Other things they can't do

1. Disclose your debt to another person. As a result, they must verify with whom they are speaking on the phone.

2. Similarly to No. 1, they can't disclose your debt to family, friends, or neighbors. They typically do this to embarrass you into paying them.

3. Call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

4. Call you repeatedly during a short period of time.

5. Call you at work if you have asked them not to, or if they know your employer doesn't want you to take personal calls at work.

6. Call you and leave a message on a public answering machine.

7. Use deceptive mailings to contact you or mailings that state they are from a debt collector on the outside of the envelope.

8. This last one isn't a "can't do," more of a must do: they must disclose that they are a debt collector, attempting to collect a debt.

What can you do

Again, I want to say that this is not a comprehensive list, just the most common things a debt collector can't do. Just keep in mind that if something feels abusive, harassing, coercive, or deceptive, you may have a claim against that debt collector.

The first thing you should do is start keeping a log of every time the debt collector/debt collection company calls you. Write down the day and time, what the conversation was about, the name of the company, the name of the person you spoke with, basically everything you can. This information will be very helpful to any attorney who works on your case.

After that, find an attorney who is experienced with the FDCPA and other similar laws and call them. Remember, if you have a good case (your attorney will tell you), there is a very high chance that your attorney's fees will be covered if you win the lawsuit -- assuming it doesn't settle before court.

The author, Shane McClelland, is an attorney in Columbus, Ohio, with experience in consumer defense and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.