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Advice If You're Being Harassed by Collection Agent

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UpdatedMay 20, 2024
Key Takeaways:
  • Know your rights under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.
  • Take the right steps to stop debt collector harassment.
  • Pursue legal action, if you have been the victim of illegal debt collections practices.

Are debt collectors allowed to lie about why they are contacting someone?

Are debt collectors allowed to lie? I just got a call from Northland Group. They asked for me and said the reason for the call was to verify me as a personal reference for someone I had never heard of. This seems like a shady technique and I'm wondering if it is legal.

Third-party debt collectors or collection agents pursue payments on debts owed by individuals or businesses. Collections agents may work on behalf of a creditor, or may purchase the account receivable from the creditor for a fraction of the account's face value.

Fair Debt Collections Practices Act

All third-party collection agents are regulated by a federal law called the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. When an original creditor has a department or group that functions as a collection agent the original creditor becomes bound by the provisions of the FDCPA. Also, in Texas, New York, and California, all original creditors at all times are bound by the FDCPA.

The FDCPA states, among other things, that collection agents may not make false or misleading statements while attempting to collect debts. To learn more about your rights under the FDCPA, I encourage you to visit the Federal Trade Commission FDCPA FAQ.

After learning more about your rights as a consumer, if you believe the collection agent who contacted you is violating the FDCPA, you may wish to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and your state Attorney General's (AG) consumer protection office. To find contact information for the AG's office in your state, see the National Association of Attorneys General list of AGs.

Once you file a complaint with the AG's office, the AG's staff will contact the collection agency to notify the company of your complaint, and what action you want the agency to take to resolve your complaint. Filing complaints against the collector will likely stop the telephone calls you have been receiving. Depending on the seriousness of the allegations, the collector may also be willing to forgive all or a portion of the debt claimed in order to settle your complaints.

Filing a Lawsuit Against a Collection Agent

In addition to filing complaints against the collection agent for violating the FDCPA, you may have a "cause of action" to file a lawsuit against the company. A cause of action is a reason under the law to file a lawsuit. I frequently see consumers file claims successfully for statutory damages allowed by federal law.

If you are interested in pursuing legal action against the collection agency, I would encourage you to consult with a consumer rights attorney licensed in your state who can review your case. If the attorney thinks a viable case exists, he may be able to help you in filing a lawsuit against the collector for damages caused by its illegal collection activity. The National Association of Consumer Advocates will help you find a consumer rights attorney in your area who can assist you in pursuing legal action against this collection agency, if you choose to do so.

Cease Communication Demand Letter

If your primary goal is to stop the phone calls you are receiving from collectors, you may be better served by simply sending a written cease communication demand letter to the agency. Under the provisions of the FDCPA, a debt collector is required to stop calling you (with very limited exceptions) if you notify the agency in writing to cease communications.

For an example of a cease communication (a.k.a., cease and desist) letter, see the debt self-help center. If you decide to send a cease communication request, I encourage you to use certified mail, return receipt requested; this will provide you proof that your letter was received in case the collector continues to call and you need to take further action against the agency.

In many cases, sending a C&D letter will end the collection calls, so you may find that no further action is needed on your part. However, if you do continue to receive collection calls, you may need to take further action such as filing complaints and/or legal action, as outlined above.

Resolve the Debt

Federal law provides you with a significant protection against abusive collection tactics by debt collectors. That said, stopping collection calls does not make the underlying debt go away. I encourage you to visit the Debt Help page to read more about the various debt relief options available to consumers who are struggling with debt.

I wish you the best of luck in resolving this debt, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.



Debt statistics

Debt is used to buy a home, pay for bills, buy a car, or pay for a college education. According to the NY Federal Reserve total household debt as of Q4 2023 was $17.503 trillion. Auto loan debt was $1.607 trillion and credit card was $1.129 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%.

The amount of debt and debt in collections vary by state. For example, in Maine, 24% have any kind of debt in collections and the median debt in collections is $1598. Medical debt is common and 15% have that in collections. The median medical debt in collections is $825.

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.



JJason, Jun, 2020

hey guys I've recently got a letter from speesy cash. Then I've claimed It was Fraudulent and then they told me to get a police report etc. Did that and then later I got a mail saying I need to pay them. And I contact them again and they said they haven't gotten a report. So after that I contact they officer again and he sent them again to their fax. And then couple weeks they hired Ad Astra to collect! And this happened during the start of this COVID 19 stuff. I'm 25 years old and I finally cleaned my first and last debt just to get another one. Any advice and help I can get? This really stresses me out.

DDaniel Cohen, Jun, 2020

Jason, I am not a lawyer so whatever I share is not to be taken as legal advice.

When you first got somehting in the mail, a good step would have been to validate the debt. I am not sure  how long ago your were notified by mail.

I don't know what evidence they haveor the size of the debt that they say you owe, but if you didn't take out the debt and filed a police report about identity theft I think it makes sense to fight this.

Go to and make sure you followed all the right steps. If they sue you, seek a consultation with an attorney.

MMia, Jan, 2014
I was wondering if a debt collector can tell you you're under investigation, to call your family member and tell them you're under investigation, and that they have an appointment to meet you but they need your phone number.
BBill, Jan, 2014
It sounds as if you are being harassed by a debt collector illegally. The only reason a debt collector can contact your family is to locate you. If the collector already is in contact with you, contacting your family is improper.

I recommend that you speak with an attorney who specializes in cases involving violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
MMary, Sep, 2013
My mother in law (MIL) started receiving calls a couple of years ago stating I was going to jail for an unpaid payday loan. I started to receive calls and when I asked for information re: the loan they stopped. Both my MIL and I started receiving calls again telling me they were serving papers if I didn't settle the debt today. They told me to be home between 11-5 to get the summons, but if I changed my mind to call them back. The company is called CT financial. I can't seem to locate anything online about them. The first time I called them they wanted the last four numbers of my Social Security number, I refused to give it without more info as to I was speaking with and the rep said good luck then and hung up. I called back an hour later and they gave me the info and never asked for my Social Security information.
BBill, Sep, 2013
You described a common collection agent tactic: Call a parent of a consumer and say, "The police may put your Johnny (or Janey) in jail if we can't work out a solution to his/her debt problem right away." This is an effective ploy when used on uneducated consumers who do not know that being in debt is not a crime and no one has been jailed for debt since the Civil War.

You mentioned a summons. A summons is used when one party wishes to give notice to another party of a civil lawsuit.

You mentioned a payday loan. See the payday loan laws page to learn more about your state's payday loan laws, and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act page to learn more about your rights under federal law.