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When you have a debt that goes to collections, it can feel as though debt collectors will rule your life until it gets repaid. But thanks to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), there are rules that certain debt collectors must follow when contacting you for repayment. Read on to learn what those debt collectors can’t do so you’ll know how to protect your rights.

7 Things Debt Collectors Aren’t Allowed to Do

1. Call You After Hours

Think debt collectors can call you at all hours? Think again. The FDCPA mandates that debt collectors don’t call you after 9:00 pm or before 8:00 am unless you tell them or they otherwise know that they can. However, you can give them permission to call after hours.

2. Harass You

Debt collectors have a right to try to collect on the debt you owe. However, under the FDCPA they don’t have a right to harass you in order to collect repayment. That means no threats, no profane language, and no attempting to irritate you through excessive phone calls.

3. Lie to You

Harassment doesn’t always stop at the way someone talks to you; it can also be what they say. In the case of debt collectors, lying to you about the debt you owe or what can happen to you if you don’t repay it isn’t allowed under the FDCPA. You can find a detailed list of “false or misleading representations” that could occur and that aren’t allowed on pages eight through 10 of this PDF.

4. Call You At Work if Your Work Doesn’t Allow Calls

It’s not unheard of for a debt collector to try to contact someone at their place of employment, even repeatedly. However, the FDCPA restricts this activity and mandates that a debt collector can’t call you at work if they know or have reason to know you’re not allowed to receive calls at work.

That said, the debt collector needs to know your employer’s policy. If collectors call you at work and you tell them you’re not allowed to receive these types of calls, the FDCPA forbids them from doing it again.

5. Communicate With You Instead of Your Attorney If You Have One

Another thing a debt collector can’t do once they’re aware of it is call you if an attorney is representing you. Again, you would first need to tell them that you’ve obtained legal counsel and then share the name and contact information of that person. From then on, unless your attorney fails to respond in a reasonable period of time to the debt collector, that’s the only person they should be calling under the FDCPA.

6. Try to Collect More Than You Owe and Other “Unfair Practices”

According to the FDCPA, “a debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.” These are what the FDCPA calls unfair practices and they include actions such as trying to collect more than you owe, illegally taking your property, and more.

If a debt collector is doing this to you, read pages 10 and 11 of this PDF to compare what they’re doing to the unfair practices outlined by the FDCPA.

7. Bring a Lawsuit for Time-Barred Debt

After a certain number of years, an unpaid debt can eventually become “time-barred.” Essentially what that means is that the statute of limitations on that debt has expired. Once that happens, if a debt collector sues you for repayment, you may be able to assert that the debt has expired. If you think this may apply to a debt you owe, it may be beneficial to talk with an attorney.

When a debt becomes time-barred depends on the type of debt you owe and which state’s laws apply to the debt and the lawsuit, as the statute of limitations may differ by state and debt type. Some debt, such as federal student loans, are exempt from becoming time-barred.

Keep in mind that if you make a partial payment on a time-barred debt, it might no longer be considered time-barred. Whether or not this is true will depend on the payments, type of debt, and state whose laws apply to the debt and lawsuit.

What to Do If These Things Happen to You

It’s not always easy to figure out how to deal with a debt collector, which is why it’s so important to remember that you have rights. If a debt collector in contact with you has engaged in any of the above practices, consider reporting them immediately.

The Federal Trade Commission says you should report debt collectors in violation of the FDCPA to them, as well as to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and your state attorney general’s office. And if you want to do more research first, you can order a free copy of the FDCPA here.

Get more information about dealing with debt collectors in our comprehensive guide.

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