Empowerment Tips > Debt Collection

Federal law and Massachusetts regulations govern the actions of debt collectors and protect consumers against unfair and deceptive collection practices.  Know your rights…

  • You can ask for proof of the debt. Follow up your request by sending a certified letter within 30 days of being contacted by the debt collector. The debt collector must obtain verification of the debt or the court judgment and mail it to you. The debt collector must also cease all collection activity until the information is mailed to you.
  • You can notify the debt collector in writing to cease contacting you in any way. Debt collectors can only contact you to notify you that they are terminating further collection efforts, invoking specified remedies or they intend to invoke a specified remedy. The debt, however, will remain outstanding.
  • You can request in writing that debt collectors stop contacting you at work. An oral request is valid for 10 days unless it is followed up in writing.
  • You should attend any scheduled court proceeding including Small Claims Court to avoid losing by default.
  • You should plan to repay any undisputed obligation and determine a payment plan in writing.
  • You should send all communications by “certified mail return receipt requested” to eliminate any question about whether the debt collector has received your correspondence.

 

The following actions are prohibited by law.  A debt collector…

  • Cannot call you more than twice in a 7-day period at home or twice in a 30-day period at someplace other than home.
  • Must identify the name of the creditor and the name of the company and person calling.
  • Can only call during your normal waking hours. If those hours are unknown, then the debt collector can call between 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. They can call any day of the week, including Sunday.
  • Can only visit you in your home one time in a 30-day period unless you authorize additional visits.
  • Cannot cause you to be charged for long distance calls.  In almost all cases, toll free numbers are given to consumers to contact these companies.
  • Cannot contact you directly if you have told them to contact your attorney.
  • Cannot falsely threaten to have you arrested or threaten to garnish your wages without telling you a court order is needed for them to do so.
  • Cannot threaten to take legal action when they do not intend to do so.
  • Cannot use profane or obscene language.
  • Cannot tell your friends, neighbors, employers, and relatives about your debt (they can call your neighbors only for the sole purpose of determining your current place of residence).

 

Information on your rights under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and under Massachusetts debt collection regulations is available on the website for the Massachusetts Division of Banks.