that law conflicts with any part of the Act. If State law conflicts with the Act, but provides better protection for you, then the State Law applies. An attorney can advise you of your rights.

  • Eric Hansen

    That’s beginning to happen to many people,you lose your job making decent wages and you cant find another job,or the job you can find doesn’t pay half as much as you used to earn.If you are trying to pay out $4 for every $1 you earn it can’t be done! Many people are losing everything they have!

  • Thomas

    If you cannot pay your bills captaindandan, bankruptcy is right.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    So sorry to hear that. Have you thought about talking with a credit counselor or bankruptcy attorney?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Call them and tell them exactly that. That you want to receive written notice of the debt by mail. They are required to send you that by law within 5 days of initially contacting you. If the threaten a lawsuit over the phone without sending you a written notice of the debt then they are likely either a scammer or breaking the law. If that happens come back here and tell us what they said and we’ll point you to some resources that can help.

  • Michael Bovee

    What is the name of the collection company you are paying?
    What was this debt for originally?

    • Bella143

      The bill originally was a hospital bill. I am sending checks to The Law Offices of Mitchell D. Bluhm and Associates in Texas. The represent CP Medical LLC.

      • Michael Bovee

        I would send a written request for an accurate accounting of all monies paid, and how those payments are being applied. Be sure to clearly identify who you are, your address, any internal file number they use related to your account. I would send certified mail return receipt, and keep a copy of your letter and the green return receipt card together.

        I would wait a week or two for a response. Then call and ask for a reply verbally after bringing someones attention to it.

        Post an update with what happens, and if you have not gotten anywhere, lets go from there.

        • Bella143

          Thank you so much. I will keep you posted. I am trying to get the previous agencies to send me receipts.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I would suggest you talk with your state attorney general’s office and/or a consumer law attorney to find out whether this is legal. Unfortunately interest on judgments varies by states and I can’t advise.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I agree you shouldn’t agree to make payment arrangements you can’t afford. You may also want to talk with a tax professional about your options for dealing with this debt, as it won’t go away on its own. (You may be able to write to the collection agencies and tell them to stop contacting you, but I’d suggest you get legal advice first: What Happens If I Never Pay an Old Debt?)

  • Wannano

    I co-signed for my wife to get a auto loan in 2004, i became disabled in 2008, due to limited income we returned the car. The finance company said we owed 9k and the car sold at auction for 4k. They sold the loan to a collection agency. The agency called me back in 2010 saying I owe them 9k. I have not talked to them since. I recently had my credit worked on. I was informed that the collection agency is reporting I owe 9k as of 2mths ago. what can I do.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      What state did you live in/ did this all occur in?

    • Vendetta

      you only owe what is the difference between what they sell ir for and what you originally owed to them.i would suggest lookig into your state or county free legal Attorney for better advice.

  • Josh

    Can someone provide some guidance with my situation? I’ve had an alternative cash loan in collections for approximately 4 years and I’m paying 100/month on it. I’ve requested a receipt via email after each payment, however, I don’t always get one. Since October 2013, my receipts have reflected my payments and remaining balance of $1587. When I spoke with a representative with the collection agency today, I was told that the payoff amount was approx. $1850. When asked why, I was told that the creditor had sent over interest information and that the payoff amount is always different than what is reflected on the receipt. I can’t figure out why the amount of interest wasn’t reflected on my receipts for the past YEAR and all of a sudden, they tack on an extra 350 bucks! This seems very deceptive from both the creditor and collection agency. Are my rights being violated??

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Josh – I’d suggest you file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They are looking into collection practices and may be able to help. Will you let us know what happens?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Have you checked out the Student Loan Debt Collection Assistant provided by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

  • Michael Bovee

    What was the name of the school? What were you studying? There are options that open up if the school closed and you were not allowed to finish your program. Was there anything like that involved

    What is it about the collection agency that creates a 10 day sense of urgency?

  • Michelle

    A collector called me a thief for not paying off a credit card that I had been paying for 3 years. I stopped paying it in 2009, I am disabled now so I receive $203.00 monthly. He said they will sue me and take the cash the county gives me every month. I’m in Minnesota, can they do that? And what can I do about being called/labeled a thief?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      That’s illegal. Contact a consumer law attorney asap. They’ll be happy to help you (provided it’s a real collector and not a scammer) and it shouldn’t cost you anything as the collection agency will have to pay the attorney’s fees. Let me know if you need more info.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    What kind of debt is this?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    That really does stink. Unfortunately there is no general requirement that collectors specifically notify you before placing your account with collections and on your credit report. FICO 9 will help…if lenders adopt it. I wrote about that here: Why You Shouldn’t Get Too Excited About the New FICO Score… Yet

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Do not send them $25 if your goal is to get them off your back. It will not help and may only hurt you. If the statute of limitations has expired on this debt then sending them any amount will restart that time period and give them even longer to sue! What state do you live in? You need to first research the statute of limitations before you do anything or agree to anything.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am not an attorney so please don’t rely on this as legal advice, but my understanding is the statute of limitations is six years in your state. If that’s the case then this debt may be outside the statute of limitations. When did you get the letter from the collection agency?

