Debt Collector Scare Tatics

Common Myths and Scare Tactics Used By Debt Collectors

DISCLAIMER: We are not lawyers and are not giving legal advice. We strongly recommend speaking to a professional attorney.

If you’ve been contacted by a debt collector, you may hear all sorts of claims. If this is your first time, you may not understand your rights – and yes, debtors do have rights! Check out these myths and scare tactics used by debt collectors so you can handle these annoying contacts.


Know Your Debt Collector

Myth – Believe Everything You Are Told!

Debt collectors may be wrong – always double check your records make sure you owe the debt. Dishonest collectors may try to collect an old, canceled, or paid off debt. The debt collector is required by law to send you a letter within five days with the creditor’s name, the amount owed, and informing you that you can dispute the debt.

Insist that they send you a debt validation before you pay anything!

Once you receive the debt validation letter, you have thirty days to dispute the debt in writing. The debt collector cannot contact you within those thirty days.

Myth – You Can Pay the Original Creditor

Nope. In most cases, the original creditor and the debt collection company have an agreement preventing the original creditor from accepting payment. In some cases, your debt has been sold to a collections agency.

Myth – All Debt Collectors Work for Real Companies

The debt collector could be a scammer! Often, these people will go after debts that are past the statute of limitations or that are not valid. Get a name, address and phone number and check them out before doing anything.

Always ask for a debt validation before you do anything!

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Know Your Debt

Myth – Ignoring a Debt Makes It Go Away

Yes and no. If you can ignore the debt for your state’s statute of limitations, it will go away. However, the damage to you and your credit score will be longer lasting. The unpaid debt will affect your debt score for up to seven years. In addition, the record of your debt stays with the creditor and will keep you from getting another account with the creditor.

Myth – An Old Bill is Not Collectible

This is true…but a debt collector may “re-age” the debt or sue you anyway, hoping you don’t have your records proving the age of the debt, or you won’t bother to read your mail. Always keep debt records. Don’t depend on anyone to keep accurate records for you.

Myth – Small Debts Don’t Get Sent to Collections

Sure they do. It is up to the original creditor whether or not to send your debt to collections.

Myth – You are Responsible for Family Debt

If you are not a co-signer, you are not responsible for the debt.

Debt is not inheritable. When a loved one dies, any debt will be paid first out of the estate. The creditors must be notified about the death and have a limited time to request payment from the estate. If there is no money to pay debts, there is no money to pay them. As long as you are not a co-signer, you are not responsible for the debt.

Myth – Your Debt will Live Forever

States have statutes of limitation for how long your debt is active. These range from three to ten years, depending on the state and the type of debt. A debt collector cannot take you to court for a debt that is older than the statute of limitations.

Depending on your state, a creditor may file a lawsuit against you in
1) your state of residence
2) the state where the creditor is based
3) the state you lived in when you opened the account
4) the state where the outstanding charges were made.

Making a payment or agreeing to a payment plan will restart the statute of limitation deadlines.

Myth – Pay Now and Your Credit Won’t Be Affected

Your credit is damaged already. They can’t take your possessions (unless it is something like a car or your house). If you are in collections, your credit is already damaged.

Read real reviews from our customers and find out how Pacific Debt helped settle their debt.

Response to Debt Collectors

Myth – A Cease and Desist Letter Makes Debt Go Away

It is your right to send a cease and desist letter to the debt collection agency. By law, they must stop contacting you. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean the debt has gone away. Your debt is still listed on your credit report, negatively affecting your credit score.

The debt collection agency may assign your debt to a new company, invalidating your cease and desist letter.

Myth – You Can Tell a Debt Collector to Stop Calling You

Sort of true – you can if they are calling you at work or at an inconvenient time. You must request in writing that they stop calling you.

A debt collector can only call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. in your time zone. If they call outside this time, tell them they are violating the law and then write down the time and date (and caller’s name). This is a violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Myth – Debt Collectors Can Call Your Relatives or Workplace

True and false. If you don’t keep creditors updated with address changes, the debt collector can call your relatives to get your new address. However, they can’t give relatives information about your debt. Keep in mind that they may try to guilt your relatives into paying your debt. This is not legal either.

The debt collector can call you at work unless you tell them not to. They cannot discuss your case with your co-workers or boss. To stop calls at work, send a certified return receipt requested letter telling them not to call you at work. Keep the receipt and a copy of the letter as proof.

Myth – You Have to Give Them Personal Information

Do not give them your bank account number, references, Social Security Number, or work information. They tell you they want to set up a financial statement. What they are really doing is collecting information to find you. DO NOT give them that information.

Making Payments

Myth – Partial Payments Make Them Stop Calling

Sure, until you are delinquent again. If you set up and keep to a payment plan, the calls will stop.

Never ever admit that the debt is yours! That can affect the statute of limitations.

