Debt Collection – Consumer Resources
Regulating Debt Collectors
The Department of Financial Protection and Innovation provides licensure, regulation, and oversight of California debt collection practices under the California Consumer Financial Protection Law and the Debt Collection Licensing Act . Both measures help to better protect consumers. The consumer protection law took effect on Jan. 1, 2021, and the debt collection law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
Debt collectors are persons who regularly engage in the business of debt collection on the person’s own behalf or on behalf of others. To collect a debt, they can call and email consumers, but they are restricted from engaging in unfair, unlawful, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices. You can file a complaint against a debt collector at https://dfpi.ca.gov/file-a-complaint, or contact us with questions or issues by emailing Ask.DFPI@DFPI.ca.gov or calling 1-866-275-2677.
Key Takeaways for Consumers
The Department is responsible for protecting consumers, and making sure financial service providers like debt collectors are following the law. If you are having an issue with a debt collector or you suspect that you’ve been the victim of unfair, unlawful, deceptive, or abusive practices, contact the DFPI at Ask.DFPI@DFPI.ca.gov or file a complaint at https://dfpi.ca.gov/file-a-complaint.
Find Out Who’s Calling and Why
If you get a call from a debt collector, it may be an original creditor, a company paid to collect debts on behalf of others, or a law firm. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, including the name of the business and address, who are they collecting on behalf of, and how much they claim you owe. Gathering a detailed record about the collector, creditor, amount of debt, and calls you receive can help you build a case if you need to make a claim.
Confirm The Debt is Yours
Before paying a debt, confirm it belongs to you. Check your credit report for errors and ask questions if you believe the debt has been paid. If you believe there is an error, dispute it.
Know Your Rights
Debt collectors must follow the law and are prohibited from using unfair, unlawful, deceptive, or abusive practices when collecting a debt. Companies and individuals are not allowed to threaten you with arrest, violence, or harm; threaten to call or harass your family or employer; misrepresent what you owe; use profane language, or call repeatedly to annoy you. If you’ve experienced any of these practices, you can file a complaint today with the Department https://dfpi.ca.gov/file-a-complaint.
Know Your Options
Once you confirm that a debt is yours, you may be able to negotiate a settlement or repayment plan directly with the debt collector. If you choose to seek credit counseling, do your own research to find the best option for your situation.
If you have an issue or believe a debt collector may have broken the law, you can file a complaint with us by following the link: https://dfpi.ca.gov/file-a-complaint. If you have questions, you can contact the DFPI by emailing Ask.DFPI@DFPI.ca.gov or calling 1-866-275-2677.
Debt Collector-Related Laws:
- Assembly Bill 1864 (Limón, Chap 157, Stats. 2020): California Consumer Financial Protection Law – Learn more about the protections that the law provides.
- Senate Bill 908 (Wieckowski, Chap 163. Stats. 2021): Debt Collection Licensing Act
Contacted By a Debt Collector? Know Your Rights.
- Debt Collectors Cannot Threaten or Harass You
Debt collectors are not allowed to threaten you with arrest, violence, or harm. They are not allowed to threaten to call or harass your employer or your family members, misrepresent the amount you owe, use obscene or profane language, or call repeatedly to annoy you. If debt collectors engage in these practices, their actions might be illegal.
- Confirm The Debt Is Yours
Beware of any debt collector who tries to make you confirm a debt that you don’t recognize, is really old, or that you believe was discharged in bankruptcy. If you’re in doubt, check your rights by contacting an attorney or our Department. You can also check your credit report for negative reports you were not aware of, including debts that may have been reported in error, debts you don’t recognize, or debts you believe you have paid off. If you believe there is an error, you may dispute the credit report. For more information, see How to Know If a Debt Is Yours.
- Keep A Record and Ask Questions
If you get phone calls from a debt collector, keep a record of the calls, including the name of the debt collector, creditor, and the amount of the purported debt. Catalog the hours they call and what they say. Note whether they recorded your phone call and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can ask them to provide you with the name of their business and address, who are they collecting on behalf of, how much they claim you owe, or when was the debt incurred. A detailed record may help you build a case against a debt collector engaged in any debt collection practices that are unfair, unlawful, deceptive, or abusive. if you need to file a complaint with the Department, documentation will help.
- Ask For Documentation in Writing
A debt collector may try to negotiate with you and offer a payment plan. Before you take their offer, ask for written documentation of the alleged debt to make sure the debt is yours, the amount is accurate, and it was not previously paid or discharged in bankruptcy.
Be on the alert for any debt buyer who calls you but does not provide you with anything in writing or information on where to send a written request for a contract or other documents showing you agreed to the debt. If a debt buyer attempts to collect a debt via telephone, you are entitled to receive documentation validating the alleged debt.
- Know When to Contact a Lawyer:
If a debt collector threatens to sue you or says they have sued you, contact a lawyer.
If a debt buyer obtained a default judgment against you but you did not receive notice of the lawsuit until after the default judgment was entered, you may have the right to defend yourself against the lawsuit. Once legal proceedings have started, you may have a limited amount of time to act. Contact an attorney who can help you right away, and then consider filing a complaint with the Department.
Links To Additional Resources:
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – Debt Collections information and guidance, as well as information on consumer protections.
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Information about your rights, and a helpful debt collection FAQ.
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) – Tips and assistance for dealing with debt collectors.
Our AG’s office also has an informative webpage at: Debt Collectors | State of California – Department of Justice – Office of the Attorney General