How To Tell If a Debt Collector Could Be Breaking the Law

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects consumers against certain unfair collection practices. According to, it applies only to an outside or third-party debt collector (not creditors collecting their own debts) and only for personal debts.

A collection account can have a major impact on your credit score. In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 84,500 complaints about debt collectors, down from 88,000 in 2017, reports. A complaint does not mean a law has been broken, and some may be the result of overseas debt collection scammers who harass consumers.

When it comes to the latter, how can you tell a debt collector might be breaking the law? shares 6 ways a debt collector could be breaking the law:

  • Attempts to collect a debt not owed: If you don’t think the debt belongs to you, you can send a request in writing within 30 days of receiving the initial notice that you want verification of the debt. Also, you can request a debt collector no longer contacts you.
  • Written notification about debt: The law states that within five days of initially contacting you, the collector must send written notice of the debt that includes the amount of debt, the name of the original creditor to whom the debt is owed and a statement describing your right to dispute the debt.
  • Communication tactics: Collectors can’t call repeatedly just to harass you. Although there is no specific number of calls that they can make within a given time period, if you think a debt collector is calling too often, start making a record of every time they call and any messages they leave. Unless you’ve permitted to do so, collectors may not call before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., or at times you’ve told them are inconvenient.
  • Threats to take negative or legal action: Collectors can’t threaten a lawsuit, criminal prosecution, wage garnishment, jail time, or to ruin your credit rating unless they have the legal authority to do so. These threats are often illegal.
  • False statements or representations: Same as threats to take negative or legal action, collectors must usually take you to court first and win before they can take these kinds of actions — if they are illegal.
  • Threatened to contact someone or share information improperly: Collectors can call third parties such as family, neighbors, friends or co-workers ONLY to locate the debtor.

If you believe a debt collector or collection agency has broken the law while trying to collect a debt, you can complain to the CFPB and your state attorney general and/or contact a consumer law attorney.

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