Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), it is illegal for a collection agency’s debt collectors to call you before 8 AM or after 9 PM in your time zone. The FDCPA also bars collectors from:

  • Calling a debtor at work
  • Harassment
  • Using abusive language
  • Making false or misleading statements
  • Adding unauthorized charges
  • Making threats

Since the FDCPA prohibits collections agencies from engaging in these practices, the act also gives you the right to demand that the collection agency stop contacting you, except to tell you that collection efforts have ended or that the creditor or collection agency will sue you in connection to your unpaid debt. Keep in mind that this demand must be in writing.

Does the FDCPA Also Apply to Vendors or Merchants?

No, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies only to bill collectors who work for collection agencies. Several states also have laws that bar debt collectors working for a collection agency or for the creditor itself from harassing, abusing, or threatening you or making any false or misleading statement. These state laws, however, usually do not give you the right to demand that the collector stop contacting you.  

Is a Form Demand Letter with a Lawyer’s Signature a Legitimate Collection Technique?

Perhaps not. Under the FDCPA, a lawyer must review each individual collection case before putting their name on a collection letter. This means that the lawyer cannot simply authorize that a form letter be sent and then let the bill collector send it, with the lawyer’s signature, if the lawyer has not reviewed the particular debtor’s file. To put a stop to it, you may be able to sue the lawyer for up to $1,000 in small claims court for violating the FDCPA. 

Can a Debt Collector Insist That Payment Be Sent by Express Mail or Wire Transfer?

No, and it could add a lot to your debt if you did. Many collectors, especially when a debt is more than 90 days past due, will suggest several "urgency payment" options, including:

  • Sending money by express or overnight mail when a first class stamp is fine
  • Wiring money
  • Putting payments on a credit card

However, you are not required to agree to any of these options if you do not want to, so long as you still agree to pay the debt in a reasonable manner.

Can a Collection Agency Add Interest to My Debt?

A collection agency can not add interest to your debt unless it was called for in your original agreement or allowed under your state’s laws.  Many states do authorize the collection of such interest.

Do I Need an Attorney If I Am Being Harassed by Debt Collectors?

Harassment by debt collectors can be very stressful.  If you are being contacted by debt collectors in ways you believe are improper, consult with an experienced collection attorney who knows the acceptable debt collection practices in your area.