    If it was within the last 30 days then you have the right to send the debt collector a letter disputing the debt. You can simply write to them and say something like I believe this debt is too old, please verify it. You’ll want to send your letter by certified mail and keep a receipt. In the meantime, my suggestion is you talk with a consumer law attorney or your state attorney general’s office to try to confirm the statute of limitations.

    Either way, if it turns out the statute of limitations has expired then you can send the collection agency a letter stating this debt is too old and that you don’t want them to contact you again. (Again, send the letter certified mail, keep a copy). If you demonstrate that you know your rights it’s unlikely they would still try to sue you but if they do then you can go to court and raise the statute of limitations as a defense.

    The amount of time it can appear on your credit reports is a separate matter so don’t confuse the credit report with the statute of limitations. We wrote about that here:

    Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

    And again, the answer is “NO” – making a small payment won’t stop them from taking you to court and pursuing a judgment and will compromise your rights.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    First of all, the collection agency is required to send you written confirmation of the debt within five days of that initial phone call. Have they sent that? Secondly, you are entitled by law to dispute the debt and they are supposed to provide verification. If they are going to insist on collecting the debt, then they really need to show that it’s legitimate.

    If you received this phone call recently, I suggest you call them and insist they send you a written notification of the debt and then follow up by disputing the debt in writing via certified mail. State you don’t believe you all the debt and ask for proof. If they want or don’t provide it, I would suggest you get consumer law attorney involved or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    Also, please check your free credit reports to see if it’s on there. You can do that at And get a copy of your free credit score to see if this is impacting your scores. You can do that at

  • jimmy

    I made a terrible mistake of authorizing a second card on my personal
    card for an associate with a small business. The credit line on my card
    was 21K and this person was able to stretch it to 65K by entering false
    payments to clear the credit and cash advances before the payment
    rejected. Bottom line is Im left with 65k in debt and my former
    associate is no where to be found and not willing to pay. Looking for a
    miracle here…

    • Credit Experts

      Instead of looking for a miracle, you might want to look for a lawyer. He or she should be able to tell you what your options are.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    While debt collectors normally cannot tell other people about your debt, spouses are often exempted from that rule. However, be very careful about a debt collection notice received by email. Insist on one by snail mail. We’ve seen too many scammers email consumers about debts.

  • Sherriel2001

    I have a bill that is due on 16th of each month. My pay day changed so now I am always late. I got some money for my birthday and went in to offer to pay part of what was due then pay the rest on my new pay day. The collector refused to take it. And they charge interest of $4.25 a DAY for late fee…is this legal

    • Gerri Detweiler

      What kind of debt is this? Is this a payday loan?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Tax debts can be a serious matter. Government agencies often give themselves a variety of ways to collect, and they often have longer to collect than other types of debts. I am going to suggest you talk with a tax professional who works with clients in California (or is based there). That’s especially true if you think the amount may be wrong or you can’t afford to pay it in full.

  • Frustrated in NE

    I’m in Nebraska. I had a bill that was $160 originally. This summer, the owner called me and told me with interest it was $185. I understand that. He has now sent the bill to collection, and it’s suddenly $280. Can they double the bill (or add $100) when they send it to collection? Seems underhanded and sneaky.

    • Credit Experts

      It’s little comfort to know that others have been in similar situations. In some cases it’s legal. Other times, there are miscalculations. Either way, it can be extremely frustrating. To further complicate it, state laws are different. We wrote about the issue here: Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?.

  • confused

    I just saw my credit report and it included the negative history of my ex wifes credit. What can i do? please help!

    • Credit Experts

      If your wife’s history is on your report, it is probably because of joint accounts (or possibly because you were an authorized user on an account of hers). We wrote about credit and divorce here: What Happens to Your Credit When You Get Divorced?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I wish I could tell you but I just don’t know the rules in all jurisdictions across the country. State governments usually give themselves a long time to collect! I’d suggest she reach out to Legal Aid to see if they can help.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    If this was a collection agency that you were dealing with (and not the original creditor) then it sounds like they may have broken multiple laws. When is the last time you paid on this debt? What state do you live in? Do you have any other assets besides Social Security?

  • Credit Experts

    A judgment would not be removed from a credit report because of consistent payments. It sounds as if contacting a consumer lawyer might be useful to help you, your husband and his mother untangle the situation resulting from co-signing, a judgment and possible miscommunication. This resource may be useful:
    How Co-Signing Can Affect More Than Just Your Credit Score

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t understand the question Rick. If the debt collector gets a wage garnishment order – which typically only happens after they take you to court and get a judgment – then they can garnish your wages until the debt is paid. Have they already sued you and obtained a judgment? If not, then I think you are wondering about the statute of limitations, which we wrote about here: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Gerri Detweiler
  • female24

    I got a call months ago where someone was asking for my personal information… social security number (NO!) address (no!) even birthday (though you could look this up on facebook, I was feeling very violated like they were trying to steal my passwords). So after a few tries of trying to get me to give this up, I tell them I am annoyed and that they should stop calling me – I don’t have time for this nonsense, I’m not giving you my personal information before you tell me who you are… I am at work, goodbye. They haven’t called.

    I just checked my credit report and I have a mysterious 69$ in collections for a medical bill that I don’t remember making or ever being informed of. What are my rights? Do I have a 90 day grace period if I’ve never been written? My name is mispelled on one of my aliases, could I have identity theft? Doesn’t make much sense, but not much does.

