Debt collection isn’t one of those things you learn about in school. It’s probably not a topic your parents covered when you were a kid, because they didn’t want to think you’d end up struggling.

But delinquent debt happens, and whether you’re in trouble because you lost your job, had a health crisis or just made dumb purchasing decisions, it doesn’t matter – you need to know how to move forward.

With that in mind, has asked our experts to answer the top debt collection questions that they hear. We’ve brought expert advice and insight into one place. Below you can find valuable information that can help you understand collections and collector harassment.

If you’re struggling with past-due debt or charge-offs, can help you find solutions to regain control, as well as deal with any threatening or abusive treatment that you may have received from collectors.

Debt Collection Questions

Q:How does debt collection work?

A: Usually, it takes six consecutive missed payments for a debt to get sent to a collector. First, the debt’s status is changed to “charged off.” Then, it’s sold to a collection agency and you are contacted by a debt collector who must adhere to certain guidelines when communicating with you.

Discover the debt collection process »


Q:How will debt collectors contact me?

A: Collection agencies will likely try to contact you in multiple ways. This could include phone calls, emails, or standard mail. Always request standard mail if you are contacted in any other way. This allows you to keep the best record of your communications with the debt collector.

Find out what happens when you don’t ask for mail »


Q:When can debt collectors call me?

A: It is against the law for debt collectors to call you before 8:00AM or after 9:00PM in your time zone.

Q:Can debt collectors call my friends or family?

A: Unless you are a minor, they cannot tell someone besides you, your spouse, or your attorney that you owe money.

Find out who collectors can tell about your debt »


Q:Can debt collectors call me at work or call my employer?

A: Debt collectors are not permitted to call you at work when they know it’s inconvenient or that your employer doesn’t allow it. They also can’t tell your employer that you owe any money; they can only contact an employer to verify your identity as they look for the appropriate owner of a collection account.

Learn more about when debt collectors call you at work »


Q:Are debt collectors allowed to take less than I owe?

A: Yes! Collectors are authorized to take less than 100 percent of your debt. Collection agencies don’t have to collect everything you owe, so you should try to negotiate to pay a smaller percentage of the debt or accept a payment plan. Just make sure you get everything in writing before giving them any cash.


Q:Can debt collectors sue me?

A: As a last resort, some collectors may try to sue you in civil court for the amount you owe. If this happens, you must respond by the date they specify to preserve your legal rights. Do this either on your own or through your lawyer.

Read’s guide to answering a civil summons »


Q:Can debt collectors try to force repayment on a debt that is past the statute of limitations?

A: Yes, but they have limited power in this situation. If your debt has expired past the statute of limitations, you can’t be sued for it, but collectors can still try to get you to repay what you owed. In this case, simply send them a cease and desist letter stating that you no longer wish to be contacted.

Learn how to write a cease and desist letter »


Q:Can debt collectors lie about how much I owe?

A: Absolutely not. It is against the law for collectors to misrepresent the amount or nature of the debt you owe.


Q:How will debt collectors present themselves?

A: Debt collectors must be honest about who they are and what their position is. Lying about their identity and representing themselves as someone from law enforcement, a credit bureau, or an attorney’s office is not only unethical – it’s illegal.

Read about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) »


Q:What should I do if debt collectors threaten me?

A: You may have heard stories about shady debt collectors threatening consumers’ families, friends, reputations, property, and more. This is completely illegal! If a collector threatens you or engages in any of the other illegal behaviors discussed here, it’s important to report them. You can report a debt collector to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) by filing a complaint online.

See the stats on debt collection complaints »


Questions to Ask Debt Collectors

When a debt collector contacts you, don’t forget to ask these questions. You need to verify that the collector is legitimate and learn more about them before paying anything.

Who are you trying to reach?

Real collections agencies will already have your name. If they don’t, or they give you a partially incorrect version of your name, don’t trust them.

What is your name?

If they aren’t willing to tell you who they are, they shouldn’t be asking for any of your personal information.

Who do you represent?

You will want the company’s name, address, and phone number. If they are a legitimate debt collection agency, the person calling you will give you all of this information without an issue. Also, ask for their state licensing information to be doubly sure.

What is my address?

Like knowing your name, this is something collectors should already know before they call you. Don’t give them your address if they don’t already know it.

What are the last 4 digits of my SSN?

If they ask you for your Social Security Number over the phone, definitely don’t give it to them. They may be attempting to steal your identity.

How was the debt calculated?

According to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, it is your right to receive written proof of the way your debts were calculated. They should be able to easily provide this.

How will this be reported?

Ask this question to know how paying this debt collection agency will show up on your credit report. You’ll know what you should look out for on your next report.

Can you send me the documents in the mail?

It’s imperative that you have a written record of all correspondence with the debt collector. This will also provide all of the information about the collection agency to ensure its legitimacy.

Still worried about dealing with debt collectors? Connect with someone who can help today.

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Article last modified on July 12, 2023. Published by, LLC