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When Debt Collectors Call

When companies decide they no longer want to try to collect overdue debts, they may assign or sell those debts to third-party debt collectors. There are laws about how debt collectors can act, what they can say, and how they can treat you. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act provides you with rights when a debt collector is trying to get you to pay a debt.

A debt collector can’t:

  • Call repeatedly to harass you or abuse you
  • Use abusive or obscene language
  • Threaten you by saying they’ll take action they can’t or don’t intend to take
  • Call you without telling you who they are
  • Lie to or mislead you
  • Publish your name for not paying a debt

You may want to discuss your debt issue with a lawyer.

What to do

  • Review the questions to ask if a debt collector calls
  • Fill out the template to request more information from the debt collector. Carefully review and check the box next to the information you’re requesting
  • If the debt isn’t yours, fill out the second letter template to dispute the debt

What to say to a debt collector

  What's your (the debt collector's) name and address?

  What's the original creditor's name and address?

  What's the account number?

  What's the amount owed?

  What date did the account become delinquent?

  What date did you (the debt collector) obtain the debt?

  What was the amount of debt when you (the debt collector) obtained it?

  On what date will the debt's statute of limitations (the time you can no longer be sued for the debt) expire?

If you don't believe you owe the deb or you already paid it:

  Please provide documentation proving I'm required to pay.

  Please provide me with a copy of the last bill.


Resolve issues with debt collectors

If the debt isn't legitimate (if it's not yours or you already paid it), don't delay in disputing it. Use the second letter template to send the debt collector a letter disputing the debt immediately. You may lose your ability to dispute the debt if you wait.

If the claim is legitimate, don't despair. At least now you know what you're dealing with. You still have options, depending on your financial situation and what you want to do with the debt.

  • Negotiate a payment plan that'll give you more time to pay down your debt
  • Pay the debt in full and move on
  • Try to settle with the debt collector on a total amount of what you’re willing to pay that'll fully resolve the account

If you're sued by a debt collector, be sure to respond to court documents. If you don’t respond to court documents, or if you don’t show up for a court hearing, the court will usually issue a money judgment against you. You may want a lawyer to advise or represent you at the hearing.


Letter Template One
Download this sample letter to help you better clarify the collector's request, if you think the debt is legitimate.


Letter Template Two
Download this sample letter to help you prepare to dispute the debt.


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