  • Thomas

    Is there anyone that knows the answer to this question:
    I had an MRI done when I was a junior in college, I was 20 at the time. My parents agreed to pay the bill– and they forgot to. I started getting phone calls from the business office of the place I owed the bill, and every time I told them to call my parents– they never did. This went on for a year–I even had my parents call them. (They’re aware it was their fault, and want to make it right). They never called, nor spoke to my parents about paying the bill.

    I stopped hearing from them all together.

    They then sent the bill to collections, which has just shown up on my credit score this year. So, it took about 2 years before the debt to even show. It was a year before they reported it, but they never contacted the people who were to pay it—as I was their dependent.

    Well, now that it is on my credit score– my credit score is low– without that collection–my score was nearly perfect. No missed payments on student loans or anything!

    My parents want to take responsibility for the loan— is there anything I can do to get this score off of my report? They were willing to pay it in full, if the business office has just called them–but they never did!

    Thanks for any help!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Since you were an adult – 20 at the time – you were probably legally responsible for it. You and your parents can try negotiating with the collection agency to see if they will remove it in exchange for payment. They aren’t obligated to do so but sometimes they will. Or sometimes if you do pay it and dispute it later it will get removed, but there is no guarantee.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Vonnie – it would be a good idea for you to consult with a consumer law attorney familiar with the laws in your state. Gene Melchionne is a bankruptcy attorney in Connecticut and I would bet he could advise you as to whether this debt is outside the statute of limitations, and what to do if it is. (He has contributed articles to the blog). Or you can visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates to find a local attorney.

  • Norman

    hi I am trying to work out a payoff with a debt collector. should I get it in writing before I pay or is over the recorded phone line ok? please get back to me thanks

    • Credit Experts

      Norman —
      It’s best to get it in writing. Also, be sure that the collector you are talking to is the actual owner of the debt. You’ll find more advice here:
      The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors

      • Norm

        Thank you I had asked for a written conformation about what we had talked about he said he was not mailing anything and that I had to except a email confirmation. So I had just told him to go do what he has to do and I will hire an attorney then

  • sunny

    I am paying monthly on a hospital bill – but they still sent the bill to a collection agency – I did not think they could do that – is that legal?

  • BlackBird

    I’m dealing with a collection agency that never sent me an initial statement of debt. They just called me to notify me that they were a collection agency and who the debt was owed to. I knew that I owed the money, so I didn’t argue and set up a payment plan. Each time I’ve called to find out what my balance is, I’ve notified them that I believe there is a discrepancy in the balance and have requested they provide me with a statement so I could try and figure out where the difference is. They have refused each time, saying that they can only give me my balance verbally and are not allowed to provide it in writing. This doesn’t seem right to me. Are they allowed to deny me a written statement of my balance at any given time? Also, I believe they are charging me interest. Isn’t that illegal? Especially if I don’t have a contract stating that there will be additional charges besides the original debt?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      No that doesn’t seem right to me either, and I am concerned you could wind up paying them indefinitely depending on the interest they are charging you. I would suggest you consider talking with a consumer law attorney to find out if their actions are legal. Or at least file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You may also want to send them a certified letter insisting they send you written confirmation of the debt and the terms of your repayment, including the interest rate. You’re right to proceed with caution here.

      Also read: Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It depends on the contract and state law. In most states interest can be added to unpaid debt. Still an increase from $19 to $462 seems extremely high. You may want to either contact a consumer law attorney or at least file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    A collector is allowed to access your credit reports to collect a debt. Unfortunately, though, he gave you advice that I don’t think was in your best interest. Now you are facing credit card debt that will incur interest (probably at a high rate) and further collection activity if you can’t pay that. I would really encourage you to get some impartial advice about your situation. Please talk with both a credit counseling agency and a bankruptcy attorney. I know bankruptcy is not something you want to contemplate at this moment – and maybe it’s not the best move for you – but you really need someone to look over your entire financial situation and help you figure out a game plan for handling this debt. The consultation with both professionals – the credit counselor and the bankruptcy attorney – should be free or at a low cost. And simply getting a consultation won’t affect your credit.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Possibly. The provider may have been required to tell her ahead of time that they turn delinquent balances over to collections, but in many cases they aren’t required to provide a specific notice right before they do that. She may want to talk with a consumer law attorney. (She can likely get a free consult.) If she is having trouble finding an attorney I suggest she use the search function on the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

  • Credit Experts

    Cherrio —
    You should not ordinarily be responsible for debts incurred when you were 17. Try disputing the debt with each of the three major credit reporting agencies (assuming this is on all your credit reports). You’ll want to do this by certified mail, explaining that you were a minor when the bill was incurred and enclosing a copy of your birth certificate. Here’s how to dispute it:
    How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?

  • Credit Experts

    They are not supposed to do that. We encourage you to report them to your state attorney’s office or submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply to creditors collecting their own debts. So if the storage facility itself contacted you (not a debt collector) then it’s not covered by the FDCPA. You’d need to check with a consumer law attorney or your state attorney general’s office to find out if state laws were violated.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am sorry – I am not familiar with how it works in Canada.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Who is they?

