The Law Against Creditor Harassment By Phone

How often can a debt collector call me?

Laws regulating debt collectors prohibit them from placing repeated telephone calls and from engaging in repeated telephone conversations to harass you. The Debt Collection Rule creates rules about the frequency of these calls and conversations that may be used in determining whether the debt collector has violated the law prohibiting telephone harassment.

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

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from placing repeated or continuous telephone calls or conversations to you with the intent to harass, oppress, or abuse you. The Debt Collection Rule clarifies when a debt collector’s actions may have broken this law and creates certain “presumptions” to help determine whether a debt collector has violated this law.

The debt collector is presumed to violate the law if they place a telephone call to you about a particular debt

  • More than seven times within a seven-day period, or
  • Within seven days after engaging in a telephone conversation with you about the particular debt.

A debt collector is presumed to comply with the law if the debt collector does not make calls over either of the above limits.

Generally, the term “particular debt” means each of your debts in collection, so the limits apply per debt. If a debt collector is collecting on multiple debts, there may be other considerations in determining a violation. In the case of student loan debt, depending on the facts, multiple debts could be counted together as one “particular debt.” If so, the limits would apply to those debts as a group.

The call frequency presumptions only apply to calls placed by the debt collector to you. The presumptions only apply to telephone calls, so they don’t apply to text messages, emails, in-person interactions, or social media. There are other protections that apply to those methods of communication.

Factors, such as the frequency and pattern of phone calls and voicemails made, and prior communications, may be used to “rebut” or challenge a presumption that the debt collector complied with or violated the law. For example, if the debt collector placed seven calls to you about a debt within a seven-day period, but all seven calls were made on the same day, they could be violating the law. There are also rules about how a debt collector can contact you on social media.

For more information about repeated or continuous telephone calls or telephone conversations, review the Debt Collection Rule FAQs or see Section 7.1 in the Debt Collection Small Entity Compliance Guide . Your state laws may provide more protection than the FDCPA or the Debt Collection Rule. Check with your state attorneys general office for more information. You have a right to ask a debt collector to stop contacting you. If you are contacted or sued by a debt collector, you may want to contact a lawyer who represents consumers in debt collection matters.

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

What is harassment by a debt collector?

Harassment by a debt collector can come in different forms but examples include repetitious phone calls intended to annoy or abuse, obscene language, and threats of violence.

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

No harassment

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) says debt collectors can't harass, oppress, or abuse you or anyone else they contact.

Some examples of harassment are:

  • Repetitious phone calls that are intended to annoy, abuse, or harass you or any person answering the phone
  • Obscene or profane language
  • Threats of violence or harm
  • Publishing lists of people who refuse to pay their debts (this does not include reporting information to a credit reporting company)
  • Calling you without telling you who they are

You can also sue the debt collector for violations of the FDCPA. If you sue under the FDCPA and win, the debt collector must generally pay your attorney’s fees and may also have to pay you damages.

No misrepresentations

The FDCPA also says debt collectors can't use false, deceptive, or misleading practices. This includes misrepresentations about the debt, including:

  • The amount owed
  • That the person is an attorney if they are not
  • False threats to have you arrested
  • Threats to do things that cannot legally be done
  • Threats to do things that the debt collector has no intention of doing

It is a good idea to keep a file of all letters or documents a debt collector sends you and 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.

The CFPB has prepared sample letters that you can use to respond to a debt collector who is trying to collect a debt along with 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.

If you believe a debt collector is harassing you, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372). You can also contact your state's attorney general.