Debt Collection

  • Never ignore a debt collector even if the debt is not yours.
  • Never pay a bill you don't owe just to get the collector to "go away." Any payment of the debt is considered an acknowledgement that you are responsible. Even if you pay, that will not erase a negative entry on your credit report.
  • Learn to recognize abusive collection practices. Even if you owe a debt, a collector owes you fair treatment and respect for your privacy.
  • Be aware of possible fake collectors. Be on the alert when a caller claiming to be a debt collector asks you for your Social Security number, information about your bank and credit card accounts, or threatens you with jail/arrest.
  • Ask questions and learn specifics. When a collector calls or you call back, get as much information as possible. Ask for the name of the caller, the collection agency, the creditor, and the address and fax number for sending correspondence. Also ask about the amount the collector claims you owe.
  • Assert your right to privacy if you want to be contacted only in writing.
  • You can tell and write the collector that you are the only person to be contacted.
  • When it doubt, ask for all terms and payment plans to be sent to you in writing.
  • Pay the proper party. Payments should be made to the debt collector and not the original creditor unless you are expressly instructed to pay the creditor directly.
  • Complain about abusive collection practices. A debt collector is not allowed to make idle threats (express or implied) or use abusive or profane language.
  • Military members should make an appointment with the local Judge Advocate General's office if contacted by a collector. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), previously the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), provides protections for military members whose financial life is affected by military service. 
  • Be wary of advertisements that promise an easy solution to debt. Debt repair "doctors" and credit consolidators may end up causing you more harm than good.
  • If you are seeking help, be very careful. Seek assistance in resolving your debt(s) through a member agency of the National Foundation for Consumer Credit, such as the Consumer Credit Counseling Service.
  • If you are unsure about how a law applies to your situation, consult an attorney.
  • Ask questions about an old debt. A debt that is older than the state law allows for a collector to sue you is said to be "time barred." Average statute of limitations is usually three to six years, but it can be up to ten.