The Hidden Truth: What Collectors Can (And Can’t) Do

The Hidden Truth: What Collectors Can (And Can’t) Do


Collectors have a bad reputation. Many lie, yell, intimidate and threaten people over unpaid debts. If you are one of those people who owe money and are getting collector calls, we’ve got good news: Collectors aren’t intimidating when you know the truth about what they can (and can’t) do.

Let’s use the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to dispel some of the myths about collectors’ tactics. If a collector makes a threat, call their bluff by referring to the appropriate section of the Collection Practices Act (which we will point out). When you know the law, their bluff falls flat.

Ready to learn the facts behind the fiction? Check out some of the most popular myths about collectors and the real truth behind them.

Myth: Collectors can call you several times a day or call your workplace.
Truth: The law limits how often and where collectors can contact you.

If a collector says they can call as much as they want, they’re lying. They cannot “annoy, abuse or harass” the debtor as explained in section 806(5) of the Collection Practices Act. Collectors must also refrain from calling your workplace if you send them a written notice to stop. Simply send them a certified letter, return receipt requested (so you have proof they signed for it), telling them to cease contact at your place of employment. Don’t cease all contact because some collectors will sue you if you refuse to talk to them. If they continue to call your office, tell them you have the receipt showing they signed for your cease-contact letter and hang up.


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In either case, the collector calls you repeatedly to stress you into paying. They want you to think the stress is more painful than payment. Avoiding that stress and winning the phone argument involves knowing the law, which helps keep you calm.

Myth: Collectors can threaten to use a criminal process to collect a civil debt.
Truth: Nope. In fact, making that threat means trouble for them.

In most states, threatening a criminal result for a civil action is extortion. Section 807(5) states that a collector cannot make this type of claim. If you record the call or keep an email where they refer to criminal consequences, then contact an attorney with the evidence.

Myth: Collectors don’t have to send you a written notice of a debt.
Truth: Collectors must provide proof of the debt.

Within five days of first contacting you about a debt, a collector must send you a written notice containing all the debt information. Don’t be afraid to demand proof of the debt. If the collector refuses to send proof, tell them they are in violation of section 809(a) of the Collection Practices Act. See how much of a bully they are after that.

Myth: Collectors can yell, threaten and use foul language when talking to you.
Truth: Your dial tone can listen to that, because you don’t have to.

Someone can tell you that you owe money without becoming abusive. Collectors who yell, threaten or swear on the phone are just trying to anger or scare you into paying the debt before taking care of your four walls. It’s perfectly legal to hang up the phone when the abuse starts. If you want to have some fun, tell them that section 806(2) of the Collection Practices Act states they can’t use obscene or profane language. To take even more control, let them know at the start of the conversation that you are recording the call. They will either act nice or hang up.

Myth: The collector doesn’t have to verify disputed debts.
Truth: If you dispute a debt, they must respond.

If you want verification on a debt, then according to Section 809(a)(4) of the Collection Practices Act, the collector must verify the debt within 30 days of your request and mail you a copy of the confirmation. If they refuse, tell them they are breaking the law. Look at it this way: Why are they so afraid to simply confirm a debt? Is the debt not valid? Make them prove it, and only pay if you truly owe money.

These are all ways to take back control of the situation. When you are in control, you can think rationally, take care of your household, and pay what you owe. Don’t tolerate abuse—and if you feel you are being abused, let us know about it at If they determine you have a case they will help you fight it at no cost to you.

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