Myth – Paying the Debt Collector Improves Your Credit Score

When you pay off your debt, the debt collector must notify the credit reporting agency that you have paid it. However, it will show on your credit report (up to seven years) that you went to collections. Your credit score will improve but not immediately.

Myth – You Must Pay the Full Amount

Not necessarily. That is what the debt collector and original creditor want, but you may be able to “settle” or decrease the amount you owe. Discuss payment plans or other options with the debt collector and GET IT IN WRITING. Try negotiating at the end of the month as your collector has monthly goals and may be more amenable to negotiation.  Pacific Debt may be able to help you with debt settlement.

Myth – Settlement Will Help Your Credit Score Immediately

Not immediately. Paying off your debt will help your credit score in the long run.

Myth – Making Payments Restarts the Credit Report Time Limit

No. The credit report listing is based on your original delinquency date. It generally stays on your credit report for up to seven years.

A payment does restart the statute of limitations time limit.

Myth – You Must Make a Big Down Payment Immediately

Your debt collector is probably working on commission. Your large down payment is part of that commission. You do not have to make a large down payment!   

You may also be threatened with awful outcomes if not paid within a certain amount of time. It is a tactic to get you to pay quickly. Threats are not legal!

Know Your Rights

Myth – You Can Go to Jail for Having Debts

No. This is not legal and not true. If the debt collector makes a threat, you have grounds for extortion.

However, you can go to jail in some states for overdue child support or for failure to appear in court if summoned to a hearing about your debt (see summons letter)

Myth – Debt Collectors Can Garnish Your Wages

This is false. Your wages can only be garnished via a court order or if the debt is a federal student loan. Even then, the amount garnished is limited to 25% by law.

Myth – Business Debts are Protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Both the FDCPA and your state’s FDCPA (if they have one) only cover consumer debts. States generally have statutes for commercial debt collection.

Myth: State Lines Don’t Matter

If you have a judgement against you and you move to another state, debt collection agencies can’t pursue you for non-payment of the judgement. It is expensive and time-consuming for them.


Always take what a debt collector is telling you with a grain of salt. Double check, verify, get it in writing, and don’t admit anything. Keep good records.

If you are being harassed, contact an attorney. If you need advice, contact an attorney.

We are not attorneys and are not giving legal advice.

If you are ready to deal with your debt, Pacific Debt may be able to help. Contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members to discuss your situation. If we can’t help you specifically, we will refer you to a trusted partner suited to your unique situation.

Our Debt Specialists can help you explore your alternatives to bankruptcy, including debt consolidation and debt settlement options.


how to respond to a demand letter or summons letter

How to Respond to a Summons and a Demand Letter

Responding To The Demand Letter

DISCLAIMER: We are not lawyers and are not giving legal advice. We strongly recommend speaking to a professional attorney.

If you get a demand letter, you need to read it very carefully and respond within the time limit set out in the letter. Credit collectors can and do make mistakes. Make sure that the debt is yours or that you are responsible for it. Make sure that the debt amount is accurate. If it is older than three years, check your state (or that state where the debt was incurred) statute of limitations. Each state is different, and limitations range from three to ten years.

Read the Demand Letter to:

  1. Make sure the debt is yours
  2. Make sure the debt amount is accurate
  3. Make sure the debt circumstances are correct
  4. Make sure your debt is within your state’s statute of limitations

The letter may threaten all sorts of actions. Some of this may be hyperbole, meant to scare you or take advantage of your lack of knowledge.

Below is a Letter of Demand Sample.

If you dispute any of the information in the letter, respond in writing. Explain why the information is incorrect and if you have documentation to support your claims, send copies. DO NOT send the actual documents.

Once you have verified the information, respond in writing.

  • Be polite
  • Explain any misunderstandings
  • Send copies of documents that support your argument – do not send the actual documents
  • Send the letter with confirmation of delivery

In your response letter, if you are searching the net on how to answer a summons without an attorney. Do not make promises to pay if you do not plan to pay. That offer can reset the statute of limitations. Do not admit you are responsible but do not lie. Finally, don’t make threats or use profanity.


  • Make promises to pay
  • Admit that you are responsible
  • Make threats
  • Lie

How to Respond To A Summons Letter

Take a summons letter very seriously. Do not ignore the letter. If you ignore the letter, you may lose the case. The summons is a legal action. If you ignore it, the next step the court will take will be a warrant for your arrest.

If you receive a summons, make sure that you are the correct person. The heading will read the Plaintiff (the creditor) vs Defendant (you). If this is not you or your debt, respond in writing immediately. There is be a section explaining how much the debt is and how and when it was incurred. Make certain these are correct. You will receive notice of where, when, and what date you are expected to appear in court. If you incurred the debt in another state, you may have to travel to that state.

Below is a Summons Letter Sample.

