5 Rights You Have When a Debt Collector Calls You

5 Rights You Have When a Debt Collector Calls You

Here are 5 things you can do when a debt collector calls you (even if you owe the money).


When credit card companies and loan companies pursue you for unpaid credit card bills and loan payments, it can be hard to know what to do.

You know you owe the debt, but getting calls to your cell phone and to your employer doesn’t make it disappear any faster. Meanwhile, they are causing you to be miserable, and you are afraid that your boss or coworker may answer the next time a debt collector calls. 

You do not have the right to be harassed by collection agencies just because you have an unpaid debt. You retain control over how and when debt collectors reach out to you.

The law that governs debt collector behavior is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. 

What Your Rights Are as a Debtor

We were given a tour of the fair debt collection laws by Bruce McClary of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to helping people with their debt.

In his experience as a debt collector, McClary claims that many people are unaware that they are able to specify how and when they would like to be contacted.

As soon as you receive your next collection call, you can begin exercising your rights. 

The number of times they call you is up to you. 

It is your right to request that a company limit how often its employees call you. This helps if you’re tired of getting phone calls from bill collectors every day.

If you wish to stop receiving calls at work, you can do so.

McClary said some states limit the number of times bill collectors may call at work. Even if your state doesn’t, federal law says you can ask the debt collector to stop harassing you. Especially if the calls put your job at risk.

There is an option to stop calls before 8 a.m. as well as after 9 p.m.

It depends on your local time, not the collectors. The law already provides for this, so you shouldn’t need to request it. Nevertheless, if you receive late-night or early-morning calls, put an end to it by requesting this in writing.

It is possible to stop all calls. 

You can ask the company to stop calling altogether at work, at home, and on your cell – if you’re tired of the calls. You want to communicate with the debt collector without feeling like you’re playing Russian roulette when you answer your phone. Instead of calling, McClary suggests requesting contact by email or mail.

You can cease all communication at any time. 

As McClary mentioned, you can go so far as to cut off all phone or written communication. However, he doesn’t recommend this.

Why You Shouldn’t Stop Paying Debt

When you cut off all communication and drop off their radar, it sends the message that you don’t intend to pay ever. This may prompt them to start pursuing other ways to recuperate the debt.

Choosing to bury your head in the sand and pretend the debt doesn’t exist may increase your chances of getting sued over it.

If you are serious about your debt try to pay it off. You can try getting an extra side hustle to make more income. Or you can try some of our favorite money-saving apps to help pay off debt.

With money-saving apps, you can get cash back on everyday items you buy. Or how about it saving your spare change so you can save without it hurting your finances. Either way paying off debt is probably the best bet you have to avoid debt collectors forever.

How Do You Deal With A Debt Collector Ignoring Your Requests?

As often as you can, McClary advises putting your request in writing so you will have it on record. For example, an email could be tracked by software that alerts you each time the message is opened. Another option is a certified letter would require the recipient’s signature. In addition to having a record showing that you sent it, you should also have proof that it was received.

Should you need to make a complaint against a debt collector, you will need to be able to show you made the request.

It will usually suffice to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission. 

You should inform your local law enforcement of the debt collector’s harassment or threats of violence if they are in your state, or the FBI if they are in another state, McClary said.

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