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What Are The Limits On Collection Agency Harassment?

What can I do about a collection agency that continues to dun me for a debt that has already been paid for the last three years? I sent a copy of my receipt showing that my last payment reflects a "zero" balance, but they still insist that I owe them money. Help!

The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act guarantees you specific rights as a consumer when a personal debt has been turned over to a debt collector. These include:

  • The right to stop them from contacting you except to notify you of specific actions being taken by writing them a letter requesting this
  • The right to receive a full written notice explaining the amount you owe, to whom you owe it, and what action you should take if you believe you do not owe the money
  • The right to sue in state or federal court if you believe that the debt collector has violated the law in its handling of your account (within one year from the date that you believe the violation occurred)
Given that this has been an ongoing problem, you should probably contact the agency one more time to request a specific, written statement of their proof that you still owe on the debt. Insist that they also include instructions for disputing their statement if you do not believe you still owe the money, as the law requires.

If following these instructions does not solve the problem, you may want to consider suing them, although you must then weigh the hassle and potential cost (recoverable if you win) of litigation against what you stand to gain. You might also consider reporting the collection agency to your state Attorney General's office and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Many states have their own debt collection laws in addition to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and your Attorney General's office can help you understand your specific rights.

For more information about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, visit the FTC's web page summarizing the law at

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