    • Chris Ponder

      A local plumber who I received a quote from. I never signed any type of agreement or contract for any services, only requested a quote and now they are billing me for the quote

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Hmmm…very odd. Unless they charge a service call charge to give you a quote. But even then it seems that should have been disclosed to you, and you should have accepted it. (I am not an attorney though so i can’t provide legal advice.)

        I’d suggest you send them a certified letter stating that you don’t believe you owe the debt and that you will contact an attorney if this affects your credit. Make sure you have a current copy of your credit reports and your credit score so you can prove damage to your credit if it comes to that. Hopefully not. Here’s how to monitor your credit score for free.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Possibly yes. There are few consumer protections here. We wrote about that in this article: Four Medical Bill Myths That Can Cost You Dearly. You may want to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It’s a good question. I assume it may depend on what the original contract said. Have you tried contacting your state attorney general’s office?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am so sorry to hear that…maybe you can ask to speak to a supervisor…? They aren’t required to accept what you can afford but it also doesn’t do them much good to demand what you can’t afford.

  • swhite

    I bought a car in 2006 when living in Arizona. I could no longer make payments and called the dealership to have them take it back. I was told it doesn’t work that way so when I got a call from the collection agency to make a payment or they would take the car, I said come get it. No one came to get it. I returned to Michigan in 2010 and got a call about payment I gave them my new address and said please come take it. No one was sent. Finally about 6 months later I received another call in which I told them again my address and to get the car like I had told them to do numerous times. A week later they got it not without asking me if I was going to give them trouble as I walked out with the keys. I owed 10 thousand yet on this car that was auctioned out for $300 and I was left with a 13 thousand dollar bill mainly full of lawyer fees. This collection agency has called me at 10 p.m. and has also contacted my grandparents home numerous times. To this day they still call my grandparents and they have now gotten to the point where they don’t answer anymore because they call almost every other day.

  • Researcher

    I am assisting my coworker with her Mortgage process and she is going through an agency. She was told to write a letter to the debtor, however, she was also told that the debt will be removed from her credit report next month. Should she reach out to the creditor or simply wait until that debt has expired in less than 60 days?


    Can a collector come to your place of employment to serve you a letter to collect?

  • V

    Does a debt collector have to inform you of a debt prior to credit reporting

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Not usually. It’s usually part of the contract with the original creditor that the debt may be reported to credit reporting agencies if it is not paid.

  • Kierra Wilson

    I owed DTE Energy $580. I settled with their collection agency for $480 as long as I paid $50 down and then $215 a month for two months. I made My down payment and called back a month later to make my second payment and I was that DTE sold my account to another collector and that my agreement with the previous collector was now void. Can they do that? After I already begun to make payments?

  • Dee

    Can a company send you to collections without ever sending an invoice?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      If you owe them money then they probably can but it would depend on the facts and circumstances.

  • Dee

    Some co-workers and i went on a wine tour and had a limo deal ( through groupon for 6 hour tour) for $350 that was supposed to have wine and cheese in the car.. Well long story short wine and cheese wasnt there and we went over our ‘contract’ by an hour ($125 each hr OT) now the company is calling me tellling me i owe them $460.. For 2 hrs OT $250 gratuity $150 and refueling $60 (which the refueling was never mentintioned in any phone call or contract) bringing the total to $460… I emailed them letting them know this is incorrect and i disagree.. 1 hour OT $125 OK …. Gratuity was 20% in the contract which would be $95.. My issue is when they did call to collect they were rude and told me i HAD to pay or they were sending me to collections.. can they threaten you with collections??

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am not aware of anything that says it is illegal for someone to whom you owe money to threaten to send you to collections. But I am not an attorney so I can’t say for sure. If you paid by credit card, remember you may be able to dispute the charge if the services were not delivered as agreed.

  • Josephine

    I got into a apartment with a roommate. Her portion of the rent was 650. I found out that she was only paying half, if that, each month. I found out when I went to go pay rent, they told me that I had to pay the full amount due, which was 2450.00. I had no idea about anything going on because my roommate was discussing “payment plans” with the company and I was not involved. Needless to say, we were evicted and we moved out separately. I got a bill for 7500, lawyer fees, rent due (I guess she never turned in her key and they kept charging rent). I have tried several times to get her to resolve the issue or attempt and just found out she moved out of state and now I have no way of contacting her. Is there anything I can do to get this out of my name or am I stuck paying it so I can get it off my credit?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It doesn’t sound like she is going to pay. If you were a cosigner on the lease they can likely come after you for the full amount unless the lease said otherwise. That means you’ll need to either settle with them or talk with a bankruptcy attorney. Sorry it’s turned out so badly for you.

  • Christopher T.

