Consumers are protected across the United States by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Depending on where you live, there may be local laws that give you even more protection. But the FDCPA protects all consumers.

The FDCPA applies only to debt collectors. In other words, the original creditor who lent you the money and its employees are usually not covered by the FDCPA, but anyone else who buys or attempts to collect a debt after it goes into default is covered.

Under the FDCPA, here are some of the things that debt collectors cannot do:

They cannot call you early in the morning or late at night, which usually means they cannot call you before 8 o’clock in the morning or after 9 o’clock at night. And debt collectors cannot call you any time or any place that would be considered “unreasonable”. For example, if you tell a debt collector that you observe the Sabbath, the debt collector cannot call you on Saturdays.

In addition, debt collectors cannot contact you at work, if you tell them that your boss will not let you take those kinds of calls.

Debt collectors cannot harass you or abuse you in any way, anywhere or any time.

They cannot threaten to do anything to you that would be illegal, and they cannot threaten to do anything to you that they really do not intend to do.

For the most part, debt collectors cannot tell anyone that you are in debt. For example, they cannot tell your parents or your neighbors that you owe money. However, debt collectors can tell your spouse, your lawyer, or anyone who cosigned on a loan about your debt.

Finally, you have the right to send a letter to any debt collector telling them to stop communicating with you. Once you send the letter, that debt collector cannot call you or send you any more mail. However, debt collectors can still sue you even after you send the letter.

Under the FDCPA, you may be entitled to damages, and, if you win, the debt collector will have to pay your attorney fees and costs.