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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > September 2015 > What to Know About Debt Collection Calls

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What to Know About Debt Collection Calls

When dealing with a debt collector, it is important to understand your rights and to distinguish between a legitimate debt collector, a debt collector who fails to comply with the law, and a likely scam artist.
Knowing what debt collectors can and cannot do under the law will help you avoid fraud.
Laws concerning debt collection are found in the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA specifically covers personal debts being collected by a third-party collector (not the original creditor). Money owed on personal credit cards, auto loans, medical bills, and mortgages are all examples of debts covered by the FDCPA.
Under the law, debt collectors may use phone calls, letters, email, or text messages to attempt to collect a debt, but they cannot:
  • Contact consumers before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m., unless the consumer approves the calls outside these times.
  • Contact a consumer at work if they have been told the consumer is not allowed to receive the calls there.
  • Pretend to be attorneys or impersonate representatives of a government agency if this is not true.
  • Provide information about a debt to anyone but the debtor, an attorney representing the debtor in the matter, or the spouse of the debtor.
  • Harass, threaten, or deceive debtors.
While debt collectors are prohibited from certain acts, they must:
  • Identify themselves when contacting the debtor. 
  • Stop contacting consumers who request to not be contacted. A consumer who wants to prevent any further contact from a collector can send a letter to the collector requesting the communication to end. The collector must then cease contact, with the exception of acknowledging that there will be no further contact or notification that the collector intends to file a lawsuit or take other action. However, this will not get rid of the debt.
  • Send a letter within five days after the initial phone contact that includes the amount owed, to whom it is owed, and how long a consumer has to dispute the debt. Within 30 days of receiving the notification, a consumer can dispute a debt and request verification of the debt by sending a letter to the collector stating that a portion or the full amount of the debt is not owed.                
Although there are many legitimate debt collectors, some “collectors” are scam artists who try to intimidate consumers into sending money or revealing personal information. They often threaten to arrest someone if a debt is not paid immediately. They also may threaten to seize property or garnish wages. Scammers tend to create a sense of urgency but refuse to provide any documentation of the debt. They also will ask for payment using wire-transfers or prepaid money cards. 
If you suspect a scam or unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515 or visiting