    My girlfriend was in a 12 month lease with her ex boyfriend. She left after 3 months and left her name on the lease otherwise he would have been homeless. Recently she got a notification that she owes 800$ to the apartments for carpet replacement. The debt collection agency told her that the apartments tried for 4 months to get him to pay but he out right refuses to pay so they sent to collections. My girlfriend was never notified in that 4 months about the due amount. And now collections can’t get a hold of the boyfriend and are coming after her. What can we do? I just don’t feel she’s liable if they never contacted her by phone or mail before going to collections. We live in arizona.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Unfortunately, that’s not usually the way it works. When you sign a lease, you are responsible for the entire amount plus any damages until the lease is terminated. It’s not usually a simple as just walking away. And in many cases as long as you are in default the balance can be sent to collections without any specific prior notice. However, I don’t know what landlord-tenant law in Arizona is, so I recommend you check with someone locally: state landlord tenant laws

  • Guest

    Hello Gerri, I have a question about a debt collector that called me this morning regarding an outstanding balance for a security system I had to cancel last year….

    • Gerri Detweiler

      What is the question?

  • OlderManthanOldMan

    A monetary debt is a civil matter — NOT a criminal matter. It IS NOT illegal, under any criminal law, either state or federal, to simply be in debt. So, NO the police WILL NOT arrest you or otherwise cite you because you owe a debt and you simply cannot pay it. Should a debt collector EVER actually call the police on you in an attempt to collect on a debt, the police will only tell that debt collector who called them that their call into the police department is something that is simply NOT a police matter AT ALL — and then the police will only get back into their cars and leave the scene of where this takes place. …The police, in ANY (American) legal jurisdiction, themselves, REALLY DO NOT have the time for such (civil matter) calls, AT ALL!!!
    “END-OF-STORY” here.

  • OlderManthanOldMan

    First of all, a creditor or a debt collector, at civil law, anyway, just simply CANNOT discriminate against you as a debtor, based solely on your source or sources of income, be it Social Security Title II Disability Insurance Benefits, Social Security Title XVI Supplimental Security Income Benefits, or “whatever” ! So, really, they have no right at all to say something to you like, “What are you doing buying things on credit that you cannot afford, because you are on a disability-type of an income?” I think, that when you went right ahead and agreed to a pay-back plan to take care of this debt as soon as you can do that, unfortunately, for the debt collector and not in your favor at all, that “cinched”, to the debt collector, that, YES, YOU DO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU DO, IN FACT, OWE THIS DEBT AND THAT THE DEBT, ITSELF, IS A GOOD, TRUE AND JUST DEBT OF YOURS, THAT YOU DO OWE TO THE ORIGINAL CREDITOR AND/OR TO THE OFFICE(S) OF THIS PARTICULAR DEBT COLLECTOR. …I don’t know what American state that you live in (if you do happen to live anywhere in America, anyway), however, please simply understand this: In America, some states, within their state consumer protection laws, are what are generally referred to as “pro-creditor states”, while other American states are what are generally referred to as
    “pro-debtor states”. Each American state is one or the other, but NOT both, at the same time, OK? So, if you are lucky enough that you now happen to be living in and thus have your current legal residence in one of the “pro-debtor states”, as opposed to one of the “pro-creditor states”, your chances of getting out of something here that, REALLY, this debt collector unfairly tricked you into in talking to you on the phone and recording what you said to this debt collector are better, basically, than what this chance of yours would now be if you were living in and thus making your legal residence in a “pro-creditor state”. It sounds kind of “complicated”, I know, however, if you simply read this maybe at least two or three different times, if you happen to need to do that, once you understand it, it DOES become really very simple, then. …How long ago was this debt originally incurred — if, n fact, you did (ever) incur it, in the first place? And, how long ago was it that you last acknowledged this debt as a good, true and actual debt of yours — if you have EVER done that, AT ALL? Find out, in your state, what the statute of limitations is on creditors and/or debt collectors legally being able to continue to attempt to collect on old debts is, BEFORE YOU EVER SAY ANYTHING ELSE TO THIS DEBT COLLECTOR!!!!!!! This, alone, could very well work greatly in your favor here, as the ALLEDGED debtor, in this particular case! And, at this point in time, it may very well be about all that you have to go on now, should it actually be that you just simply cannot now ever repay this ALLEDGED debt! Also, if you haven’t already done so, GO TO YOUR BANKING FINANCIAL INSTITUTION AND CHANGE FROM YOUR OLD BANK ACCOUNT TO A NEW BANK ACCOUNT — WITH A NEW BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER — IMMEDIATELY, AS A CREDITOR AND/OR A DEBT COLLECTOR SUCH AS A COLLECTION AGENCY CAN, IN FACT, WITH A COURT ORDER, ANYWAY, ONCE THEY HAVE SUED YOU FOR A DEBT AND THEY NOW HAVE A JUDGEMENT AGAINST YOU FOR THAT DEBT, DEBIT THE MONEY RIGHT OUT OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, TO PAY THAT JUDGEMENT — WHICH WOULD INCLUDE ADDITIONAL CHARGES, SUCH AS ATTORNEY’S FEES, COURT COSTS AND SO-FORTH!!! IT DOES NOT MATTER THE SOURCE OF THE MONEY THAT IS IN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, AT THE TIME THAT THEY GO AHEAD AND MAKE THEIR DEBIT AGAINST YOUR PERSONAL BANK ACCOUNT, FOR THIS!!! (In the case of a federal benefit, such as Social Security Disability, you MIGHT be able to later get your money back from them if they caused a financial hardship for you in doing this to you — however, GOOD LUCK with that!!! This is because IT WILL SURELY, THEN, TAKE AT LEAST A MONTH OR TWO, OR VERY POSSIBLY EVEN LONGER THAN THAT, TO EVER GET YOUR DISABILITY MONEY BACK FROM THEM AGAIN!!!

