Ask the caller for their name, company, street address, telephone number. If your state licenses debt collectors, also ask for a professional license number. You can refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice.” Do not give personal or financial information to the caller until you have confirmed it is a legitimate debt collector. Click here to learn more.

The FDCPA says debt collectors can’t harass, oppress, or abuse you or anyone else they contact. Some examples of harassment are:

  • Repetitious phone calls intended to annoy, abuse, or harass any person answering the phone
  • Obscene or profane language
  • Threats of violence or harm
  • Publishing lists of people who refuse to pay their debts (this does not include reporting information to a credit reporting company)
  • Calling you without telling you who they are

Debt collectors cannot call you at times they know are inconvenient, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you specifically agree to it. If a debt collector knows you are not allowed to receive the calls at work then the debt collector is not allowed to call you there. Debt collectors may not harass you or anyone else over the phone or through any other form of contact.

The CFPB has prepared sample letters you can use to respond to a debt collector who is trying to collect a debt from the wrong person, as well as tips on how to use them. The sample letters may help you to get information, set ground rules about any further communication, or protect some of your rights. Once a debt collector receives your letter, he or she may not contact you again except to:

  • Tell you there will be no further contact.
  • Advise you that it or the creditor may take other specific actions it is legally allowed to take, such as a lawsuit against you.
  • You can also tell the debt collector that you do not believe the debt is yours. If you have evidence that the debt isn’t yours, you might choose to send copies of relevant information with the letter.

Keep a copy of your letter

Send the letter by certified mail and purchase a return receipt so you have proof it was received (keep this in your records, too). You may also send the letter by fax, just be sure to keep a copy of the fax receipt.