The key points.
What Is Consumer Debt?
Consumer debt, owed by an individual or married couple, exists in many forms. Most commonly, these debts are in the form of, credit card debt, car loans, mortgages, student loans and, various bills to utility and service companies. An exception to this list is, an individual's debts which were incurred in the operations of a business.
After so many months of not receiving payment, many companies will usually sell your debt to either an attorneys office or bill collection agency. Sometimes, a collection agency may be contacting you for a debt that didn't even originate from you. If that is the case, contact that collection agency to explain to them the debt is not yours and that they should remove it from your name immediately. More commonly, however, collection agencies are contacting you for a debt that is truly yours.
In the United States, owing a debt is NOT a criminal offense. Thus you may not be treated as a criminal by collection agencies. These agencies must follow a set of guidelines referred to as the "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act" or FDCPA. These guidelines state that collection agencies may not harass you. They may only contact you by means of mail, email, text message or phone call. They may not contact you at your place of employment (if you notify them not to do so), they may not contact you via phone before 8am or after 9pm. They may not intentionally mislead you into believing that they are anyone other than a collection agency.
In many cases, collection agencies do violate these federal laws protecting you. When this happens you can absolutely seek legal recourse against them. Many times you will actually be awarded a lump sum settlement of $1000 or more, from the collection agency that violated the law.