Ask Doctor Debt

Understanding the debt collection industry is the first step toward financial freedom. Watch for updates to this consumer-education website.

Avoid Problems by Managing Finances

Careful planning and active communication are important tools in effectively managing personal finances, particularly if you are struggling to make payments on your current debt obligations or are being contacted by a debt collector.

  • Plan and Budget: Before spending money, determine what you can reasonably afford, create a budget and plan for gifts, and stick to it. Keep in mind that purchases on credit will need to be repaid at some point in the future.
  • Track your Spending: Keep tabs on how much you spend to help stay within the guidelines of your budget.
  • Protect your Identity: Be careful about giving personal information including a credit or debit card number over the phone and online. Monitor your accounts and immediately report any suspicious or unauthorized purchases to your bank or credit card company. You should monitor your credit on a regular basis, and are entitled to a free credit report each year at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you believe your identity has been stolen, contact your local police department.

Communicate with Creditors

Having trouble making payments on an existing debt? Contact the creditor to discuss alternative payment arrangements. It won’t eliminate your debt, but it can make things more manageable. Communication is particularly important if you are behind in payments to a creditor (e.g., credit card, loan, mortgage, medical) as it may help avoid a derogatory mark (e.g., a late payment) appearing on credit reports.

Communicate with the Debt Collector

In the event you hear from a debt collector, avoiding a letter or call won’t make the debt go away. The reason for the contact cannot be resolved without the ability to communicate; whether it’s to pay an owed debt, verify an alleged debt or confirm that the debt collector has reached the wrong person.

The When and Where of Collection Calls

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and state debt collection laws protect the rights of consumers in a variety of ways, including placing certain restrictions on a debt collector’s ability to contact consumers by telephone. A debt collector may not place calls to consumers with excessive frequency or at times or places that are known or should be known to be inconvenient.

The following information is a discussion of consumer rights in relation to debt collection calls under the FDCPA. Many state laws simply mirror the FDCPA, however, some state laws offer additional protections for consumers. Therefore, you should also look at your own state’s laws to determine when, where and how many times a collector may contact you.

Section 805 of the FDCPA prohibits a debt collector from calling you at any unusual time or place that is known or should be known to be inconvenient for you. Therefore, if it is inconvenient for you to receive calls at particular times or places, you should inform the collector of this fact. The collector then has a legal responsibility not to contact you during those times or at those places. This request does not have to be in writing to be effective, as collectors must obey your oral request not to be contacted at certain times.
If the collector is unaware of any inconvenient times to contact you, the FDCPA assumes convenient times to contact you are after 8 a.m. and before 9 p.m. in your time zone. However, if you inform the collector you work nights and it is inconvenient to receive calls during the day, the collector may not call you during daytime hours.
A debt collector may contact you at your place of employment unless you inform the debt collector it is inconvenient for you to receive calls at work, or the collector should know that such calls are inconvenient. Debt collectors must comply with your oral or written request not to be contacted at work.
A debt collector is not prohibited from contacting you on a Sunday unless the debt collector knows or should know it is inconvenient for you to receive a call on Sunday. If you request not be contacted on any particular day of the week, the debt collector may not call you on that day. The FDCPA does not bar telephone calls on any particular holidays, however, a debt collector may not contact you on a holiday if the collector knows or should know that contacting you on that holiday would be an inconvenience. Thus, you can tell the collector, “Don’t call me on Memorial Day,” and the collector must obey your request not to be called on Memorial Day.

Under the FDCPA, you may send a letter to a collector requesting all collection calls to cease. In order to be effective, such a request must be made in writing. Once the request is received by the collector, the collector may only contact you once more to inform you collection efforts will cease or to notify you of the specific remedies the collector or creditor ordinarily uses or intends to use in its attempts to further collect the debt from you.

If you are unable to receive calls at any specific time or place, it is very important you notify the collector of this fact to invoke your rights under the law. You can then work with the collector to arrange times to communicate which would be convenient for you.

About Doctor Debt

Doctor Debt was created by the members of ACA International, the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, reflecting the desire ACA International members have to treat each consumer with dignity and respect, along with offering solutions that benefit both the consumer and the creditor who is owed money on a past-due bill.

Why would an organization made up of credit and debt collection professionals want to help consumers? Simple—educated consumers who understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to the credit and debt collection process are far easier to work with than those who do not. In addition, dealing with debt and credit issues can be an emotional and sometimes intimidating process. It doesn't need to be. If you know your rights, fully understand the situation you're in and what options are available, you can avoid unnecessary stress while making the best decision for you and your family's financial well-being.

To all our users, thank you for visiting the Dr. Debt website.  We are in the process of building a bigger, more comprehensive website with information on a wide range of topics relevant to the credit and collections industry.  We are confident you will find the new site we build to be an incredibly valuable resource.  Please check back often as we continue to update the content.