Top Ten Ways the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Protects You Against Collection Agencies

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the main law that regulates how a collector collects on a debt. By knowing your rights under this law you can empower yourself and protect yourself from harassment or misleading practices by collectors.

1. Collectors can only call between 8 A.M. and 9 P.M. in YOUR time zone. c(a)(1)

The FDCPA directly states that collection agencies can’t call at a place or time which is obviously inconvenient to the consumer. The law sets out 8 A.M. to 9 P.M. as an assumed acceptable time to contact the debtor. However, you can tell the collector if there’s a different time range that works best for you!


2. Collectors can’t call you at work if you tell them not to. c(a)(3)

Collectors are within their rights to attempt to contact a debtor at their place of work. However, if you aren’t able to receive phone calls of that nature at work and tell the collector that, then they can no longer contact you there!


3. Collectors can’t call family members or friends more than once. b(a)(3)

Typically a collector may call a friend of family member of a debtor in order to receive contact information for the debtor. However, the FDCPA states that the collector may only call the family member or friend once, and cannot mention anything about the debtor owing money. Essentially, the FDCPA protects from collectors harassing family and friends to attempt to force the debtor into paying.


4. Collectors can’t threaten to sue or repossess if they don’t mean it. e(a)(4)

It is against the FDCPA for a collector to imply that not paying a debt will result in the repossession or lawsuit against the debtor if the repossession or lawsuit is unlawful or if the collector has no intention to take such action.


5. Collectors can’t lie about what you owe. e(a)(2)(A)

Harassing collectors may try to pressure a debtor into paying by saying the debtor owes more than they do. This action is also strictly prohibited by the FDCPA.


6. Collectors can’t call you repeatedly in one day (d)(a)(5)

Incessant calling is one of the main complaints against collection agencies. Which is why the FDCPA states that “causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number” is harassment.


7. Collectors must send you a letter with information of your debt (g)(a)

The FDCPA states that within five days of initial communication with a debtor the collector must send a “validation letter” which states the amount of the debt, the original creditor the debt came from, how to dispute the debt, and how to pay the debt.


8. Collector’s can’t call you if you have a lawyer for your debts b(a)(6), c(a)(2)

If a debt collector knows that the debtor is represented by an attorney regarding the debt and has or can easily obtain the attorney’s contact information, then, under the FDCPA, the collector can no longer contact the debtor.


9. Collector’s can’t threaten to have you arrested (e)(a)(4)

It is directly against the FDCPA if the collector threatens to have the debtor arrested for not paying their debt.


10. Collector’s can’t claim to be a lawyer e(a)(3)

The FDCPA explicitly states that collectors are not allowed to imply that they are an attorney or are conveying information from an attorney.


Final tip: You can negotiate paying your debt with collectors! At the end of the day collection agencies want to be paid. This is why some FDCPA compliant collectors are willing to negotiate with debtors to allow them to pay a lower amount that is feasible for the debtor.

Filing Bankruptcy? Make Sure You Double-Check Debt Collectors’ Submitted Claims

Debt collection is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it is only growing. One of debt collectors’ tactics is to get people who owe long past due debts to pay those debts despite the fact that the debts cannot be collected as a matter of states’ statutes of limitations. Debt collectors do so in a variety of ways, including filing collection actions in state courts and hoping that debtors will not assert the statute of limitations as a defense. Fortunately, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) deems this tactic a misleading and unfair practice. Courts hold that debt collectors violate the FDCPA when they file debt collection actions in state courts on debts that they are barred from collecting under statutes of limitation. Based on the FDCPA, debt collectors have entered into consent decrees with the federal government and paid millions of dollars in restitution to debtors for trying to collect time-barred debts through state court debt collection proceedings.

The FDCPA also has pushed debt collectors to look to another venue to collect on time-barred debts: bankruptcy proceedings. When a person files bankruptcy, particularly chapter 13 bankruptcy, debt collectors file proofs of claim asserting a right to collect these debts. It seemingly is up to the debtor, or the trustee, to object to the claim on the basis that collection of the debt is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. In recent years, debt collectors have added to their business model specifically buying debts that will be collected through bankruptcy proceedings and then filing claims in hopes that the debtor, trustee, or another party will not object. The practice has the potential to be quite lucrative. About a million people file for bankruptcy every year. One-third of those cases are filed under chapter 13. And given that Americans owe trillions of dollars in consumer debt, many of those cases likely include time-barred debts. The questions thus becomes, is filing a proof of claim for a time-barred debt a violation of the FDCPA?

