Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ > Debt Collection FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions



Can a debt still affect my credit even if it’s several years old?
Even if your debt is several years old and the deadline for filing a lawsuit to collect it has expired, your debt still may be reported to the credit reporting companies and will negatively affect your credit score. Accurate negative information may stay on your credit report for up to seven years; bankruptcies stay on your credit report for 10 years.

How can I get a debt collector to stop contacting me?

Federal law protects you against being harassed by debt collectors. Write the collector a letter asking that they not contact you anymore. To ensure that the collector receives the letter, send it via certified mail.

However, if the debt belongs to you, even if a debt collector stops contacting you, you still owe the debt.

May a debt collector call me at work?
Yes, but you can specifically request not to be contacted at work. Also, if the debt collector knows that your employer disapproves, the collector may not contact you at work.

May a debt collector contact other people about my debt?
If debt collectors know you have an attorney, they can contact the attorney and no one else. Otherwise, they can contact others, such as neighbors or relatives, but only to find out how to reach you. They cannot contact third parties for any other reason unless you have given them prior consent to do so.

My debt is several years old. Can debt collectors still collect?
Yes. Debt does not expire or disappear until you pay it. If a debt is valid, you still owe it until you pay it off, no matter how much time passes. However, the law limits the amount of time during which a debt collector may take legal action to collect a debt. Statutes of limitation vary depending on the type of debt.

What are my rights regarding debt collection?

A debt collector must send you an initial letter within five days of contacting you to tell you the amount of the debt you owe, the name of the creditor to whom you owe the debt, your rights to dispute the debt and how to request verification of the debt.

Debt collectors may not:

  • Use false names or statements, such as falsely implying that they are attorneys, government representatives or credit bureau representatives
  • Threaten you or your family with harm
  • Use obscene words when talking to you
  • Contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Contact you without identifying themselves
  • Tell others about your debt or publish the names of those who owe debts
  • Falsely represent that you have committed a crime 
  • Misrepresent the amount you owe on your debt

What happens if I get sued by a debt collector?

If you get served with court papers, do not ignore them. Open and read them carefully. In Ohio, you have 28 days after you have been served with court papers to answer or respond to the complaint. If you disagree with the amount of money claimed, or you do not believe you owe the money, you should respond. This is called filing an answer.

Always read all correspondence you get from a court or debt collector’s attorney. These papers contain important information about court dates and other obligations.

For more information about getting sued by a debt collector, visit Ohio Legal Services at To find a civil legal aid provider, call (866) LAW-OHIO (866-529-6446).

What if I believe I do not owe the debt or I want proof of the debt?
If you wish to dispute the debt or request verification of the debt, send a letter requesting verification of the debt to the debt collector within 30 days of receiving the initial letter.  The debt collector must not contact you again unless the collector sends proof that you owe the money. 

What laws protect me from abusive debt collectors?
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act protect consumers from abusive, deceptive and unfair debt collection practices. Although the law requires debt collectors to treat you fairly and prohibits certain methods of debt collection, it does not erase any legitimate debt that you owe.

What legal action can I take against a debt collector?
If you believe a debt collector has violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, you may sue the collector in federal or state court within one year from the date the violation occurred.

Where can I file a complaint about a debt collector?
If you have a problem with a debt collector, you may file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or (800) 282-0515 and with the Federal Trade Commission at or (877) FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).

Where can I get a lawyer?
Legal aid programs in Ohio provide legal assistance to low-income Ohioans. Contact your local legal aid program at (866) LAW-OHIO (866-529-6446) or visit

Which debts are covered under consumer protection laws?
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act cover consumer debts used primarily for personal, family or household purposes, such as credit cards, auto loans, utility bills, medical bills, mortgages and some student loans. They do not cover debt owed to a governmental agency, such as unpaid parking tickets, child support or taxes.

Who is a debt collector?
If you fall behind on money you owe to a creditor, you may be contacted by a debt collector. A debt collector is anyone who regularly collects or tries to collect debts owed to others. This term applies to attorneys who collect debts on a regular basis, but it does not apply to original creditors collecting their own debts. 

Who is a debtor?
If you use credit cards, personal loans, home mortgage loans or automobile loans, you are a debtor who owes money to a creditor (such as your bank or credit card provider).