If you have past due debts, the business you owe the money to (the creditor) may turn the debt over to a debt collector to try to collect the money. Under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a debt collector is defined as any person who regularly collects debts owed to others. This includes collection agencies and attorneys who collect debts. The FDCPA does not apply to a creditor collecting its own past-due accounts.

Although debt collectors have the right to contact you, they do not have the right to threaten, harass or deceive you.


  • contact you at unreasonable places or times (such as before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM local time);
  • use or threaten to use violence or criminal means to harm you, your reputation or your property;
  • use obscene or profane language;
  • call you repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy or harass;
  • place telephone calls without meaningful disclosures of their identity;
  • use a false company or creditor name;
  • imply or falsely represent the communication is from anyone other than a debt collector;
  • misrepresent the amount of the debt;
  • threaten to disseminate false credit information about you;
  • threaten legal action that is illegal or that they do not intend to take;
  • represent falsely that you have committed a crime or that you will be arrested or imprisoned;
  • use any words or symbols in their notices to make you think the notices are legal documents when they are not;
  • collect an amount greater than what you owe; or
  • garnish your wages or take your home or possessions without a court judgment. (An exception exists for federally guaranteed student loans that are in default.)
  • Can a Debt Collector Contact Others about Me or My Debt?

    The debt collector may contact other people, but only for the purpose of finding out where you live or work; the collector cannot tell them or anyone else (including your employer) that you owe money. A debt collector is allowed to discuss the alleged debt with your spouse or any cosigner on the account or loan.

  • What Information Must a Debt Collector Provide Me?

    Within five days after the first time a debt collector contacts you by phone or in writing, the debt collector must send a written notice telling you:

    • the amount of money you owe;
    • the name of the original creditor with whom you incurred the debt;
    • that unless you dispute the validity of the debt, or any part of the debt, within 30 days of the date you receive the notice, the debt will be assumed to be valid
  • How Can I Stop a Debt Collector from Contacting Me?

    Contact the debt collector in writing to request that they stop calling you. Make sure to include a statement that your letter is not meant in any way to acknowledge that you owe this or any other sum of money. Send your letter via certified mail, return receipt requested. Remember, though, stopping the contact does not stop the debt collection activities. The debt collector can still send negative information to the credit reporting agencies, sue you in court, and garnish your wages or file a lien against your property if a judgment is issued by the court.

  • What If I Want to Dispute the Debt?

    To dispute the debt, send the collector a written statement that you dispute the entire debt or a portion of it. Provide enough information for the debt collector to research each issue being disputed. If appropriate, include copies of receipts, cancelled checks and any other information to back up your claim. Make sure to include a statement that your letter is not meant in any way to acknowledge that you owe this or any other sum of money.

    You must send your letter within 30 days from your receipt of written notice from the debt collector. Send the letter via certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy of your correspondence. Once the agency receives your dispute letter, they must stop further attempts to collect the debt until and unless they send you written verification showing that you do owe the bill and that the amount of the bill is correct.

  • How Can I File a Complaint Against a Debt Collector?

    You may file a complaint with the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by visiting consumer.ga.gov or calling 404-651-8600. You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by going to ftc.gov or calling 877-FTC-HELP.