Know Your Rights if Debt Collectors are Calling You

Know your rights and responsibilities if you have debt collectors calling you to get money.
Updated May 1, 2024
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It can be easy to fall into debt if you’re struggling financially or have a surprising bill show up without an emergency fund or other cash on hand to pay for it. It can be even more frustrating when that debt ends up with a debt collector who hounds you to pay it back.

But before you fall into deeper despair, know that you have rights when it comes to debt collectors coming after you that can help you get ahead financially. Here are some critical things you should remember when those collectors come calling.

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Debt collectors are prohibited from threatening arrest

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A debt collector may try to threaten you with legal action including having you arrested for not paying your debt.

But it’s illegal for them to threaten you with arrest, and you can file a complaint against them if they do so. Check with your local state attorney general’s office or the Federal Trade Commission to file a report and see what kind of resources you have against the collector.

They can only contact you during certain times

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Companies may have limits on when they can contact you for business or solicitation purposes. Telemarketers, for example, can’t typically call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The same is true for debt collectors. So take note if they call you before or after their limited hours and contact state or federal authorities to report it.

You have a right to dispute the debt

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Some debt may be mistakenly attached to you or not your responsibility. You could also have an issue with debt you’ve paid but it still went to a collection agency.

You have a right to dispute this debt. Look into ways you can get rid of the debt collector calls and get the debt out of their records.

Debt collectors are not allowed to deceive you

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Debt collectors may try different tactics to get you to pay up, and they have a right to call you to collect that debt.

But they don’t have a right to lie or deceive you to get you to pay. Lies and deception like telling you they work for a fake company or that they’ll call law enforcement to report you are illegal and can be punished.

They can’t contact you at work

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What happens if you’re sitting at your desk at work and the debt collector calls you? You have a right to tell them to stop.

Debt collectors can’t contact you at work if you tell them you’re not allowed to get calls there. Remind them that they must contact you outside of your business hours to discuss your debt.

You can ask for a written notice

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You have a right to request information about your debt if a debt collector starts calling you.

That written notice should include information such as your name and mailing address to confirm who is responsible for the debt, the collector’s name and mailing address, the name of the creditor you owe money, the current amount of debt you owe, and other information that may be critical in determining your responsibility to pay the debt.

They can’t contact your employer about your debt

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Debt collectors may go to extreme lengths to collect debt that you may owe including contacting your employer.

These debt collectors have no right to contact anyone other than you and certain other individuals such as a guardian or lawyer to discuss your debt or collect information about your debt. But your employer is not someone that can be contacted.

Debt collectors can’t contact you on social media

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You may have social media accounts on sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram that you use to interact with friends or family.

Debt collectors don’t have a right to publicly post on your social media accounts. They also can’t use your social media accounts to contact you through private messages about the debt you owe if you ask them to stop. 

Make it clear you do not want them to contact you in that manner and follow up with state or federal authorities if they don’t honor your request.

You have a right to keep notes

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You have a right to take notes any time a debt collector contacts you about your debt.

Your notes can include information discussed during a phone conversation or anything that’s sent to you. Remember to keep track of dates and times when these contacts take place. And it’s a good idea to ask debt collectors to follow up with you with written statements after any calls or discussions with them.

Their contact with you is limited

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It’s important to keep track of days and times when a debt collector has contacted you or tried to contact you.

Debt collectors can’t try to contact you more than seven times in seven days. And once that collector reaches you, they aren’t allowed to contact you for seven days after speaking with you on the phone about your debt.

You can withhold financial information from them

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When a debt collector calls, they don’t have a right to ask you for certain information and you don’t have to give it to them.

You should not give a collector information like your Social Security number, bank account information, and other financial details as the debt collector may be running a scam or use that information in an illegal way.

Debt collectors have to contact your attorney if you have one

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It may be a good idea to hire an attorney who can help you with your debt collection issues.

If a debt collector contacts you, give them your attorney’s name and contact information and let the collector know that your attorney has to be contacted in the future. Debt collectors shouldn’t be contacting you after that if your attorney is handling collection issues on your behalf.

Bottom line

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It can be hard if you’re living paycheck to paycheck with mounting debt on top of your financial issues. But there are ways you can get out of that debt such as creating a budget to save money or getting a financial planner who can help you consolidate and eliminate your debt.

Remember, you have rights when it comes to debt collectors so make sure you stand firm. Don't make the debt collection process worse than it has to be, and use these rights to help you get back on track. 

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and

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