Information from the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions

Navigating Debt Collectors: Understanding Your Rights

Dealing with debt collectors can be stressful. However, it may not be best to completely ignore them. Here are tips on how to respond to debt collectors and your rights.

What To Do If A Debt Collector Contacts You

If a debt collector contacts you, use the opportunity to find out about the debt.

  • Verify the Debt
    Determine if the debt is legitimate or not.
  • Ensure the Debt Collector is Legitimate
    Ensure that the debt collector is legitimate. Ask for their full name, the company they work for, location, etc.
  • Request Information about the Debt
    Learn more about the debt and what you owe.

What If I Ignore A Debt Collector?

Ignoring a debt collector is unlikely to make the debt collector stop contacting you or make the debt go away. They may find other ways to contact you, including filing a lawsuit.

Things Debt Collectors Cannot Do

  • Garnish Your Wages Without A Court Judgement
    Debt collectors cannot garnish your wages or take your home or possessions without a court judgment, however, an exception exists for federally guaranteed student loans that are in default.
  • Contact You Early in the Morning or Late At Night
    Contact hours at your home are limited to 8:00 am a.m. and 9 p.m. unless you request otherwise.
  • Use Offensive Language
    The use of offensive language is prohibited.
  • Threaten Criminal Prosecution
    Debt collectors cannot threaten you with force, violence, or criminal prosecution, including jail time or seizure of personal property.
  • Threaten Your Credit Score
    Threatening your credit rating due to non-payment is illegal, excluding informing you of potential credit reporting consequences.

Things You Can Do

  • Negotiate A Debt Repayment Plan
    If the debt is legitimate, you have the option to negotiate the debt and any repayment plans.
  • Seek Help from a Credit Counselor
    A certified credit counselor may be able to help you deal with debt collectors.
  • Ask A Debt Collector To Stop Calling You
    You have the right to tell a debt collector to stop contacting you. If you ask a debt collector to stop all contact, the collector must stop. Keep in mind, though, that you could still owe the debt.
  • File A Complaint Against A Debt Collector
    If you feel a debt collector has violated Washington law, call the Washington State Department of Licensing at (360) 664-1388. You can also file a complaint with the Department of Licensing at

Additional Resources