Frequently Asked Questions

Are there examples of how to respond to a debt collector in writing?

The CFPB has prepared sample letters you can use to respond to a debt collector who is trying to collect a debt from the wrong person, as well as tips on how to use them. The sample letters may help you to get information, set ground rules about any further communication, or protect some of your rights. Once a debt collector receives your letter, he or she may not contact you again except to:

  • Tell you there will be no further contact
  • Advise you that it or the creditor may take other specific actions it is legally allowed to take, such as a lawsuit against you

You can also tell the debt collector that you do not believe the debt is yours. If you have evidence that the debt isn’t yours, you might choose to send copies of relevant information with the letter.

Keep a copy of your letter

Send the letter by certified mail and purchase a return receipt so you have proof it was received (keep this in your records, too). You may also send the letter by fax, just be sure to keep a copy of the fax receipt.

When can a debt collector contact me?

Debt collectors cannot call you at times they know are inconvenient, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you specifically agree to it. If a debt collector knows you are not allowed to receive the calls at work, then the debt collector is not allowed to call you there. Debt collectors may not harass you or anyone else over the phone or through any other form of contact.

What constitutes harassment by a debt collector?

The FDCPA says debt collectors can’t harass, oppress, or abuse you or anyone else they contact. Some examples of harassment are:

  • Repetitious phone calls intended to annoy, abuse, or harass any person answering the phone
  • Obscene or profane language
  • Threats of violence or harm
  • Publishing lists of people who refuse to pay their debts (this does not include reporting information to a credit reporting company)
  • Calling you without telling you who they are

How do you know if a debt collector is legitimate?

If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector, follow these steps:

  • Ask the caller for his or her name, company, street address, telephone number, and professional license number (or as much information as possible). Many states, but not all states, require debt collectors to be licensed. Check the information the caller provides you with state officials, or the state in which the debt collector holds a license. If the caller refuses or is unable to provide you with information about his company, or if you can’t verify the information he provides, do not give money to the caller or company.
  • Check if the company is RMAI Certified. If a company is listed as RMAI Certified, the debt collector is legitimate. However, there are legitimate debt collectors who have yet to become RMAI Certified.
  • Tell the caller that you will not discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice.” This notice must include:
    • The amount of the debt
    • The name of the creditor you owe
    • A description of certain rights under the federal FDCPA

If a caller refuses to give you a validation notice, consider requesting this information in writing or seeking assistance before paying the debt to make sure the debt and the company are valid.

Help for Consumers

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