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By Charlestien Harris

Since the pandemic, more people are having to deal with debt collectors.  Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to know what rights you have as a consumer and the law that was created to protect you from abusive debt practices. 

In 1977, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was established as a federal law that limits the behavior and actions of third-party debt collectors who are attempting to collect debts on behalf of another person or entity. The law, amended in 2010, restricts the means and methods by which collectors can contact debtors, as well as the time of day and number of times contact can be made.  

If you feel overwhelmed because debt collectors keep calling for payment, you have more power than you realize. You just need to be aware of your rights and how to use them.  The debt collection law gives consumers strong protections against predatory practices, such as calling you late at night, using harassing language and pursuing you for a debt you don’t owe. Exercising these rights can help you gain control of your dealings with debt collectors. 

You control communication with debt collectors.  You can limit when and how debt collectors contact you. They’re not allowed to call at any inconvenient time or place and can’t tell third parties about your debt.  What this means is that debt collectors can’t contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. nor can they contact you at work once you ask them not to.  If you are represented by an attorney, they must communicate through your attorney and must cease contact entirely if you request it in writing.

Communicating with third parties, such as your employer, neighbors and family is also against the law.  The other side to that caveat is once you request non communication from the debt collector, they are not obligated to serve notice when they seek legal action against you that can result in wage garnishment.  So be very careful and make sure you want them to stop communicating with you completely. 

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from using any harassing or abusive practices while attempting to collect the debt.  Along with other restrictions, debt collectors cannot use profane language, threaten or use violence, call repeatedly to annoy or harass you, call you to collect payment without identifying themselves as debt collectors nor can they list your debt for sale to the public. 

Debt collectors must be truthful. FDCPA states that debt collectors cannot use any false, deceptive or misleading representation to collect the debt.  Along with other restrictions, debt collectors cannot misrepresent the amount of the debt and they can’t falsely threaten legal repercussions for not paying the debt. 

Most states have statute of limitation laws that also govern how long a debt can be legally collected from a consumer.  What Is the Statute of Limitations on debt you might ask?  The statute of limitations prevents creditors from suing debtors after a certain period, but the debt remains on your credit report.  All consumer debts, from credit card balances to medical bills, have limits on the number of years creditors have a legal right to sue you for payment. 

Generally, the state law where you live determines the statute of limitations on specific debts, even if you incurred the debt elsewhere. In some states, the statute of limitations for credit card debt is three years. In others, it’s up to 10.  Be sure to check your state’s statute of limitations law for clarity. After the statute of limitations on debt passes, the debt is considered time restricted and you can’t legally be sued — but collectors may still try.  Your obligation to pay the debt stays on the books, meaning that future creditors will see it and that can make it harder for you to get new lines of credit, or can likely result in higher interest rates.

Determining if a debt is past its statute involves looking at what type of debt it is and what statutes are applicable.  Contact your State Attorney General Consumer Protection Division for that information.  If you’re sued for a debt after the statute of limitations, show up to court to defend your case with your proof that the time period has passed.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and HUD Approved Counseling Agencies are two resources that are available to you for additional information. If you have other financial topics of interest please contact me at 662-624-5776 or by email at  Until next week, stay financially fit!