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Debt Collectors

The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives you more protection from debt collection agencies. This law does not apply to “original creditors”.

  • Debt collectors cannot threaten to take your possessions to pay off the debt. 
    • They can only take items that “secure” your debt.  These are items that you agreed could be taken if you do not make payments. A debt collector can only tell you they are going to take “secured” things if they plan on doing it. Debt collectors do not have to go to court to take “secured” items.
  • If a debt collector does not tell you certain information the first time he calls, he must send you a letter within 5 days. The information the debt collector must give you is:
    • the amount of the debt, and
    • Who you owe the money to,
    • And, you have 30 days to
      • disagree with the debt,
      • Ask for proof of the debt, and
      • Find out who the original creditor is.
  • If you dispute the debt within 30 days, the debt collector must stop all collection actions until they have given you proof of the debt.
  • You can stop a debt collector from contacting you:
    • Write a letter to the collector telling them to stop contacting you. Once the collection agency gets your letter, they may not contact you again. They are allowed to write to tell you if they will not contact you again. Also, they can contact you to tell you if they have to take a “secured” item, or take you to court. See a sample Cease and desist letter you can use.
Produced by Mariah Jennings-Rampsi, South Coastal Counties Legal Services, with funding from American College of Bankruptcy
Created June 2012

There are 2 different types of creditors who can collect debt.

  1. the “original creditor”, or
  2. the “original creditor’s” lawyer or a “debt collector”.

Original Creditor

We use the term “original creditor” to talk about the person or company you first agreed to pay. An original creditor is the person or company who sold you something on credit or loaned you money.

Debt Collector

Debt collectors are creditors too. Sometimes the original creditor hires another company or a lawyer to collect the debt. Sometimes the original creditor sells the debt to another company. The new company or person is a debt collector.

Produced by Mariah Jennings-Rampsi, South Coastal Counties Legal Services, with funding from American College of Bankruptcy
Created June 2012

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