Feeling the Threat of Debt Collectors

1 in 4 consumers report feeling threatened during a collection call.

The threat of debt collectors looms with past due debt

Nobody wants to get that call. Whether you knew you owed the debt and you’re feeling pressure or you get blindsided by something you didn’t know owe, collection calls are never welcome. But there’s a difference between discomfort over a conversation you’d rather not have and a feeling of actually being threatened. Unfortunately, more than 25% of consumers feel a recent collection call crossed that line.

That’s according to a study released by the CFPB this month. The study investigates consumer experiences with debt collection.  By and large, those experiences are not good. In fact, many so bad that they violate collection regulations laid out by the Fair Debt Collections Practices act.

Roughly 32% of consumers reported that they had contact with at least one debt collection in the past year. Of that number, 72% dealt with contact on two or more debts. The most common debts in collection were unpaid medical bills, credit cards and student loans.

  • More than half of those contacted (53%) didn’t actually owe the debt in question
    • 27% disputed the debt
  • Not all debt collection calls go badly:
    • 55% believe they were treated politely
    • 49% reported they received clear answers to questions
    • 55% received accurate information about the debt
  • HOWEVER…
    • 63% of consumers say the collector attempted contact too often
    • 36% say they were contact too early or late
    • 27% felt threatened
    • 42% had to ask the collector to cease all contact
      • But only 1 in 4 reported the contact actually stopped

Know your rights!

“It’s important that consumers understand their rights when it comes to debt collection,” says Gary Herman, President of Consolidated Credit. “There’s a fine line between being aggressive in order to get a debt paid and being outright harassing or abusive. It’s up to consumers to know where that line is so they can report harassment when it happens.”

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the law that regulates how and when debt collectors can communicate with you. It only applies to debts that have been passed to a third-party collection service. That means it doesn’t apply to calls you receive from a creditor, lender or service provider.

Here is a quick list of what a collector can and can’t do:

  • No calls before 8:00 AM, after 9:00 PM, on weekends or national holidays
  • Collectors can’t threaten you with harm or jail time
  • They also can’t curse at you
  • It’s illegal for a collector to act like a lawyer or government agency
  • They can’t threaten to take your property unless they have already obtained a judgment to do so in civil court

Outside of phone calls, there are also limits on other behaviors. For instance, collectors aren’t allowed to send you communication that’s intended to embarrass you into paying a debt. They also can’t publish your name on any type of “credit blacklist” or permanently ruin your credit score.

Credit counseling can help stop collections!

“If you’re facing debts in collection, credit counseling program is one way you may be able to make those calls stop,” Herman continues. “When you enroll in a debt management program, your team negotiates with creditors, including collectors, on your behalf. Once debts are included in the program and the collector knows that they will be repaid, the calls will stop.”

If you’re facing challenges with debt and have debts currently in collections, we can help. Call Consolidated Credit today at or complete an online application to request a free debt and budget analysis from a certified credit counselor.