  • rick

    We were never even served in nj and did not live at the address they said for over a year. never got a copy of anything . try to use a bank card one night find out bank account seized. How did they even know where the account was. at that point we could not fight anything we were told company wanted more money and we had to pay or else… Very bad experience..These guys are crooks. preying on people who cannot afford to fight back the debt was over 5 to six years old no less and we never got info that it was ours!!!!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Have you talked with a consumer law attorney to find out whether it’s possible to try to challenge the judgment due to the fact that you weren’t properly served?

  • Lou

    My wife and I fell on hard times and had to run up credit cards. She has a small consulting business. If one of her creditors gets a default judgment against her on debt, not associated with her business, will they be able to put a lean on her business account which is an LLC? She is signor on the account, but the name on the account is in her business name. We live in Colorado.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I ran your question by Garrett Sutton, an attorney and founder of Here’s his reply:

      The creditor will not be able to directly lien the business bank account. Instead, they will have to go to court and apply for a charging order against her membership interest in the LLC. The charging order is a lien against distributions she may receive from the LLC. If she receives nothing then neither does the creditor. The charging order is the exclusive judgment creditor remedy in strong LLC states such as Wyoming and Nevada. Colorado is not among the top asset protection states. In addition to the charging order a creditor in Colorado can seek to appoint a receiver or pursue other remedies. Still, the Colorado LLC does prevent a judgment creditor from going straight for the LLC bank account, which could occur in a sole proprietorship scenario.

  • Annalis

    Hello, I really need some advice! I signed up for a gym membership seven months ago. I was hesitant to join because I knew the lease on my apartment would be up before the membership — the membership was supposed to be a two year-membership unless the member moved more than 25 miles away (this was their words before I joined). However, since they assured me this was the case, I signed up. A few days ago I told them I needed to cancel because I’d be moving soon and they surprised me with telling me I needed 60 days to cancel along with a $100 cancellation fee. I explained I simply cannot pay that nor was I notified of such a charge, and they insisted it was in the contract. I was never given a contract nor did I ever sign one! No one even mentioned one when I signed up at the gym! I froze my debit card that I was paying with because they would not cancel and I cannot afford these extra hidden charges. Can they send collection agencies after me if I did not sign a contract that notified me of these extra charges? (The contract is not listed on their website either, so there would be no way of knowing this otherwise!) Any advice offered would be great! Thank you.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Yes they may send you to collections. I would urge you to be proactive. Send them a certified letter stating what occurred and file a complaint with the BBB. If they send you to collections you can try using that information to dispute the debt. This isn’t legal advice, though, and you may want to talk with a consumer law attorney.

      • Annalis

        Thank you for your help!

        • Gerri Detweiler

          My pleasure. Let us know how this turns out!

  • marty

    I filed bankruptcy 10 years ago and my bank has not reported my house payments and its screwing my credit up what can I do

  • sblessley

    We are getting calls (wrong numbers) for a person we don’t know. We have repeatedly asked them to stop calling, that they’re “barking up the wrong tree”. Do we have any recourse? We’re in Arizona, the calls are coming from West Virginia.

    • Credit Experts

      You may find some ideas here: 7 Ways to Stop Debt Collection Scam Calls (and in comments as well; our readers are quite resourceful and creative).

      • sblessley

        Thanks; the last point (tell them you’re complaining to the FTC) might be helpful – the rest are about valid (or potentially valid) debt. This is simply a wrong number – no idea whether “Deborah’s” debt is valid or not. Nor who she is, for that matter.

  • Sally

    I currently am working with a company that helps pay my debt. They withdraw a certain amount from my account each month and negotiate with all my debtors to pay off the debt. Recently I received a summons to appear in court due to a debt. Don’t know what to do because I’m in the process of paying through this company. What should I do?

    • Credit Experts

      Let the company that you’re working with know that you received the summons. Is the debt among those included in your debt management plan? And by all means, plan on going to court.

  • mary

    Hi I have received 3 calls from a guy stating that he has legal documents for me to sign for a court date. He stated that he would be stopping by my home or my last known job and I need to provided him with a valid state ID. the number he left was for an investment firm. Can he really do this?

  • wondering

    I have an unsecured loan with a company. I had trouble remembering to send the payment in so I made arrangements for the bank to take the money out of my account and send it via electronic check. The company has refused to accept the check for the past three months. Do they not have to accept an electronic check?

    • Credit Experts

      Are you using automatic bill pay? Or do you mean they don’t accept an electronic funds transfer?

  • corley

    I supposedly owed US Bank 480.00 from 2008. Every year I get a threatening calls in Feburary saying I have to go to court, the amount has ranged from 480.00-2900.00. In 2014 I payed 1/2 of the balance to one of the agencies. I recently got a call saying that I am being sued for abpproximately $3,000 and its due to fees and interest, can they do that? I aske for emails or something to come in the mail and it never does, what can I do?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am very suspicious about the whole situation. You may owe them money but generally a creditor or collector can’t threaten you over the phone saying you have to go to court. If they are taking you to court they must serve you with legal papers. And the fact that they won’t send you anything in writing makes me suspicious as well – under federal law you must get written notification of the debt.