The answer to this question split courts. Some courts said no, the FDCPA does not apply, reasoning that bankruptcy affords debtors its own set of protections. Other courts said yes, the FDCPA applies, and a private party or the government can sue a debt collector for filing time-barred claims in bankruptcy, potentially winning sanctions. This split among courts was brought to the Supreme Court, which yesterday held (in a 5-3 opinion, Midland Funding LLC v. Johnson) that the FDCPA does not apply to proofs of claim filed by debt collectors for time-barred debts. The majority, in short, reasoned that the Bankruptcy Code and other rules provide a way for debtors and trustees to identify and respond to these claims, as well as the ability for bankruptcy judges to levy sanctions against debt collectors for filing time-barred claims. The dissent, in contrast, noted that the realities of bankruptcy practice make it so that trustees and other parties are short on both time and money, such that the protections built into the Code are not protections in reality. Instead, the bankruptcy claims process now sets a “trap for the unwary.”

If you want to read more about the decision itself, see my co-blogger Adam Levitin’s post on Credit Slips. The on-the-ground question for consumers now is, what can people do to protect themselves? There are a couple actions that debtors can take to make sure that they do not fall into that trap and that time-barred claims are not paid out through their chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. If they are represented, they can ask their counsel to examine claims submitted by debt collectors. Indeed, all debtors’ counsel now should be on notice that they must examine claims submitted by debt collectors. Regardless of whether they are represented, debtors should specifically inquire about claims submitted by debt collectors, either through their counsel or by themselves.

That debtors make sure to double-check debt collectors’ submitted claims is very important. As noted in the dissent, and as my co-authors and I have shown in our recent work, less than half of chapter 13 cases end with a discharge of debts. If a time-barred debt is included in a chapter 13 case, and the case is dismissed, that debt is reactivated, and the statute of limitations on collection begins anew. As Justice Sotomayor wrote in the dissent, debtors will “walk out of bankruptcy court owing more to their creditors than they did when they entered it.”

Written Requests To Debt Collectors: What you need to know

By: Andrew Marchant 

Earlier Blogs on this site have discussed some of the basics regarding your rights against debt collectors.  The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a law that applies to all 50 states, allows you to make certain requests/demands to the debt collector.  The law also requires the debt collector comply with certain of those requests.  Some requests you can make include: that a debt collector reduce or stop contact with you; that the debt collector limit methods, times and locations of contact with you; and that the debt collector verify the debt.  You also have the right to dispute the debt.  All of these requests have one major thing in common – they must be in writing.

In this blog we take a look into basic mechanics of making written requests to the debt collector.

All letters can be fairly straight forward, and some information should be in almost every request letter you send to the debt collector:   

  • Identify your name and your address.  This can just be in the top left corner of the letter – similar to what you would find in most letters you’ve sent to businesses (or in letters you’ve received from businesses). Be sure you date the letter.  This helps you prove when you sent the letter out, and roughly when the debt collector should have received the letter.
  • Include information about your debt.  Things like the account number (if available) and any information the debt collector gave you about the debt should be included.  This will help the debt collector correctly identify the debt collection matter.  
  • If you can, sign your name at the bottom of the letter, which helps to prove you actually intended to make the request and that it was you who actually made the request.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a great website with examples of “action letters” that you can download and personalize.  These “action letters” contain form language for things like disputing the amount of the debt, requesting information on the original creditor, and restrictions on the ways the debt collector can contact you.

If you do not choose to use the samples form the CFPB website, always be sure you are direct in what you are requesting of the debt collector.  Also be clear with the request.  For example, if you are requesting that you only be contacted via mail, be sure you give an accurate address.  Or if you are telling the debt collector what times they can call you, be sure you note whether the hours are A.M. or P.M.  Specifically, with letters requesting information about the debt, at a minimum be sure to ask (1) Why the debt collector thinks you owe the debt, and to whom it is owed;  (2)  How much was the original debt, how much is owed now, and why there is any difference in the two amounts;  (3)  Details about the debt collector’s authority to collect the debt.

