Can a debt collector try to deceive me to collect on a debt?
No. Debt collectors are prohibited from deceiving or misleading you while trying to collect a debt.
Debt collectors are generally prohibited under federal law from using any false, deceptive, or misleading misrepresentation in collecting a debt. The federal law that prohibits this is called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
False Statements. For example, debt collectors may not falsely claim or imply that:
- They are attorneys or government representatives
- You have committed a crime by not paying a debt
- They operate or work for a credit reporting company
- You will be arrested or imprisoned if you don’t pay
- They will garnish or seize your wages, bank account, or property unless that is permitted by law and they intend to take that action
- Documents that they send you are legal documents if they aren’t
Debt Collectors are also prohibited from:
- Misrepresenting the amount you owe or the status of the debt
- Threatening to take action that cannot be legally taken or that is not intended to be taken
- Using or sending a written communication that looks like or is falsely represented to be an official document from a court or government agency
- Using any company name other than the true name of the debt collector’s company
If you believe a debt collector has given you false, deceptive, or misleading information, you have several options:
- Submit a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).
- Contact the FTC , or your state's attorney general .
- A lawsuit against a debt collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the FDCPA was violated. If you file a lawsuit for a violation of state collection law, some state laws allow more time. If you sue under the FDCPA and win, the debt collector may have to pay you damages and your attorney’s fees.
Even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA, the debt does not go away if you legally owe it.
Tip: Keep good records of your communications with a debt collector.
It is a good idea to keep a file of all letters or documents a debt collector sends you. Keep copies of anything you send to a debt collector. Also, write down dates and times of conversations along with notes about what you discussed. These records can help you if you have a dispute with a debt collector, meet with a lawyer, or go to court.