A debt of even a couple thousand dollars can be enough for debt collectors to hound you. To prevent these calls from becoming abusive, lawmakers enacted the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, which covers all household, family and personal debts.

While debt collectors can certainly call you from time to time, there are actions they cannot take. It is important to remain aware of your rights.

Bankruptcy, through its automatic stay, can put a halt to debt collector harassment. However, even if you have not filed for bankruptcy, a debt collector is unable, by law, to do the following:

1. Misleading or false representations

A debt collector cannot claim to be a police officer or another law enforcement official to try to get you to pay. Collectors also cannot claim to be attorneys or use a false business name to trick you into offering money.

They also cannot make false statements. For example, there have been instances where collectors threatened people with arrest. You generally cannot go to jail for unpaid debts. The only time you could go to jail in connection to unpaid debts is if you do not pay income taxes or willfully violate an order from the court.

2. Actual abuse

Abuse from debt collectors takes many forms. They might threaten you with violence or use obscene language. They might also threaten to publish your personal information in a public forum. All this is illegal, and can be critical to contact law enforcement if you worry for your personal and family’s well-being.

3. Improper communications

Debt collectors need to follow specific rules as far as contacting you. They cannot contact you at inconvenient times, which is typically before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. Collectors might also attempt to contact you at work. When it comes to this, you can clearly state that your boss does not allow you to take such calls during business hours. The collector must comply. Additionally, they can contact friends or family members, but only to obtain your contact information. They generally cannot try to get the funds from other people in your life.