Debt Collectors

Published February 7, 2023

Consumers’ Legal Rights and Remedies

Under current state and federal laws, consumers have protection from abusive, unfair, or deceptive debt collection practices. Additionally, the law prescribes specific actions that a debt collector can perform while trying to collect a debt. Along with these guidelines, there are also legal limitations, such as how long a debt is recognized via the statute of limitations. The underlying debt type determines the basis for the validity of a debt. For example, a written credit card debt may be treated differently than an oral loan.

There are different types of debt collectors including attorneys or collection agencies who collect debts as their business. This term can also include companies that purchase “past-due debts from creditors or other businesses and then try to collect them. These debt collectors are also called debt collection agencies, debt collection companies, or debt buyers.” There are various reasons a debt collector may be trying to contact you, including that the creditor believes you are past due on a debt.  A debt collector may call you to locate someone you know, as long as the collector does not reveal that they are collecting a debt or that a debt buyer has bought the debt and is now collecting that debt or is hiring collectors.

Once contacted by a creditor, individuals should be aware of their rights. The below links provide summaries of state and federal consumer laws and several sample letters that can be downloaded to respond to or challenge a collection agent’s demands.

California Attorney General – Debt Collection General Information

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – General Information and Sample Form Letters

Fake and Abusive Debt Collectors – Information about fake or abusive actions by debt collectors

FTC Chart on Responding to Debt Collectors

California Attorney General – Filing Complaint

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – Filing Complaint