For all letters you send, make a copy of the letter for your records if possible.  That way, if the debt collector violates your request, you can easily reference the letter if you need to.  Also, that letter could be used as evidence against the debt collector in the event you end up in court with the debt collector over its violation of your request (and by extension its violation of the law).

If you are sure to be direct, clear, and accurate in your letter the debt collector is bound by law to honor certain requests.  If the debt collector does not, he can be liable to you and to the government.

The Telemarketing Terminator

Telemarketers seem to target anyone with an active phone number, and their annoying and untimely solicitation calls are usually as appreciated as a fellow movie-goer chewing popcorn with his mouth open. “I’m not interested” might buy you a month or two of respite, but telemarketers seem to use Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous catchphrase, “I’ll be bawck…” as their unstated selling motto. Their business model, after all, is simply a numbers game: if they call (bug?) enough people, a few might take the bait.

This problem disproportionately affects senior citizens because publicly available phone numbers are usually home phone numbers. According to a recent government study, more than 4 in 10 households have cut the cord—the landline telephone cord, that is. Still, and not surprisingly, seniors over the age of 65 are far more likely to own and use a landline telephone as compared to younger folk, with over 85% of seniors’ homes still attached to their corded phones (pun very much intended).

The Colorado Telemarketing No-Call Law, in concert with federal laws, gives some relief to Colorado seniors—and indeed, everyone who owns a phone and dislikes telemarketing calls. Under Colorado law, home phone and wireless phone customers can place their numbers on a “No Call List” free of charge. Telemarketers are prohibited from calling your number if it is on this list, unless they have an “established business relationship” with you. (Charities and other non-commercial organizations, however, are not subject to the Colorado No-Call Law.) Additionally, federal Telemarketing Sales Rules give you the right to tell companies that have an established business relationship with you to still put you on their internal “Do Not Call” lists.

You can sign up for the Colorado no-call list by calling (800) 309-7041, or registering online at For further protection, add your home or cell phone numbers to the national Do Not Call list at, or by calling (888) 382-1222. If telemarketers continue to call you, report them to the Attorney General or your district attorney’s office. You can even sue offending telemarketers in Small Claims Court under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act if you are on the No Call List.

These laws protect consumers from intrusive telemarketing solicitations, and by availing yourself of the Do Not Call Lists, say good-bye…er, “hasta la vista, baby” (a la Schwarzenegger) to the telemarketers contacting you!

Time Limits on Lawsuits by Debt Collectors

One way debt collectors try to get repaid is by bringing a lawsuit against the debtor in court.  If the debt collector is successful in the lawsuit, the debt collector may be given permission to take special steps to collect on the amount owed.  (Such steps might include garnishment of wages, or the freezing and seizure of funds from the debtor’s bank account.)  But when it comes to lawsuits against the debtor, time may be a deciding factor in the outcome.

State laws limit the amount of time a debt collector has to file a lawsuit with the court. When this time limit has passed, the law says the debtor may have the lawsuit thrown out for not meeting the applicable time constraints.  This concept of a legal time limit for the debt collector to sue is called the Statute of Limitations.  In legal terms, when the time limit has passed, it is said that “the statute of limitations has run.”

This blog takes a look at the rights and obligations of a debtor when the time limit to sue has passed. Below are some questions and key points to remember about your debt after the statute of limitations has run.

When the time limit to sue has passed, and a debt collector can no longer sue in court, what does that mean about the underlying debt?

  • The debt still exists, or put another way, the debtor’s promise to repay the debt still lives on. However, the debt collector no longer has the ability to sue or ask the court for permission to take the special steps mentioned above.  (That’s not to say some debt collectors still won’t try to bring a lawsuit.  It is always important to pay attention to notices from a debt collector because one might include a notification of a lawsuit .  If a debt collector sues outside of the time limit, you should not rely on the courts to enforce the statute of limitations on the debt collector.  In fact, many states require the debtor to prove that the time limit has expired.  For more details on these situations and possible legal support check out the this page at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

What can the debt collector do after the time limit to sue has passed?

