The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governs the conduct of collection agencies and restricts an agency's ability to discuss your debt with others. For the most part, the agency can only go into detail about your debt with you, your spouse or your attorney, if applicable. Under the law, a collection agency can contact a third party to get your phone number, address and employment information. The agency is not allowed, however, to divulge the specifics of the debt with that third party.
If you don't pay a debt, your creditor can hire a collection agency. A collection agency collects unpaid debts, either on behalf of a creditor or as the owner of the debt if the agency purchased the debt from the creditor. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a collection account can appear on your credit report for up to seven years. It can also lead to a collection agency contacting you and your spouse.
The collection agency may try to obtain your home phone number so the agency can call you or your spouse about the debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act permits a collection agency to contact you between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. The agency also can call you or your spouse at work, but it must stop if you ask it to either verbally or in writing.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, there are limits to what the agency can say to your or your spouse. For example, they cannot threaten you with physical harm, harass you or make false statements about the debt. They cannot threaten legal action unless they actually plan to take that action. Collection agencies do not have the power to arrest or detain debtors, and they cannot threaten you or your spouse with arrest or detention.
You have the right to sue a collection agency that violates your rights; you can file suit in state or federal court within one year of the date the violation occurred. If the court finds in your favor, the judge can fine the agency up to $1,000 and require the agency to pay your attorney's fees and court costs. Consult with a consumer law attorney in your state for guidance on the best way to proceed.