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Fair Debt Collections Practices Acts : understanding your rights under the FDCPA


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Betsalel Cohen
UpdatedMay 16, 2024
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    7 min read
Key Takeaways:
  • Your Rights Are Protected: The FDCPA ensures that consumers are treated fairly by third-party debt collectors, prohibiting harassment, false statements, and the use of unfair collection methods.
  • Verification and Dispute: You have the right to request debt verification and dispute inaccuracies, which can halt collection efforts until the debt is verified.
  • Control Over Communications: The FDCPA allows you to set boundaries on how and when debt collectors can contact you, including the right to demand that all communications cease.

Collection letters, phone calls, and dealing with debt collectors can be confusing and stressful. Thankfully, some rules help protect you from unfair debt collection practices. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the major law that protects consumers by making sure debt collectors follow fair practices and don't violate their rights.

This guide will help you understand your rights and what to do if you face debt collection.

What is the FDCPA?

The Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that protects consumers from abusive, deceptive, and unfair practices by third-party debt collectors and collection agencies. It prohibits actions like harassment, making false statements, and using unfair methods to collect debts. The FDCPA covers most personal debts, like what you might owe on credit cards, medical bills, car loans, or your mortgage. 

Some key things the FDCPA does:

  • Stops debt collectors from engaging in harassment or abuse, such as using profane language, making threats, or repeatedly calling at unreasonable hours.
  • It prevents debt collectors from using deception, such as falsely representing the amount owed or misrepresenting themselves.
  • It gives consumers the right to request debt validation from the collector and dispute inaccurate information.
  • Requires debt collectors to identify themselves and provide written notice about the debt.

The FDCPA applies to third-party debt collection agencies working for others rather than original creditors collecting their debts. Violations can result in actual damages and penalties.

What are the restrictions on debt collectors?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act places several important restrictions on the actions of third-party debt collectors. It grants specific rights to consumers while prohibiting debt collectors from engaging in harassment, deception, or unfair practices.

Sets limits on debt collector behaviors

The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from engaging in harassment or abuse toward consumers. Specifically, they can't:

  • Use violence, threats, obscene/profane language, or repeatedly call to annoy
  • Publish lists of consumers who refuse to pay debts
  • Call you at unreasonable hours, typically before 8 AM or after 9 PM
  • Contact you at work after being told it's unacceptable
  • Communicate about the debt with third parties other than your spouse or attorney

Makes clear what are unfair practices and misrepresentations

The law prevents debt collectors from using deception or making false, misleading statements such as:

  • Falsely representing the amount of debt owed
  • Misrepresenting themselves as attorneys, law enforcement, or other officials
  • Making empty threats of legal action that cannot or won't actually be taken
  • Communicating via embarrassing methods like postcards or symbols on envelopes

Furthermore, debt collectors can't engage in unfair practices like:

  • Trying to collect interest, fees, or charges not legally owed or permitted
  • Contacting you directly after you send a written cease communication request (except to confirm ceased communication or notify of legal action)
  • Filing lawsuits in improper venues outside where you live or signed the contract
  • Reporting inaccurate information or threatening to report false information to credit bureaus

The FDCPA gives you the right to get proof of the debt

Besides protecting you from unfair debt collection methods, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives you the right to request proof of any debt.

This means you can ask the debt collector for:

  • The name and address of the original lender or creditor
  • Evidence that you actually owe them the debt they are trying to collect

However, there's a catch. You must challenge the debt in writing within 30 days of receiving the debt collector's initial "validation notice" about the debt.

If you make this written request within the 30-day window, the debt collector must provide you with the proof and debt details before trying to collect any further. Getting this verification can help you avoid paying debts you don't actually owe.

Who does the FDCPA apply to?

The FDCPA applies to third-party debt collectors-agencies or attorneys hired to collect debts initially owed by someone else. It covers their activities when collecting consumer debts like mortgages, credit cards, medical bills, or other personal, family, and household debts.

It's important to know that the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) doesn't apply to original creditors collecting their debts. If you owe money to a credit card company, hospital, or utility company and they're trying to collect the debt themselves, the FDCPA rules don't apply to them.

If the original creditor hands off your debt to a third-party collection agency or a lawyer, they take over the collection efforts. When trying to collect from you, these debt collectors must follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) rules.

