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Debt Collectors Calling About Your Student Loans? Know Your Rights

Dec 3, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 1 Comments

Companies and organizations often hire collection agencies to get students behind on their loans to start paying.  If you’ve fallen behind in your student debt payments, it’s possible that a debt collector may be trying to get that money back.

Debt collectors can be quite aggressive in their tactics. While there are laws at both the state and federal level that are meant to address this, enforcement is often weak. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re ever dealing with an aggressive debt collection agency.

Things Debt Collectors Cannot Do

Calling your neighbors, coworkers, boss, or others

Debt collectors are not allowed to call third parties about your debt or discuss your debt with them in any way. However, there are limits to who is considered a “third party.” While non-immediate family members are third parties, a debt collector can legally talk to your spouse—or your parent or guardian, if you are a minor.

See Also: Earn Your Degree Online

Calling you at an unusual time or place

The debt collector is only allowed to call you between the hours of 8AM and 9PM in most cases. In addition, the debt collection agency is not allowed to call you at your place of work if the agency is aware or has reason to be aware that the employer forbids this kind of communication.

Calling you directly when you have a lawyer

If you do have a lawyer, the debt collector is only allowed to communicate with them.

See Also: Online Legal Degrees

Harassment or intimidation

Debt collectors are not allowed to use insulting or obscene language; refuse to disclose who they are; or threaten you with violence. They are not permitted to try to intimidate you by threatening some action against you such as an investigation that cannot legally be taken. They are also not allowed to call repeatedly in a harassing manner.

Lying to you. The debt collector is not permitted to  lie to you about the amount you owe, the type of loans you have, or their legal status. They cannot threaten to foreclose on your house, garnish your wages, arrest you, impound your car, or take any other action that is not in fact legal. They are also not allowed to misrepresent themselves—to tell you they are from the government or your private bank, for example.

Things Debt Collectors Must Do

They must disclose their attempt to collect in writing. Debt collectors must initially write to you in hardcopy and disclose that they are collecting on a debt, and that any information they receive from you will be for that purpose. They must acknowledge that any attempt they make to communicate with you is from a debt collection agency.

They must give you a chance to validate the debt

Within five days after they initially get in touch with you, the debt collector has the legal obligation to allow you to dispute the debt. If you request to dispute what you owe, the debt collector has to stop contacting you until he or she ahs received confirmation that the debt is valid.

They must stop contacting you if you request in writing

If you send a “Cease Communication” letter requesting that the debt collection agency stop calling or mailing you, they must honor that. They can still sue you in court, but they cannot keep contacting you. If you send the letter, you should use certified mail and keep the receipt. See here* for an example of this type of letter.

If you are being harassed by a debt collector for your traditional or accredited online college loans, contact the Department of Education, your lender, or the guaranty agency. Keep copies of all the written contact you’ve had with the debt collector, as well as a record of any calls.  Bear in mind that the debt collector has zero obligation to help you set up a fair repayment arrangement under your budget. The more you know about your rights, the less a debt collector will be able to take advantage of you.


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