The FTC gets more complaints about debt collectors than about any other industry. Bad debt collectors lie, threaten people, call the wrong person, tell other people about the debt, and generally break the rules. You have rights if a debt collector starts calling – whether or not you recognize the debt. If you don’t think the debt is yours, follow the instructions in the notice.  If the debt is yours, talk to a certified credit counselor to make a plan for paying it.


  • Take notes if you talk to a debt collector: the date and time you talked,  the person’s and the company’s name, their address and phone number , and their answers to your questions.
  • Ask for a written notice about your debt. It’s called a “validation notice,” and debt collectors have to send it. If you don’t think the debt is yours, follow instructions on the notice.
  • Hang up if a debt collector harasses you, curses, or threatens you. They’re not allowed to do that. Then, report them to the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Pay attention if you get a “summons” or notice about a lawsuit. The summons should include the name of the court, its clerk, and a phone number to verify. If you don’t go to court, you automatically lose.  Talk to your PFM or legal services if you get a court summons.


Tools for Personal Financial Managers