Exceptions to the FDCPA

While the FDCPA covers most personal debts, there are a few exceptions where it doesn't apply, even for third-party collectors:

  • Debts owed to certain government bodies
  • Debts arising from business/commercial activities (vs. consumer/household use)
  • Debts related to paying alimony or child support

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) rules still apply to most personal debts, protecting consumers against the actions of third-party debt collectors.

Did a debt collector contact you? The FDCPA can help.

The FDCPA grants consumers certain rights and allows for remedies if debt collectors violate the law.

Verify your debt

The first step you need to take is to make sure that the debt collector is legitimate and has the right to collect your debt:

How can you verify if someone contacting you about a debt is a legitimate third-party collector that the FDCPA covers? Debt collectors are required to send you a written validation notice very soon after first contacting you, which must state:

  1. The debt collector is trying to collect a debt
  2. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose

If you don't receive this required notice, that's a red flag that the "collector" may not be legitimate or subject to the FDCPA.

Right-to debt verification

You have the right to ask the debt collector to prove the debt is really yours. If you send them a letter within 30 days of getting their first notice, you can ask for proof of the debt.

If you do this, they must only try to collect the debt once they send you information about it. This information should include who originally lent you the money and how much you owe.

Right to dispute the debt

If you believe there's an error in the debt you are being asked to pay, you have the right to dispute it. Simply send a letter to the debt collector within 30 days of receiving their initial message. After doing so, they are required to thoroughly review the debt and provide evidence before resuming collection efforts.

Limitations on debt collector communications:

The law sets rules on how debt collectors can talk to you. They must listen if you tell them in writing that you don't want them to contact you anymore. They're only allowed to reach out to let you know they won't bother you again or if they're planning to take you to court. Also, they can't call you too early in the morning or too late at night—before 8 AM or after 9 PM is off-limits. And they definitely can't keep calling you over and over to the point of harassment.

How to report FDCPA violations

The FDCPA provides avenues for consumers to report violations and seek recourse against unscrupulous debt collectors.

Steps to report violations

If a debt collector has crossed the line and broken the rules, don't just grin and bear it. You can fight back by reporting their shady behavior. Here's how:

  1. Let the authorities know what's up. File complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or your state's attorney general's office. These groups oversee debt collectors and can investigate.
  2. Gather your evidence. Any paperwork, emails, letters, or recordings you have of the collector's crummy conduct will help prove your case. Hang onto anything that shows they violated the law.

Seeking Legal Assistance

It may be beneficial to consider hiring a consumer rights attorney if the violations are especially severe. These attorneys know debt collection laws inside and out. They can help you file an official complaint and potentially sue the collector if they seriously broke the rules.

The debt collection process has laws for a reason—to stop collectors from behaving badly. If one has trampled your rights, use these steps to hold their feet to the fire. You don't have to take harassment or illegal actions lying down.

Bill's Action Plan-using the FDCPA to your advantage

Don't let debt collectors push you around. You've got rights, and there's a law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that keeps collectors in line. Here's how to use it to your advantage:

  1. Get to know the FDCPA inside and out. Learn what collectors can and can't do. Knowing the rules gives you power when they contact you. You'll understand if they overstep and feel confident calling them out.
  2. Stand up for your rights. If a collector harasses you, lies, or does anything else the FDCPA doesn't allow, don't just take it. File complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, and your state's consumer protection office. 
  3. Write it all down. Every time a collector calls, emails or sends a letter, make a note of it - the date, time, who you spoke with, and what was said. Detailed records make it easier to prove misconduct if you need to dispute the debt or report violations.
  4. When in doubt, get professional help. If you're confused about your rights or a collector is giving you a hard time, talk to a consumer lawyer. They know all the tricks collectors pull and can guide you on the best way to fight back if needed.

The FDCPA exists to protect you. Use these steps to make it your ally against shady debt collector behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a statute of limitations on debt, and how does it affect me?


The statute of limitations (SOL) on debt is the maximum time creditors or collection agencies have to file a lawsuit to collect a debt. This period varies by state and type of debt. If you get sued after the deadline set by the statute of limitations, the debt collector has broken the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. But if you don't show up in court and use the statute of limitations as a defense, the court might still order you to pay the debt. However, the debt doesn't disappear—it just means the collector can't sue you. Knowing the SOL for your debt is essential to protect yourself from legal actions over old debts.

How do I deal with collection agencies trying to collect a debt?


Dealing with collection agencies can be stressful, but knowing your rights is key. First, always request debt verification to make sure the debt is yours and the amount is correct. You can also set communication preferences or request no further contact, as allowed under the FDCPA. If you're dealing with an aggressive agency, consider seeking advice from a consumer rights attorney to explore your options. They can help negotiate a settlement or dispute the debt if it's not valid.