  • After the time limit has passed, and even though the debt collector cannot sue or take action in court, the debt collector may still contact the debtor. The debt collector may ask the debtor to repay the debt in full or setup a repayment plan or attempt to recover a portion of the debt. It’s important to remember that such contact is still governed by federal and state fair debt collection laws. The debt collector must still follow the rules. For a good summary on these rules visit another article on this website: Dealing with Debt Collection.

Should the debtor worry about the debt if the law won’t make him repay it?

  • Outstanding past-due debt may still have an adverse impact on a consumer’s ability to borrow in the future. Other creditors, banks, and financial institutions may be more reluctant to make loans or extend credit when they know a consumer has a history of unpaid loans.  After the time limit to sue has passed, the debtor may voluntarily decide to repay the debt but the courts cannot make him do so.  If a debtor is going to make payment to a debt collector after the statute of limitations has run, the debtor should seek legal advice.  The Federal Trade Commission has a helpful page explaining why repayment after the statute of limitations can be complicated, here.

So should a debtor just wait until the statute of limitations runs, and ignore any attempts by the debt collector to get the debtor to repay?

  • The debtor should never ignore the status of his outstanding debt. Up until the statute of limitations has run, a debt collector can bring legal action for repayment, and if the debtor has ignored important notices about the legal action, the debtor could miss out on his day in court (to dispute the debt or make other arguments against the debt collector). Therefore, it is always important to pay attention to correspondence received regarding an outstanding debt. While the debtor has the right to tell the debt collector to leave him alone, doing so does not mean the debt collector can’t take legal action before the statute of limitations is out.

So how do you know if the statute of limitations has run? (How do you know when the creditor can no longer take legal action regarding repayment of the debt?)

  • It is not within the scope here to explain how to determine the time limit a creditor has to take legal action. However, a quick search of the internet using queries such as “Statute of limitations and debt collection,” “Time-barred debts” and “Statute of limitations for old debts” all will provide helpful resources on the topic. Generally, the debtor should check his state laws to find out the length of time a debt collector has to pursue legal action. This length of time varies by state and by the type of debt or loan the consumer entered into. Also, different events trigger the clock on the statute of limitations.

Ultimately, if a debt collector has run out of the time allowed to sue a debtor, the debt collector can no longer use the law to force payment.  Nevertheless, a debtors should still be aware of their rights and existing obligations even after the statute of limitations has run.

I have more than one credit score?

Most consumers have come to understand that their credit scores are important and affect several areas of their life. Credit scores are used by creditors to make lending and credit extension decisions, employers to make employment offers, and much more.

The broad use of your credit scores may not be surprising, but did you know that you have more than one credit score? Do you know how your credit scores are calculated? Do you know which of your creditors or potential creditors are using which scores to determine your eligibility for different loans and products?

A credit score is calculated using the information in a credit file. A credit file typically contains a consumer’s demographics, payment, bankruptcy, legal action, and legal judgment history, debt ratio, longevity of credit history, balanced owned and credit limit on open credit cards, and credit inquiries. Three major private companies, known as credit bureaus, are in the business of maintaining credit files. The three credit bureaus are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion; each company uses its own proprietary score and scoring method to determine a consumer’s credit risk.

Equifax uses the Equifax Credit Score to rate consumers on a scale from 280 to 850. “Payment history” comprises 35% of the score, including a consumer’s payment history on credit cards and loans, public records and collections including judgments, liens, and bankruptcies, and the number of accounts paid on time. The amount the consumer owes comprises another 30% of their score, including the total amount they own on all accounts, the number of accounts with balances, the percent of the consumer’s total credit line being used, and the size of their credit line. Additionally, another 15% of the score is determined by the length of the consumer’s credit history. 10-12% of the score is based solely on the number of credit accounts in the consumer credit file, recent credit inquiries, and the balance of recently opened accounts. Lastly, 15% of the Equifax Credit Score is based on the types of credit accounts the consumer holds.

