Does the law restrict the number of times a debt collector can call me?

Federal law limits how often and when debt collectors may call you.

Updated by , Attorney
As of late 2021, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) limits the number of times a debt collector can call you. In a nutshell, the collector can't call you more than seven times in seven days or within seven days after talking to you about the debt.

The FDCPA also provides certain restrictions on how debt collectors may communicate with you, including when a debt collector can call you, how a debt collector can treat you during the call, and when a debt collector must stop communicating with you.

What Is the Federal FDCPA?

The FDCPA is a federal law that protects debtors from unfair and abusive debt collection practices. It not only limits how many times a collector can call you, but it also provide several restrictions on how debt collectors may communicate with you.

Who Must Comply With the FDCPA?

In general, the FDCPA applies to debt collectors, typically meaning a third party who collects debts owed to another person or entity. However, in some cases, a debt buyer might have to comply with this law, like when a debt buyer's principal purpose is the collection of debts.

The FDCPA usually doesn't regulate the original creditor who loaned you the money. But in some circumstances, a creditor might also be subject to the FDCPA. And some states have laws that provide more protections than the federal FDCPA and cover creditors as well.

How Often Can a Debt Collector Call Me?

A final rule effective in late 2021 amended Regulation F, which implements the FDCPA. Under this rule, a debt collector is presumed to violate federal law if it places telephone calls to a particular person in connection with the collection of a particular debt in either of the following circumstances.

  • The collector calls more than seven times within seven consecutive days.
  • The collector calls within seven consecutive days of having had a telephone conversation about the debt. The date of the telephone conversation is the first day of the seven-consecutive-day period. (12 C.F.R. 1006.14).

This limitation applies to each particular debt, not per consumer. So, a debt collector can call you more often if you owe on several debts they're trying to collect.

Also, this telephone call frequency limit has three exclusions:

  • calls for which you gave prior consent
  • calls that don't connect to the dialed number, and
  • calls placed to specific professional persons, like your attorney. (12 C.F.R. 1006.14(b)(3)).

When Can a Debt Collector Call You?

A debt collector can't call you at an unusual or inconvenient time. If a debt collector calls you before 8 a.m. in the morning or after 9 p.m. at night, it's presumed to be inconvenient.

But if the debt collector knows that you have special circumstances, such as an irregular work schedule that requires you to work nights, a call made between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. might also be considered inconvenient. (15 U.S. Code § 1692c). So, if it's inconvenient for a collector to call you at certain times, tell the collector so.

Debt Collectors Can't Call You Repeatedly to Harass You

In addition to the time restrictions listed above, a debt collector can't call you repeatedly or continuously to harass, abuse, or annoy you. A collector also can't use profane language or threaten to harm you, another person, or your or another person's reputation or property. (15 U.S. Code § 1692d).

You Can Tell the Debt Collector to Stop Calling

If you don't want to receive any more calls, you can notify the debt collector in writing to stop contacting you. If you notify a debt collector in writing to stop contacting you, the debt collector can't communicate with you further except to:

  • tell you that it will stop contacting you, or
  • notify you that it may (or will) pursue other remedies under the law, such as filing a lawsuit to collect the debt. (15 U.S. Code § 1692c).

Should I Tell a Debt Collector to Stop Calling Me?

You might not want to send a cease-contact letter. Stopping a collector from contacting you doesn't make the debt go away. And the collector can still take legal action to collect the debt, like filing a lawsuit. In fact, a lawsuit might become more likely because the collector doesn't have any other way to contact you or get payment.

If you stay in contact with the collector, you might be able to arrange a payment plan or settle the debt for less than you owe. Be careful with this option, though. Making a partial payment or a promise to pay might reset an expired statute of limitations.

When You Might Want to Tell a Debt Collector to Stop Calling You

If you're certain the statute of limitations has expired, the debt isn't yours, or you're planning on discharging the debt in bankruptcy, it might make sense to ask the collector to stop contacting you altogether.

Also, you can also tell a collector to stop communicating with you through a particular medium, subject to some exceptions. (15 U.S.C. § 1692c(c), 12 C.F.R. § 1006.6(c), 12 C.F.R. § 1006.14(h)). For example, if you tell a debt collector to "stop calling my cell phone," this statement means the collector can't call your cell phone. Or you can tell the collector not to use a specific email address or telephone number. (12 C.F.R. § 1006.14(h), See official interpretation).

Talk to a Lawyer

If you need help dealing with an aggressive debt collector, figuring out what option is best for handling your debts, negotiating a settlement, or responding to a lawsuit for nonpayment of a debt, consider consulting with a lawyer. Once you've hired an attornrey, under the FDCPA, a collector must talk to your lawyer only—not you—unless you give permission to contact you or if your attorney doesn't respond to the collection agency's communications.

And if you have a lot of debts, you might want to consider filing for bankruptcy.

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