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The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Brenda Procter, M.S., state specialist & instructor, Personal Financial Planning, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires debt collectors to treat you fairly and bans certain debt collection practices. The law does not erase any debt you actually owe. Personal, family and household debts are covered under this act.

A debt collector is anyone who collects debts you owe to some other party who hires them to collect from you. This includes attorneys who collect debts on a regular basis.


A collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram or fax. Collectors may not contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you agree. A debt collector may not contact you at work if the collector knows that your employer disapproves.


You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter telling them to stop. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again, except to say there will be no further contact or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action. You could still be sued by the debt collector or your original creditor because you still owe the debt.


The debt collector must contact your attorney, if you have one. If you do not have an attorney, a collector may contact other people, but only to find out where you live, what your phone number is and where you work. Collectors are usually prohibited from contacting third parties more than once. In most cases, the collector may not tell anyone other than you and your attorney that you owe money.


Within five days after you are first contacted, the collector must send you written notice. The notice must tell you the amount of money you owe, the name of the creditor you owe and what to do if you believe you do not owe the money. A collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you receive the written notice, you send the collection agency a letter stating that you do not owe money. A collector can renew collection activities if you receive proof of the debt, like a copy of a bill for the amount owed.


If you owe more than one debt, any payment you make must be applied to the specific debt you say. A debt collector may not apply a payment to any debt you believe you do not owe.


You have the right to sue a collector in state or federal court up to one year after the date the law was violated.


For more information, see: