Frequently Asked Questions

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A debt collector may contact you between 8 in the morning and 9 in the evening, unless you agree to other times.

If a collector contacts you about a debt, you may want to talk to them at least once to see if you can resolve the matter – even if you don’t think you owe the debt, can’t repay it immediately, or think that the collector is contacting you by mistake. If you decide after contacting the debt collector that you don’t want the collector to contact you again, tell the collector – in writing – to stop contacting you.

A debt collector generally is not permitted to discuss your debt with anyone other than you, your spouse, or your attorney. If an attorney is representing you about the debt, the debt collector must contact the attorney, rather than you. If you don’t have an attorney, a collector may contact other people – but only to find out your address, your home phone number, and where you work.

Every collector must send you a written “validation notice” telling you how much money you owe within five days after they first contact you. This notice also must include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and how to proceed if you don’t think you owe the money.

If you think you don’t owe any money, and you send the debt collector a letter stating that, or asking for verification of the debt, that collector must stop contacting you. But a collector can begin contacting you again if it sends you written verification of the debt, like a copy of a bill for the amount you owe.

Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties that they contact. For example, they may not:

  • use threats of violence or harm;
  • publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts (but they can give this information to the credit reporting companies);
  • use obscene or profane language

Debt collectors may not make false statements when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, they may not:

  • falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives;
  • falsely claim that you have committed a crime;
  • falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company;
  • misrepresent the amount you owe;

Debt collectors also are prohibited from saying that:

  • you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt;
  • they’ll seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so; or
  • legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.

Debt collectors may not:

  • give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company;
  • send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t; or
  • use a false company name.

Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, they may not:

  • try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt – or your state law – allows the charge;
  • deposit a post-dated check early;
  • take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally; or
  • contact you by postcard.

Yes. If a debt collector is trying to collect more than one debt from you, the collector must apply any payment you make to the debt you select. Equally important, a debt collector may not apply a payment to a debt you don’t think you owe.

1. Write to the debt collector.

  • Tell the debt collector you are a victim of identity theft and don’t owe the debt.
  • Send copies of your police report, Identity Theft Report, or other documents that detail the identity theft. The collector must suspend collection efforts until it sends you written verification of the debt. If the collector works for another company, it must tell the other company you are an identity theft victim.

2. Contact the business where the fraudulent account was opened.

  • Explain that this is not your debt.
  • Ask for information about the transactions that created the debt. The business must give you details about the transaction if you ask. For example, if you dispute a debt on a credit card account you did not open, ask for a copy of the application and applicant’s signature

3. Contact each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies.

4. Update your files.

  • Record the dates you made calls or sent letters.
  • Keep copies of letters in your files.

1. Write a letter to the debt collector.

Tell them to stop contacting you about the debt.

After the debt collector gets the letter, it can’t contact you again, except once — to say it won’t contact you again, or that it plans to take specific action. Sending this letter should stop calls and letters from the collector, but it doesn’t prevent the debt collector from suing you to collect the debt.

2. Update your files.

  • Record the dates you made calls or sent letters.
  • Keep copies of letters in your files.

To learn more about debt-related issues, MyMoney.gov, the U.S. government’s portal to financial education.