Who are MRS Associates, and why are they contacting me?


MRS Associates is a debt collection agency that works for creditors to collect outstanding debts. If MRS Associates are contacting you, it likely means they're trying to collect a debt they believe you owe. Remember, you have rights under the FDCPA, including requesting a debt verification letter to confirm the debt's validity. If you don't recognize the debt or believe there's an error, you can dispute it in writing within 30 days of their first contact.

Debt statistics

Mortgages, credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and auto loans are common types of debts. According to the NY Federal Reserve total household debt as of Q4 2023 was $17.503 trillion. Housing debt totaled $12.612 trillion and non-housing debt was $4.891 trillion.

According to data gathered by from a sample of credit reports, about 26% of people in the US have some kind of debt in collections. The median debt in collections is $1,739. Student loans and auto loans are common types of debt. Of people holding student debt, approximately 10% had student loans in collections. The national Auto/Retail debt delinquency rate was 4%.

Collection and delinquency rates vary by state. For example, in Minnesota, 18% have student loan debt. Of those holding student loan debt, 5% are in default. Auto/retail loan delinquency rate is 2%.

To maintain an excellent credit score it is vital to make timely payments. However, there are many circumstances that lead to late payments or debt in collections. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to deal with debt including debt consolidation and debt relief solutions.



SStacey austin, Feb, 2024
Can a HOA hire an outside law firm as a collection agency and them place a property lien with no notice given not a bill from the HOA nor said collection agency . HOA dues 135.00 price to remove Lien 1600.00
SShae, Dec, 2020

Can a wire transfer be intercepted to collect a debt? The creditors garnished one account. But have no knowledge of current accounts that I am considering sending wire transfer into

BBetsalel Cohen, Dec, 2020

Garnishments or bank levies are on specific accounts and not on funds in transit. However, can you be sure that a creditor doesn't know about your accounts? Think carefully about how you can protect your assets.

TTalecia, Oct, 2020

Is it true that we are protected for getting our bank account garnished in Texas if we filed Head of Household?

DDaniel Cohen, Oct, 2020

Talecia, head of household status doesn't prevent your bank account being garnished if you have a judgment against you. Texas collection laws protect wages strongly, but all funds in a bank account that has a judgment-debtor's name on it can be grabbed (unless the funds themselves are protected, such as social security income).

MMedatra Dixon, Feb, 2020

I have been with a payday loan lender for a little over 1 year now. I never had any previous problems with payments until recently when, I lost my job. I explained to them that I was no longer working at this time, have no income coming in, and I don't intend for debt to go unnoticed. Is it true that they aren't allowed to harass me? They told me they have to keep calling until debt is paid. I receive 1-3 phone calls daily from them? How do I take care of this?

DDaniel Cohen, Feb, 2020

Medatra, I am not a lawyer, so please understand that any information I share is not to be considered legal advice.

Here are a few suggestions:

Payday loans are meant to be a short-term solution, with the debt paid off in one or two pay cycles. States have laws that regulate the terms of payday loans. Please check the payday loan laws in your state and check with the regulator in your state to see if your lender is following the law. If it is not acting consistent with the law, you may have greater flexibility in how any debt is repaid. You even may be eligible to have something that they say you owe declared no longer you responsiblity to pay.

Creditors are not allowed to harass you. 3 calls a day is excessive. I don't know if there is a violation, but a good way to check is to contact an attorney that handles violations of the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act). They don't charge you a fee but will take the case if they feel they can win and get money from the creditor harassing you. Do a search online for FDCPA attorney and the name of the city in which you live. Please report back on how things go for you!

TTami, Nov, 2022
Payday loans NO they can not call you after you tell them to stop, they note your account. If they continue report them to corporate and ftc. Put a stop payment on your check and your in the clear until maybe you can pay them someday. They can't redeposit the check. I was a manager of a payday loan store I know the tricks!
JJen, Oct, 2019

I just had a collection agency after 10 years which is definitely a time barred situation. Statute of limitation. Threaten to sue me which is technically illegal. They think we don’t know this!

DDaniel Cohen, Oct, 2019

Contact an attorney that handles violations of the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) to see if the law was broken. They don't charge you a fee but will take the case if they feel they can win and get money from the creditor harassing you. Do a search online for FDCPA attorney and the name of the city in which you live. If you try this, please report back on how things go for you!