Key Takeaways

Debt collector calls can be intimidating and overwhelming. But if you know your rights as a borrower, you’ll be able to spot when a collector is violating the law, and you won’t be intimidated by unlawful collection tactics. Knowing what to say and do when you receive collection calls can also help you avoid making mistakes that can put you at financial or legal risk.

What Does It Mean When a Debt Collector Calls You?

When a debt collector calls you, it usually means they’re trying to collect a debt you owe. If you have failed to make payments on your credit card debt or loans, the original creditor may sell the debt to a collection agency. The agency will then try to collect this debt from you. They may attempt to reach you to recover the full amount. You may receive collection calls typically for unsecured debts, such as credit cards, personal loans, medical bills, and payday loans that you owe.

You have significant protection from debt collectors from federal laws that regulate collection activities, such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Consumer protection rights include being able to hire an attorney, not being sued after the statute of limitation has passed, filing a complaint against debt collectors, and asking them to stop calling you. Debt collectors cannot use obscene language or threaten you with legal action when they call.

If you find that a debt collector is using unlawful collection practices, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC refunded $4.86 million in 2021 to victims of unfair debt collectors.  

How often Can a Debt Collector Call You?

Debt collectors cannot repeatedly call you with the intention of harassing, abusing, or annoying you. CFPB’s Debt Collection Rule also states that a debt collector will be violating the rule if they call you about a debt:

  • More than seven times in a seven-day period.
  • Within seven days after a phone call with you about the same debt.

The pattern and frequency of voicemails and phone calls can also determine whether a debt collection has violated the law. For example, if a debt collector has called you seven times in seven days, but all the calls were on a single day, that is a violation of the law. Keep in mind that this does not include text messages or messages sent on social media. If the collection agency does not have your phone number, they can contact your friends or family members to get your contact information. But they’re not allowed to discuss your debts with them.

When Can a Debt Collector Call You?

Debt collectors can’t call you at an inconvenient or unusual place or time. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) usually prohibits them from calling you before 8 AM or after 9 PM. If you’ve given them instructions about when not to call you, they must follow those instructions.

If you prefer not to receive collection calls at work, on the weekends, or at any other time, tell the debt collector. You also have the right to ask them to stop contacting you.

Should I Answer Debt Collector Calls?

If you receive collection calls, you can choose not to respond to the calls if you’re not yet aware of your rights as a debtor. In some cases, this will be the best course of action because you don’t want to make the mistake of admitting debt if it doesn’t belong to you or promise a payment that you can’t make.

Take the time to first understand your rights, determine if the statute of limitations on your rights has passed, and if you want to hire an attorney or a debt relief company to help you deal with your debt.

On the other hand, it’s also important to remember that ignoring collection calls will not make your debt go away. Unless you take action, your debt will continue to snowball and will turn into a bigger problem in the future. The collection agency may sue you, resulting in wage garnishment.

What To Do When a Debt Collector Calls

If you receive a debt collector call and decide to answer it, there are a few important things you should keep in mind.

  • Always take notes. Have a written trail of all your communication with them. Keep notes of information like the name of the person calling, the company they represent, the name of the creditor, their mailing address, the time they called, and the requests they made.
  • Do not admit that you owe the debt. Send a debt validation letter to verify that the debt is actually yours.   
  • Do not promise any payments. When you promise to make payments or send a payment, you are admitting that you owe the debt because it may be a scam.
  • Do not provide the debt collector any financial information until you’ve confirmed the debt is real and you owe it.
  • If you receive a call at an inconvenient time or place, tell the debt collector not to call you at a certain time or place. They must follow your instructions.
  • If you do not want to receive any calls, send a letter to the debt collector in writing requesting them to stop contacting you. Send the letter by certified mail with a return receipt and keep a copy so you can have proof of hand in case they continue to contact you even after your request.

How to Stop Debt Collector Calls

There are several ways you can stop debt collector calls. The best and the most effective way to stop these calls is by paying off the debt. If you’re not able to clear the entire amount you owe right now, there are a number of debt relief options you can explore.

  • Settle your debt. With debt settlement, you can negotiate with your lenders to settle your account for less than you owe. You must have cash or the ability to save to make a lump sum partial payment. Hire a debt relief company to negotiate on your behalf.
  • If you have multiple debts, consolidate them with a debt consolidation loan at a lower interest rate. This will make repayment easy while allowing you to save money on interest charges.
  • Consider credit counseling to figure out how to deal with your debt, create a budget, and pay off your debts with a debt management plan.
  • Get legal advice to see if bankruptcy may be the right option for you. Depending on what type of bankruptcy you file for, some or all of your unsecured debts can be wiped out, and you can get a fresh start.  

Receiving debt collector calls can be frustrating and stressful, but you can eliminate this stress if you know your rights. The best way to deal with collection calls once and for all is by paying off your debt.