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Do you have an obligation to answer debt collector calls?

When the phone rings it can stir feelings of apprehension, especially if you think it is your debt collector calling. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are close to 200,000 debt collection agents working in the U.S. as of 2021.

Many wonder if they are legally bound to answer the phone when these agents call.

Your rights

While you may owe a debt, you still have rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act outlines certain rules that debt collectors must abide by when contacting you. This legislation aims to safeguard consumers from aggressive or unfair debt collection practices.

Answering calls

The FDCPA does not explicitly state that you must answer calls from debt collectors. It grants you the right to choose how you wish to communicate with them. You can opt for written communication, which provides a documented record of your interactions. Written communication can be a prudent choice as it allows you to maintain a clear record of the correspondence.

Communication preferences

You have the authority to establish your preferred mode of communication. If you feel more comfortable corresponding through written letters you can assert this preference. Debt collectors are bound to respect your wishes in this regard.


Should you choose to engage in conversation with a debt collector, you should verify their identity. You have the right to ask for details such as the collector’s name, the company they represent and information about the debt in question. This ensures that you are dealing with a legitimate entity and that the debt is accurate.

Respectful interaction

If you do decide to answer a call from a debt collector, remember that they must treat you with respect and courtesy. The FDCPA prohibits practices such as harassment, threats or the use of deceptive tactics. If you encounter any such behavior, it is within your rights to report it.

While you are not legally obligated to answer debt collector calls, asserting your rights can help you manage debt-related communications in a way that is comfortable and fair for you.