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5 Things Debt Collectors Can't Do

The Motley Fool logo The Motley Fool 5/9/2021 Maurie Backman
a man sitting at a table using a laptop computer: 5 Things Debt Collectors Can't Do © Provided by The Motley Fool 5 Things Debt Collectors Can't Do a man sitting at a table using a laptop computer: Frustrated man on phone at laptop © Getty Images Frustrated man on phone at laptop

Maybe you racked up a hefty balance on your credit cards and have fallen behind on your payments. Or maybe there's an outstanding medical bill you still owe money on.

When you fall behind on a debt, it's common for your account to be turned over to a debt collection agency. But debt collectors aren't above the law. Here are a few things they aren't allowed to do.

1. Use threatening or obscene language

While debt collectors are allowed to strongly encourage you to make good on your debt, they still have to treat you with respect. This means that they're not allowed to use language that would be considered inappropriate for regular TV. They're also not allowed to threaten your safety in the course of trying to get you to pay.

2. Come to your place of work to demand payment

Just because you're in debt doesn't mean you don't have the right to privacy. If you owe money, debt collectors are allowed to call you at work unless you instruct them otherwise. But they can't show up at your place of work and announce your debts to your office.

3. Call you at unreasonable hours

You may get annoying calls from debt collectors during the day while you're trying to work, or in the evening when you're trying to cook dinner or wrangle your kids into bed. What's more, you may be contacted by debt collectors via phone, email, text message, or even your social media account. But debt collectors are not allowed to call or text you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., so keep those hours in mind and make a note of any debt collector that violates that regulation.

4. Discuss your debt with anyone else

As mentioned above, your debt is your own private business. If you've retained an attorney to represent you in matters relating to your debt, you can instruct your debt collectors to contact your lawyer, and from there, they can discuss your debt with that person. But a debt collector cannot discuss the details of your debt with your boss, your mom, your brother, or anyone else. Now, one thing debt collectors can do is contact your relatives in an attempt to get an updated address or phone number for you -- but they can't delve into the details of why they're calling.

5. Lie about who they are

Debt collectors cannot claim to be anything but what they are. If they contact you claiming to be government agents, for example, that's against the law. Similarly, debt collectors can't attempt to trick you into paying by claiming to be bankers who will freeze your assets immediately if you don't comply.

Know your rights

Just because you owe money doesn't mean you deserve to be mistreated, so be sure to read up on your rights if you're behind on outstanding financial obligations. And if a debt collector does cross the line, you may want to contact an attorney to discuss your options. At the very least, you'll want to make sure to put an end to any practice that's considered harassment or causes you undue distress.

If you're looking for more information about getting caught up on your overdue bills, check out our guide on how to pay off debt.

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