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What is a debt collector and why are they contacting me?

Under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, in general, a debt collector is a person or a company that regularly collects debts owed to others, usually when those debts are past-due.

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

Debt collectors include collection agencies or lawyers who collect debts as part of their business. There are also companies that buy past-due debts from creditors or other businesses and then try to collect them. These debt collectors are also called debt collection agencies, debt collection companies, or debt buyers.

A debt collector may be trying to contact you because:

  • A creditor believes you are past due on a debt. Creditors may use their own in-house debt collectors or may refer or sell your debt to an outside debt collector.
  • A debt collector also may be calling you to locate someone you know, as long as the collector does not reveal that they are collecting a debt.
  • A debt buyer has bought the debt and is now collecting that debt or is hiring collectors.

If the debt collector is contacting you for payment on a debt and you have concerns about the debt,  the amount they are claiming, or the company contacting you, you might want to speak to an attorney or a credit counseling organization. Before speaking with a debt collector, consider working up a plan. You might be able to set up a payment plan or negotiate with them to resolve the debt.

Warning: You can ask a debt collector to stop contacting you. You should do so in writing. Asking them to stop contacting you will not prevent them from suing you or reporting the debt to a credit reporting company. If you do not owe the debt or have already paid the debt, it is important to take action to contest the attempt to collect the debt.

Tip: The CFPB has prepared sample letters that you can use to respond to a debt collector who is trying to collect a debt. The letters include tips on how to use them. The sample letters may help you to get information, set limits or stop any further communication, or exercise some of your rights. 

The creditor or the debt collector also may make a negative report to a consumer reporting company, affecting your credit report and credit scores. In some cases, the debt may be too old to affect your credit report or credit scores. If you don’t believe you owe the debt, you can dispute it with the debt collector and the credit reporting company. If you dispute the debt in writing within 30 days of receiving information about the debt from the collector, then the debt collector must send you verification of the debt. You can also ask the debt collector for additional information.

If you're having trouble with debt collection, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).