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Should I talk to a debt collector?

If a debt collector contacts you, you might want to speak with them even if you don’t owe the debt or can’t pay right now. The debt collector can help you understand if the debt is your responsibility and explain your options. You can also ask questions.

The CFPB’s Debt Collection Rule clarifying certain provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) became effective on November 30, 2021.

Being contacted by a debt collector can be overwhelming. Whether you know it’s your debt or are not sure if it’s yours, there’s information debt collectors are required to provide and there is additional information that you can ask for that they may or may not provide. 

Debt collectors are required to provide you with:  

  • The amount of the debt, which may include:
    • Accrued interest
    • Late charges
    • Collection costs
  • The name of the creditor
  • Information on obtaining the name of the original creditor (if different from the current creditor)
  • Information on disputing the debt, (for example, if you believe you don’t owe it or the amount owed is incorrect), and what happens if you don’t dispute the debt. 

The debt collector is required to provide this information when the debt collector first contacts you, or in writing within five days of the initial communication.  

There is additional information that you can ask for over the phone or in writing that is not required to be provided by the debt collector. This information could include: 

  • The origin of the debt: 
    • What it was for
    • What date was it incurred
  • The statute of limitations or the limited period of time a creditor or collector has to file a lawsuit to recover a debt.  
  • Possible repayment or settlement options. In some cases, you may be able to settle the debt for less than what you owe.
  • Financial hardship options, if you’ve experienced a change in income due to job loss, a natural disaster or medical reasons.

If you choose not to speak with a debt collector over the phone or in writing about a debt, collection activity can still take place. You continue to run the risk of fees and finance charges, as well as being sued or the debt being reported as delinquent to the credit reporting companies

If the debt collector is calling you at an inconvenient time or place, you have the right to ask the debt collector to call you at a more convenient time or place you specify. They may also have a website you can use to obtain information or ask a question.

How to Respond to a Debt Collector in Writing

For additional resources on responding to a debt collector, we have prepared sample letters. These letters include tips on how to use them, and they can help you set limits on communication, stop any further communication, and exercise some of your rights.