Experian uses the PLUS score, ranging from 330 to 830 to determine a consumers’ credit worthiness. Experian does not disclose the PLUS score formula to the public, but the score accounts for roughly the same information as the Equifax Credit Score.

TransUnion produces several consumer scores, most notably the TransRisk score, ranging from 300 to 850. The TransRisk score values the same factors as the PLUS score and Equifax Credit Score, but places more importance on the length of a consumers’ credit history.

Most creditors and lenders do not rely upon one score when deciding to extend credit, rather they look at a consumer’s FICO or Vantage score. FICO and Vantage scores are not educational; rather, they are used to make lending and credit extension decisions. FICO and Vantage scores are calculated using all three of the credit bureau scores; but FICO scores place more importance on the length of credit history while Vantage scores emphasize the most recent credit history. Both FICO and Vantage scores range from 300 to 850. Far more creditors rely upon FICO scores, as opposed to Vantage scores, since their model has been widely used and trusted since 1986. Several other less recognized credit scores are created and maintained by Credit Karma, Credit Optics, Innovis, Credit Sesame, and PRBC.

The reality is that different creditors report consumer information to different credit bureaus. The bureaus are businesses competing for creditors to report consumer behavior to them. The reason they compete is simple: the more accurate the bureau’s credit files are on every consumer, the more business they will likely receive from creditors and lenders. Thus, competition in the private market drives these bureaus to maintain accurate, complete, and thorough consumer credit files.

Since lending and credit decisions are typically made using a FICO score, incorporating the scores from all three bureaus, it is important to know what your credit file looks like at each bureau. The differences in a consumer’s score from each bureau can often range over 40 points based solely upon which creditors are reporting to which bureaus.

For example, let’s say that you get lab work done at a hospital and for whatever reason, the bill for $32 goes to “collections.” The hospital reports to Equifax, as there is no legal requirement to report information to more than one bureau. You apply for an auto loan two years later and the bank pulls your FICO score; your score is a 700. As you shop for cars, you apply for another auto loan at a dealership that uses a lender that only looks at the Equifax Credit Score to make their lending decisions; your Equifax Credit Score is a 610 because you have a “recent collection.” You decide to take the loan from the bank over the dealership’s lender because they are offering an interest rate on the loan that is substantially lower since their lending decision was based on a higher credit score.

The lesson here is to know what your credit file contains at each of the three credit bureaus. One way to do this is to track your FICO score, since it is compiled using information from all three bureaus. Many credit card companies offer this service to cardholders at no additional charge. Additionally allows consumers to see their credit files from each of the three bureaus once per year for free. Whatever you do, check your credit scores and check them often.

Credit Repair Series (3 of 3): Credit Repair Agencies

In Part 2 of our series, we covered how to identify and correct inaccurate information on credit reports. In Part 3, we will discuss the businesses that offer these services professionally: credit repair agencies.

Overview and Concerns
A “credit services organization” (or agency) is defined under Colorado law as, “any person, including a nonprofit organization exempt from taxation under section 501 (c) (3) of the federal “Internal Revenue Code of 1986″, who, with respect to the extension of credit by others, represents that such person can or will, in return for the payment of money or other valuable consideration by the buyer, improve or attempt to improve a buyer’s credit record, history, or rating.” CRS § 12-14.5-103(2). It should be noted that attorneys acting in their normal capacity are excepted from this definition.

Not only has the State of Colorado taken the time to define this occupation legally, but an entire series of laws (known as the Colorado Credit Services Organization Act, CRS § 12-14.5-101, et seq.) has been written with an eye to protect consumers. The state legislature has summarized their concerns, “[c]ertain advertising and business practices of some credit services organizations have worked a financial hardship upon the people of this state, often those who are of limited economic means and inexperienced in credit matters. Credit services organizations have significant impact upon the economy and well-being of this state and its people.” CRS § 12-14.5-102(1)(b).

The savvy consumer should be aware that bad actors are present within the field of credit repair. At a minimum, remember that nobody can promise results. Other things to look out for include: payment up-front, offers such as “guarantee plans,” agencies that sell advice, etc. Most of the time when a credit report contains an inaccuracy, a savvy consumer will be able to address the issue themselves, provided they are willing to see the process through to its end.

