A “debt collector” is someone who usually works on behalf of third party creditors and continuously tries to collect from the debtors. A debt collector may reach out to you if you are behind on your credit card or mortgage payments, or if there is any kind of error in your account.
A debt collector may communicate with you in person, via mail, email, telephone, telegram or fax. However, a debt collector cannot reach out to such an extent where the communication might seem as harassment. A debt collector may not communicate with you at your place of work if your employer does not entertain that. Again, a debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient hours of the day, like before 8 am. or after 9 pm unless you consent to that.
Within 5 days of the initial communication, a debt collector is required to send you a written notice telling the actual amount you owe, the name of the actual creditor, and further, the actions you should take if you believe that you do not owe the said debt.
You can stop a debt collector from harassing you just by sending a 'cease and desist' letter directly to the collection agency. Once the agency receives your letter, they may not contact you again regarding the collection procedures. However, they may contact you only for once after this just to let you know about the specific actions they are going to take.
If you believe that the debt stated is not incurred by you, you may send the collection agency a 'debt validation' letter within 30 days of the first communication stating to validate the debt. The agency may not contact you again unless they verify that the debt is owed by you.
A debt collector may not harass or abuse you. For example, a debt collector may not make use of threats or any kind of violent activities against the person, his reputation, or property; use obscene or profane language, tell other people (relatives, neighbors, or colleagues) about the debt, or repeatedly call the debtor with an intention to harass. Again, while communicating, a debt collector is required to disclose proper details of his identity, and whom he is working with.
A debt collector may not make use of false statements while communications. He may not pose as an attorney, representative of a credit bureau or a government agent. He may not say that you have committed a crime, indicate the papers he sends as legal documents or misinterpret the amount you owe.
Debt collectors may not tell that you'll be arrested if you fail to pay the debt you owe. They may not say that they will seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they really intend to do so and moreover, has a legal right for doing that.
Complaints against collection agencies may be filed either with the Office of Financial Regulation or with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Apart from this, you can also file a lawsuit against the collection agency for violating the state and/or federal law. You may get compensated for your actual damages in case you win.