There may come a time when you are on the receiving end of a debt collection call. It could happen any time you are behind on paying your bills, or if there is an error in billing. In the US, there are strict guidelines in place that prohibit any type of harassment. If you know your rights, you can deal with debt collection with minimum hassle. Here are some suggestions:
Ask for Non–Threatening Transparency
When a debt collector calls, they must be transparent about who they are. The magic words they must say are: "This is an attempt to collect a debt, and any information obtained will be used for that purpose." In addition, debt collectors may not use offensive or intimidating language, or threaten you with fines or jail time. The most a debt collector can honestly threaten you with is that not paying will harm your credit rating, or that they may sue you in a civil court to collect payment.
Know the Contact Rules
Debt collectors may not contact you outside of "normal" hours, which are between 8 AM and 9 PM local time. They may try to call you at work, but they must stop if you tell them that you cannot receive calls there. Debt collectors may not talk to anyone else about your debt (other than your attorney, if you have one). They may try contacting other people, such as relatives, neighbors, or employers, but it must be solely for trying to find out your phone number, address, or where you work.
If you think the debt is in error in whole or in part, you can send a dispute letter to the collection agency within 30 days of first contact. Ask the collector for their mailing address and let them know you are filing a dispute. They will have to cease all collection activities until they send you legal documentation confirming the debt.
Tell Them to Stop
Whether you dispute the debt or not, at any time you can send a "cease letter" to the collection agency telling them to stop making contact. You don't need to give a specific reason. They will have to stop contact after this point, though they may still choose to pursue legal options in civil court.
If a debt collection agency is not following these rules, report them. Start with your state's attorney general office, and consider filing a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well.