Complex Matters
This series has been aimed at educating consumers on how to obtain their credit report and how to challenge inaccurate credit report information. A great deal of the time, a credit repair agency will not be able to offer you anything you cannot get for yourself. That said, every credit situation is different, and complex issues can arise regarding liens, taxes, and collection actions. If the credit repair task ahead of you is complex, credit repair agencies do have the benefit of repetition, and a reputable agency is one possible way to resolve complex issues.

Selecting a credit repair agency, should you decide you need one, is beyond the scope of this series. However, at minimum, savvy consumers should use the usual due diligence before selecting anyone to help them with any financial issue. A partial list of research tools appears below:


(you can search business reviews in the Google Local section of your Google+ account)

Better Business Bureau

Do your homework before contacting an agency: the last thing your credit horror story needs is a sequel. In the end, remember that when it comes to credit repair you will always be your primary advocate. Stay credit vigilant, and good luck.

Credit Repair Series (2 of 3): Reviewing and Challenging Credit Items

By: CameronPassmore 

After obtaining your credit report from, you should have a fair amount of information to go over. Many people are only interested in their credit score: do not make this mistake. A credit score is just a number, after all, and what you should really be interested in is what is driving that number. The only way to understand why your number is what it is (low or high) is to understand what is in your report.

Looking at Your Report

Many people are only interested in their credit score: do not make this mistake. A credit score is just a number, after all, and what you should really be interested in is what is driving that number.

Your credit report is made up of a bunch of individual entries, such as the one shown above. The red circles highlight the portions of each item that you will want to review. At its simplest, this is an exercise in checking for accuracy. Nobody is in a better position than you to know if this data is correct. So ask yourself this question: does all of this look accurate? If something does not, then you may have found an actionable item that could improve your credit score.

Please remember that there is no such thing as harmless inaccurate data. For instance, a common error is a credit card that has been closed, but shows as still open on your credit report. It may have a spotless payment record and it may show a zero balance. But, it still tells creditors that you already have thousands of dollars of credit at your disposal that you do not actually have. Thus, there is a real difference between your actual capacity to manage another line of credit, and your capacity to do so as documented in your credit report. The difference between these two can increase interest rates on loans you apply for or in some cases even get you denied for a loan. More is not more, accurate is more.

Challenging Items

Now that you have identified an inaccuracy, it it time to act on it. The contact information for the three reporting agencies was provided in Part 1 of this series. The other contact information you will need to know is from the company that provided the information. As you can see, above, the entry on your credit report already contains this information!

The first thing you need to do is gather your evidence. Do you have receipts showing your payments? Confirmation emails? Printable online balances? A transaction history? Use it. You want everything that tells your side of the story. Remember that both the credit reporting agency and the information provider are required to keep your nonpublic data… nonpublic. They will need this information to make corrections to your report. Want to get really specific? Make copies of your credit report and circle the items in question.

Once you have compiled your evidence, write a letter explaining exactly what is wrong, exactly what it should be, and where in your evidence that can be verified. The final step is to sign the letter and make two copies of everything: one for the credit reporting agency, and the other for the information provider. The originals are for your own records.

In reality, this approach is somewhat redundant as both the agency and the information provider are obligated to work together to find a solution. But the extra copy is worth your time: both entities will have everything they need to act on your inquiry from day one, and even under the best of circumstances you are looking at about 30 days before you see any changes. A month might not seem that long, but imagine how long it could feel if it is standing in the way between your family and your next home: 30 days can be an eternity.

Investigation Complete

Once the reporting agency finishes with your inquiry, they are obligated to notify you of the results and to provide you a new copy of your report should your inquiry lead to a change in your credit report. They are also obligated to provide new information to anyone who requested your credit report in the last six months.

There is always the possibility that your credit report will not change. Remember that only inaccurate information will result in a change. Disputed charges may still appear: disagreeing with an item on your credit report is not enough to get it removed. You may, however, request that a statement be attached to your credit report regarding the disputed item. This statement will accompany your report, allowing you to provide context regarding the unchanged item.