      Are you sure you’re not dealing with a scammer? Have you thoroughly checked out this collector? How did you pay them?

  • DEE

    Gerri, got a good one here for you. my husband died in 206 ,he owed Acompanyfor sideing for the house i didnt know he got this on a card,my name was not on the card . . so when he died i got a letter saying they were going to put a lein on my house because its my house. well being paying on this for a bout 8 years now 113.00 a month .i got it from 14, 000,00 dollars to around3,000. some of this was money i owed ,and i was paying that with no problem i think my payment was about35,or 45 dont remember for sure this collector did not tell me how much my husband owed. so is ther’re any thing i can do

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am sorry Dee, but I don’t understand what your question is…

      • Dee

        Gerri sorry ,i was wondering , the company he owed money to were they aloud to make me pay for something i didnt sign for . and they didnt say if he owed for any thing else on the his card or how much heowed they just sent me me a letter sayingwhat they were going to do i got so upset i threw the letter away it didnt have no amout on it hope this helps Dee

        • Gerri Detweiler

          Dee – I am sorry to hear what you are going through. It sounds like your next step should be to talk with a consumer law attorney to see what your rights are with regard to this debt. You should be able to get a free consultation. If you are having trouble finding an attorney I suggest you use the search function on the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Another option would be to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I am afraid I just don’t understand the specific situation enough to advise you.

  • T

    I shared an apartment with a friend who in turn, never paid their half of the rent, which caused us to be evicted and now I’m left with the debt due to I was the primary on the lease(we both signed the lease). I’ve been paying collections $100/month for almost a year now because that’s all I can afford and now I’m being harassed and told that they won’t accept my payments anymore because I MUST pay more. I want to keep paying but the collector will no longer accept my payments over the phone, can I mail the payments and just keep up with my bank statements showing that I’ve attempted to pay or what should I do?

    • Michael Bovee

      How much is owed and what are the details surrounding the balance they are collecting (rent until unit leased, repairs, etc)?

      Is this appearing as a collection on your credit reports?

  • rd

    In sc if you knowledge a debt will that reset the statue of limitation and 7 year reporting? period

    • Gerri Detweiler

      What do you mean acknowledge the debt? Did you agree to make payments? If not you’re probably OK but I am not familiar with the details of all 50 state’s laws. (Acknowledging the debt or paying on it does NOT change the 7 year reporting period.) This article may help: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Drew Webster

    I provided an unsecured personal loan. The debtor has refused to pay as agreed upon at the initial loan agreement. I have been in constant contact with the debtor and he has refused to pay the debt as agreed upon. He has attempted to pay debt to another person that did not loan the money and in an amount not agreed upon when the loan was initiated. Can I continue to contact this debtor to ask for repayment?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Have you thought about taking the debtor to small claims court?

  • Caleb

    I had a lease with an apartment complex. My lease expired October 31st, 2014. I gave a notice on September 1st that I would be moving. I moved out October 13, 2014 which was agreed upon by my landlord. I paid $325 on October 1st to the landlord to cover the dates I was there, and she assured me my deposit would cover any cleaning fees, as well as the remainder of the rent. I never received a letter from the apartment complex claiming i owed them money (and I gave them my forwarding address). I got a call saturday from national credit systems saying I owed over $800 for damages, as well as failure to provide a proper notice to them of me moving. I let them know I have not received any bill, and she said if i did not pay ASAP it would be put on my credit. She asked when I could make a payment, I said if it’s true, possibly April, and she said that is too late and it will be put on my credit and said she’d send me a bill. I also contacted the creditor the day of, and left a voicemail and haven’t heard back from them regarding these claims. Is any of what the Collection Agency said legit? If they don’t send me a letter within five days is the debt considered not valid? And by five days does it mean postmarked five days, or I have to have the letter at my house within five business days?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      The text of the FDCPA says: Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing..

      Failing to send that notice could be a violation of the FDCPA but it doesn’t necessarily invalidate the debt. (At the same time, violations of the FDPCA carry $1000 in statutory damages so that would be another way to approach it!)

      You have the right to dispute a debt if you don’t believe you owe it. You mention what you agreed with the landlord – was that all verbal or did you get anything in writing?

  • Credit Experts

    Yes, if you stop paying as agreed, you could get “in trouble.” You could be sued for the balance owed, and if a court orders a judgment, that can be taken from your salary via garnishment. However, if it’s genuinely a burden you cannot afford, you may be able to show a collector your household budget and get a payment plan that is more affordable.

  • Kali Geldis

    Hi —

    You can ask the collector to verify the debt. Any legitimate debt collector should and, in fact, must verify the debt when you make that request. This can also help you weed out a scammer. Often, knowing people fear a collection account on their credit report, scammers will call about nonexistent debts to get quick cash from the recipient.

    At a minimum, requesting validation of a debt gives you time to research the debt to determine if it is legitimate and figure out what you can afford to pay toward it. (If a debt collector refuses to verify the debt after you’ve requested it, the company may be breaking the law.)

