If I understand you correctly, you have not yet been sued on the debt (which would likely be the sheriff coming to your door with service of the Summons and Complaint). If the debt is legitimate and they are aggresssively pursuing you, you can choose to send them a letter in writing telling them that you dispute the debt and instructing them not to make or attempt further contact. If you do this, their remedy would be to sue you if they are not bluffing about pursuing the collection on the debt. If you can work something out, get it in writing - offer what you are able to pay.
Advice on this forum is for informational purposes only and should never be mistaken as a substitute for legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice, you should consult local legal counsel.
What Are Debt Collectors Allowed to Do to Collect Debts? A: In general, debt collectors are allowed to make civilized contact with you to make arrangements for payment of the debt. If you fail or refuse to pay a valid debt, debt collectors are legally allowed to use legal process to collect the debt, including obtaining a judgment against you, wage garnishment or attachment of your bank accounts, investment accounts or real estate. Debt collectors are also allowed to credit-report a valid debt to the credit reporting agencies, so long as the credit reporting is accurate.
What Are Debt Collectors Not Allowed to Do? There are many things that debt collectors are not allowed to do when collecting debts, even when the debts are valid debts. The following list is only a partial list of the things which debt collectors are not allowed to do when collecting debts:
Debt collectors may not use threats of physical force or violence in collecting debts. They may not threaten criminal prosecution for non-payment of the debt. They may not threaten to tell uninvolved third persons about your debt in an effort to humiliate or embarrass you. They cannot use obscene or profane language when contacting you to collect debts. When a debt collector contacts you, he or she must correctly identify who they are, the purpose of the contact and the fact that it is an effort to collect a debt. Debt collectors cannot lie to you about who they are, who they work for or why they’re calling you. If they are not an attorney, they cannot represent to you that they are an attorney. Similarly, they cannot misrepresent to you that they are police officers, FBI officers, or sheriffs. They cannot cause a phone to ring continuously or repeatedly to harass you, and may not call you too frequently or at odd hours to harass you. Debt collectors generally can only call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., unless you give them permission to call at some other time. With limited exceptions, debt collectors cannot contact your employer concerning the debt. With limited exceptions, debt collectors cannot call your family members about the debt.
They cannot publish to anyone a “deadbeat’s list” of persons who allegedly have not paid their debts. If you advise a debt collector that you are represented by an attorney and wish to conduct all further discussions only through counsel, the debt collector must cease calling you and must thereafter only contact you through your attorney. If you advise a debt collector to cease communications with you, the debt collector must do so after advising you of any additional debt collection steps that may be taken. If your original contract with the creditor does not provide for attorney’s fees or other penalties, the debt collector cannot add these to the debt. Debt collectors cannot use fraudulent legal forms to collect debts. They cannot solicit post-dated checks and cannot accept checks post-dated by more than five days.
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Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted in the States of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts only and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to those three States. This advice is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation. Facts and laws change and these possible changes will affect the advice provided here. Consult an attorney in your locale before you act on any of this advice. You should not rely on this advice alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney client relationship.