Summons Letter Example

If you receive a summons:

  • Make sure the debt is yours
  • Make sure the debt amount is accurate
  • Make sure the debt circumstances are correct
  • Make sure your debt is within your state’s statute of limitations

If you need to respond to a summons, include ALL the information on the letter so it can be filed correctly. This includes:

  • Court’s name
  • The case number
  • Your name
  • The creditor’s name

If you have a legitimate reason for not being able to attend the hearing, you may ask, in writing, for the date to be changed. The court may or may not grant the change.

Notice of Intention to Defend

If you plan to defend the suit, you must let the court know, generally within ten court days. The summons letter will contain a Notice of Intention to Defend. You will fill it out and make two copies. One copy must be taken to the court issuing the summons. It will be stamped and filed. Have the original stamped as well. The other goes to the plaintiff’s attorney or address on the summons. Have the original stamped by the plaintiff. Keep the original.

If you miss the 10-day limit, follow the above advice. Email or fax the notice to the attorneys and then deliver the copies as noted above. It may help you avoid the default judgment.

To defend a summons:

Fill out the Notice of Intention to Defend included in the summons

  • Make two copies
  • Take the copies to the court issuing the summons
  • Have the original and the copies stamped
  • Give one copy to the court to file
  • Give one copy to the plaintiff or plaintiff’s attorney (address will be on summons)
  • Have the original and the plaintiff copy stamped by the plaintiff
  • Keep the original!

Hiring a Lawyer

It is your right to contact an attorney. If the case is complicated or involves large amounts of money, you may want to be represented in court. Be aware that that the losing side may be required to pay the legal fees of both sides.


Our Debt Specialists can help you explore your alternatives to bankruptcy, including debt consolidation and debt settlement options.

what is a summons

The Difference between a Summons and a Demand Letter

DISCLAIMER: We are not lawyers and are not giving legal advice. We strongly recommend speaking to a professional attorney.

You’ve got a letter from your creditor. What action do you need to take? What is a summons? It depends on what type of letter you get. You may receive a demand for payment letter or a summons letter. They are distinct, and each requires a different level of action.

Demand Letter Versus Summons Letter

What is a demand letter? A demand letter gives you formal notice that your creditor is considering legal action. It may come from an attorney or from the creditor. There will be a demand for action, such as repaying your debt or a requested payment. A demand for payment letter will most likely include a threat of legal action.

What is a summons letter? A summons letter comes from the court system. It is a legal notice that you are being sued in court. It will contain the name of the court, the case number, the parties involved, and what you are legally required do. The summons letter will either be delivered by a law officer or by registered mail.

If you are getting threatening legal documents from collectors, check out this article  How to deal with debt collectors when you can’t pay.

What is a Demand for Payment Letter?

You may receive a demand letter that looks something like this:

Letter of Demand Sample


Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

You are protected from harassment by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Your state may also have a Fair Collections Practices Act that adds additional protections. Your demand letter, whether it comes from a lawyer or debt collection agency, must respect the FDCPA.  The federal law includes:

Debt collectors can NOT:

  • Charges more than 10% interest
  • Garnish more than 25% of wages
  • Use/threaten physical force or criminal tactics to harm you, your property, or your reputation
  • Accusing you of committing a crime for not paying the debt
  • Make/threaten to make defamatory statements to someone else
  • Threaten arrest, to seize assets, or garnish wages, unless actually planning to take such action
  • Use obscene or profane language
  • Cause you to spend money you wouldn’t otherwise have spent (ie long-distance telephone calls)
  • Call you repeatedly or let your phone ring repeatedly
  • Call frequently
  • Contact your employer, except to verify employment or health insurance status, garnish wages or locate you
  • Reveal information about debt to anyone except your spouse or your parents if a minor.
  • Publicly publish your name for failing to pay
  • Send a postcard or letter with revealing information on the envelope
  • Claim to be someone other than a debt collector, including a governmental official
  • Use stationary that appears to be from a law firm (unless they are)
  • Charge you collection or attorney’s fees unless legally allowable
  • Threaten to report you to a credit reporting agency if they have no intention of doing so
  • Send a letter claiming to come from a claim, credit, audit, or legal department unless it is

Debt collectors must:

  • Disclose caller identification
  • May contact your family to locate you
  • Must serve you with notice of a lawsuit if suing you

If you receive a letter that violates any of these, you may have a case to sue the collection agency. Make sure you keep a written record of all letters, emails, or phone calls. You may have to speak to an attorney in order to stop harassing behavior.


The Summons Letter

If you receive a letter delivered by a member of the sheriff’s office, or as a registered letter, it is a summons letter. You may be asking yourself what is a summons?

It will look very formal and make look like this:

Summons Letter Example



Our Debt Specialists can help you explore your alternatives to bankruptcy, including debt consolidation and debt settlement options.

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