  • Brittney Disner

    Hello I had a question? My debt collecter, National Credit Systems and I made an agreement to pay a certain amount to which I can afford.. They will not sent me a letter stating that agreement. I told them I would pay if they sent me a letter in writing as proof of agreement over the phone stating that “I owe..this amount… amount but this is to be paid in full” And that if i paid this amount, my case would be closed.” They told me they will send me a receipt after I pay them, but I want validation that i am only to pay the amount to which we agreed upon. They have however sent me a few letters of the full amount before I called them.. I want to make sure that I receive an agreement letter that if i pay them, then its done and over and i do not owe any more. Also they do not accept checks and only accept debt card over the phone or online.. Is it illegal for them to decline sending me a ‘letter of agreement’? also if i want to send a check only and not use my debt card.. do I have a right to pay as a check? They told me they do not accept checks.. Please help.

    • Credit Experts

      Brittney —
      It sounds like you may be a scam victim. The insistence that you pay with a debit card is a HUGE warning flag. Please read this post:
      The One Way You Should Never Pay a Debt Collector

  • Frustrated

    Hi, I just recieved a letter in the mail letting me know they are going to garnishment wages. This garnishment is for traffic tickets that I recieved 9/2005 at that time I believed I paid them off. In 2008 I recieved my drivers license and wasn’t aware of these citations on my driving Abstract. Since then I wasn’t aware of these citation and was not contacted until I called the wrong collection agencies. My question is can they still garnish my wages after the 10years and if so can they refuse a settlement?

    • Credit Experts

      In order to garnish your wages in most cases, they need a court order. The exception is when you owe money to the government (as in taxes, student loans, etc.). And many states allow wage garnishment or seizure of tax refunds to satisfy unpaid traffic tickets. In general, you won’t be able to settle at this point. Have you checked your credit reports? Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports.

      Here are other resources that may help:
      Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • dorothy person

    i had some student loan, i consolidated all of them, one company have already fix the problem with the IRS and the other company is holding the debts like it not payed, i have call them, i told them that April 15 is coming and i don’t want to be put in penalty with the IRS, they told me to get a extension and i should have to do that

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Dorothy – I don’t quite understand your situation but it sounds like it might be worthwhile for you to at least get a consultation with a consumer law attorney with expertise in student loans. website may be of help there.

  • Credit Experts

    Anna —
    Do you have paperwork showing that you dropped the class? And is there any way you cana get together the money you owe? Are they asking only for the $358 grant?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    No probably not. There is not a central database for all defaulted debt. You can ask them to pull their credit reports and it might be on there – or it might not be since it is more than 7 years old. In addition the statute of limitations may have expired. You can learn more here: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • CuriosityKat

    I just received a statement I owe a debt collect agency, but I have payments set-up back in Oct. 2014 with the Company I owe. I am on a payment plan I just paid my payment this month. Now this letter states I owe due to not paying, when my bank statements and my confirmation codes of payments that I’ve been paying. Is it illegal for a company to send me to collections even though I have been paying for each month consecutively?

    • Credit Experts

      You can — and should — ask for a “validation of the debt” before you pay. It’s possible the collector bought a bundle of debts from your original creditor and yours was included by mistake, but it’s also possible the debt was sold. You can read more here: Can a Debt Collector Sell My Debt If I’ve Started Repaying It?

  • scammed and mad

    I contacted a bogus company thinking they were Apple Support because of how they were listed on Google. I stupidly gave them remote access to my computer–they changed my computer so I didn’t have to use a password to update software, etc. then they charged me $99.99. I cancelled my card when I realized what an idiot I’ve been —now they are calling me 20 times a day to turn me into credit bureau. My bank, Lifelock, and Apple Support told me I was doing the right thing. What is my recourse?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It sounds like they are scammers and scam companies can’t report you to a credit bureau. So it sounds to me like you are doing the right thing. You did dispute the fraudulent chard with your card issuer right?

  • jsutcurious

    I currently owe $2400 to an online university and I have offered to make payments of $30 a month so that I can afford them, since I am not working at this time, but they told me if I cant agree make payments for the amount of $70 a month for 36 months then my account will be sent to a collection agency. I live in Missouri, and I was informed that if I offer to make payments for any set monthly amount and they decline those payments then the debt is considered paid in full. Is this accurate information?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      What does your contract with them say? That will be what ultimately governs what you have to pay. If you don’t make the payments required by your contract your account will be in default and you can be sent to collections. They are not required to accept what you can afford or wipe out the debt.

  • Matthew

    can a collections agency tell you they do not own the debt and say they are acting on behalf of the original creditor to collect the debt when in fact the original creditor has told me they sold the debt to a collections agency and no longer own the debt?

    I’m assuming they are trying to avoid me from validating the debt and are probably breaking some sort of law in the process by telling me they have only been assigned the debt?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Clearly there is a disconnect, but it shouldn’t prevent you from requesting validation of the debt. By law, a third party collector they must provide validation of the debt if you request it, regardless of whether they are acting on behalf of the original creditor or have bought the debt. (It’s also possible the creditor it telling you incorrect info.)

      However, if you want to pursue it, you can certainly talk with a consumer law attorney or file a complaint with the CFPB. By law 3rd party collectors can’t misrepresent the nature or status of the debt.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    We wrote about that problem in this story: Getting Collection Calls for Someone Else? Here’s What to Do

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