Consumer Advocates

Law Office of Barbara Quinn Smith

Can Debt Collectors Communicate With Other People About My Debts? 

Unless you agree, collection agencies and creditors may not communicate with your employer, neighbors, or relatives about a debt. A collector who does not know where you are may contact third parties to try to find you but must not reveal anything about the debt to them. 

Which 
Debt Collection Practices Are Prohibited? 

Harassment and abuse. Collection agencies and certain creditors cannot do anything which harasses, oppresses, or abuses you. For example, they cannot threaten or actually use force or violence; use foul, abusive, or obscene language; or make repeated phone calls to you. 

False representations.    Collection agencies and certain creditors cannot say or do anything which is false, deceptive, or misleading. For example, they cannot make a false claim that the collector is a lawyer or government official; use papers which look like but actually are not court papers; claim that you owe more than you really 
do, or make statements that you would be committing a crime by not paying a debt. You cannot be sent to jail simply because you owe someone money. 

Unfair practices.   Collection agencies and certain creditors cannot use any unfair means to collect a debt. Examples are threatening to take action which the collector is not allowed to take or does not actually intend to take; asking for or accepting post-dated checks (in some circumstances). It is almost always a bad idea to give post-dated checks to pay a debt; or the collection of any amount of money unless it is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law. 

If A Collection Agency Contacts Me, Can I Ask For Information About The Debt? 

Yes. Within five days after first contacting you (whether by phone or by mail), a collection agency must give you a written notice of the amount it claims you owe, the name of the creditor, and a statement of your right to disagree with the claim and to get more information about the claim. 

It is important to document your contacts from debt collectors.   If you think a debt a debt collector is violating the law, contact us for a free consultation.


A Debt Collection Action Has Been Filed.  

Now What?

Don’t Ignore The Lawsuit

If you do not respond to your creditor’s Complaint by filing an Answer with the Court in the time required, a judgment may be entered against you.  If your creditor obtains a judgment, it may garnish your wages or bank account, and/or place liens on your property.

You Have Options

Fight Your Lawsuit.  A debt collector, debt buyer, or creditor who sues you must to be able to prove that you owe the debt to them in the amount they claim.   They are not always able to do this, which means they cannot win their case against you.  But you have to appear in court and challenge their evidence to win.

Bankruptcy.  You may be able to discharge some or all of your debt in bankruptcy without having to give up your assets.   If you have questions about whether bankruptcy is right for you, contact us for a free consultation.


Don’t Get Scammed

There are a number of fraudsters who are out there posing as legitimate debt collectors.  Don’t fall for them!   Beware of companies who:

    •    try to collect a debt you don’t remember.  Be extra cautious if they claim the debt is a payday loan.

    •    pretend to be a process server, or tell you that you have to go to a  court hearing in the next few days unless you pay them today.

    •    threaten you with jail if you don’t give them money.

Know Your Rights

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal statute that regulates the conduct of debt collectors and debt buyers.  Ohio also has laws that govern debt collection.  Understanding the law can help you fight back against abusive and illegal debt collection practices.

THERE ARE state and federal laws to protect people from debt collectors who use unfair, abusive, or deceptive practices. These laws do not excuse you from paying your debts, but they do protect you from improper collection practices.

What Do The Laws About Debt Collection Cover? 

The state and federal laws about debt collection apply to consumer debts, that is, debts that are incurred for personal, family or household use.   They do not apply to debts incurred in connection with running a business.  

Can Debt Collectors Telephone Me? 

Yes, but the law limits when and how a collector (either a collection agency or a creditor) may contact you. Phone calls can be made only at reasonable times (generally between 8 AM and 9 PM). Collectors cannot call you collect without telling you the purpose of the call. Anonymous calls or letters are also illegal. 

If telephone calls from a collection agency are bothering you, you can order the agency to stop all contact with you by giving a written notice to cease communication with you. See the sample letter at the end of this brochure. Only collection agencies—not creditors themselves— have to obey such a letter, however 

Neither a collection agency nor a creditor can call you at work if your employer prohibits this type of call. And if you have an attorney, you can tell the collector to deal only with your attorney. If your employer prohibits collection calls or you have an attorney handling the matter, put this in writing to the creditor and keep a copy of your letter.