Although I’ve never personally had any debt sent to a real collector, I know there are many people who have. When dealing with any type of collections, it’s very important to know your rights. Companies attempting to collecting their money will often take extreme, aggressive measures to induce you to pay them. By knowing your rights, you can help to avoid some of the embarrassment and headache that comes with being late on paying your debt.

The main source of rights for someone in collections comes from the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Firstly, you should understand the FDCPA only applies to collection agencies. The original creditors themselves are not bound by these same rules. This means that when Citibank contacts you about your late credit card payment, they can violate some of these rules. However, most companies prefer to hand the collections part off to someone else after a certain point, rather than having a huge internal collections department. Your debt is often sold off to a third party for a % of the amount owed. Let’s say Citibank sells your $10,000 credit card debt to a collection agency for $2,000. So anything above $2,000 that the agency collects is profit. This is why you’re often able to settle with credit card companies. They’d often rather get cash from you now than sell it to collections. Better to get $3,000 by settling with you, than sell the debt for $2,000. But settling your debt is another topic for another time.

Collections Past DueIn most instances, the collections agency must contract you directly. They are allowed to contact third parties in order to obtain information about your whereabouts so that they can contact you directly, but they are not allowed to disclose that they are a collection agency or that you owe a debt. Once the collection agency is able to contact you directly, they must deal only with you. There are rules in place to make sure that they only make your life somewhat miserable, not completely miserable. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits the collection agency from calling you at inconvenient times. This generally means that they can call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., but not before or after that time slot. The collection agency is also barred from making ale claims or using abusive language. Collection agents are likely to take two approaches: they’ll either be very aggressive (bad cop), or they’ll attempt to become your friend (good cop).

If you’re being contacted by a collector and you don’t intend on paying the debt, you can stop all contact by the collection agency. All you have to do is notify the agency in writing that you will not pay the debt and that you demand they stop further communication. Once you do this, they can only contact you to inform you of a pending lawsuit. Best of all, if the agency causes any damage, you can sue for actual damages caused by the agency’s misconduct. If they get you fired because they called you at your work place, you better make sure they pay for it. Literally.