Tactics Used by Debt Collectors and How You Should Respond

If you’re one of the millions of Americans dealing with long-overdue debt, you’ve likely received calls from debt collectors. Your interactions have probably been very different from call to call, depending on who you’re speaking with, what company they’re from, and what you owe. Each debt collector goes about their job using different tactics, some of which may be illegal. Since many work off of commission, their pay is impacted by whether or not they successfully get payment from you. While not an acceptable excuse, it’s helpful to at least understand why some debt collectors use questionable tactics to initiate payment.

We want to be sure you’re prepared for how debt collectors may act and how you can respond. We’ve laid out different tactics you may come across so there are no surprises.


1. Calling before 8:00am or after 9:00pm

According to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors should not contact you outside the hours of 8 am to 9 pm of your local time zone. If they do, you do not need to answer, or you can remind them of your rights under the act.

2. Incessant communications

Debt collectors are not allowed to harass you. Calling more than seven times in one week falls into the harassment category. Assert your rights from the FDCPA and consider sending a cease and desist letter so that you cannot be contacted anymore. The letter should be sent over certified mail. It’s helpful to ask for confirmation that it was delivered so you know you’ve covered your bases.

3. Wage garnishments

In order for part of your wages to automatically be used towards paying off your debt, legal action would need to be taken. Under no circumstances can a phone call with a debt collector instantly cause wage garnishments.

4. Immediate payment

You are not expected to make a payment while on the phone with a debt collector. If you’re asked to provide payment information while on the call, you may be dealing with a fake debt collector who is attempting to scam you. Do not share personal information and end the call as soon as possible to avoid getting roped into a fraudulent situation.

5. Instant credit score improvements 

Paying off a debt will not instantly boost your credit score, no matter what a debt collector claims. It could be years before you see the effects of your repayment. Regardless, it’s helpful to pay off a bill by its due date, or as soon as you can after the due date.

6. Contacting your friends, family, or employer

The only person a debt collector is allowed to contact regarding your debt are you and your lawyer, if you are using one for debt purposes. Your family, friends, or employer are not allowed to be contacted. If you do not tell someone about your situation, they won’t find out about it from a debt collector.

7. Threats

A debt collector cannot threaten violence or consequences for not paying while you are on the call. Do not be afraid to assert your rights and explain that you know the threats are illegal. You can let the collector know that you will report them for violating the FDCPA.

How to combat a debt collector’s tactics:

If you experience any of the above questionable tactics, you should feel empowered to report the collector to the Federal Trade Commission, your state’s attorney general, or the Better Business Bureau. Every year, debt collection agencies are shut down for violating the FDCPA. Information you and other consumers provide help track down nefarious collectors and stop them from contacting other individuals using illegal strategies.

It’s also helpful, whether or not you plan to report a collections agency, to have a paper trail of your discussions. Kredit can help you keep all of your online interactions in one place. You should ask to receive as much information as you can in writing, in case a debt collector provides inconsistent feedback. Having recordings of every call and written notes are also helpful to refer back to. Before recording, just be sure to ask permission and explain why it’s helpful to have a way to document what was discussed on the phone.

To ensure you are dealing with a real debt collector, you should research the company that is reaching out to you. If you can’t find their website, consider that a major red flag. You can also use Kredit to ask your creditors whether the company you’ve been contacted by is one they’re working with. If it isn’t, report the scammer to hopefully put them out of business.