Debt Collectors -- What They Can, and Cannot, Do


Many debtors ask what debt collectors can and cannot do. Here is a summary of their options and how you should respond to their activities.

What they cannot do:

  • Harass and threaten you.
  • Call you at work after you tell them you cannot accept their calls at work.
  • Call you after you get a lawyer.
  • Have you arrested or put you in jail.

If you are the victim of any of these illegal activities, immediately contact a lawyer. The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows you to collect penalties for these actions. Many times the penalties are more than the debt you may owe.

What they can do:

  • Write you letters.
  • File a lawsuit against you to have you ordered to pay them.

What you should do:

If you receive a letter:

  • Answer all letters.
  • One of their letters will say "If you do not ..."
  • To answer this letter, write them, " I do not know if this debt is correct. Please verify the debt."
  • Get a lawyer. You can contact Alaska Legal Services Corporation to see if they can help you.

If you are sued:

  • You will receive a summons. The summons gives you 20 days to answer the lawsuit.
  • You may or may not want to answer a lawsuit. You will usually need the advice of a lawyer before making this decision.
  • If you cannot get the advice of a lawyer in 20 days, answer the lawsuit.

How do I answer the lawsuit?

  • Type or print your answer. Click here to see a sample answer.
  • Take or mail the original answer to the court.
  • Mail a copy of the answer to whoever sued you.
  • Save a copy of the answer for your records.
Last Review and Update: Aug 01, 2006