Skip to main content

Job losses have traveled hand-in-hand with the Coronavirus. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, you’re not alone. Here are a few things to keep in mind if a debt collector calls.

Logo, which says "Financial Impact of the Coronavirus" Consider talking with the collector at least once, even if you can’t pay right away or don’t think you owe the money. That way, you can confirm whether it’s really your debt. If it is, you may be able to work out a payment plan or settlement.

Collectors have to follow rules when they contact you. Watch the short video at the end of this post to learn about these rules. During the Coronavirus emergency, the federal government and many state and local governments also have put special programs in place that may help you manage your debt:

  • The Department of Education (ED) has temporarily stopped the collection of federally-owned student loans that are in default. In fact, whether or not you’re in default, if you have federal student loans, you don’t need to pay your monthly payments from March 13, 2020 through the end of the pause, and interest also has been suspended. Visit ED’s website to learn more.
  • Some states are limiting what collectors can do during this emergency. For example, you’ve probably heard about the $1,200 economic stimulus payments that most people will get as a direct deposit to their bank account. If a debt collector or a creditor has sued you, they may have a garnishment order that would let them seize the payment when it reaches your account. Some states, however, are temporarily making debt collection seizures like this illegal. Check with your state attorney general to find out about any emergency limits on debt collection actions in your state. (A new IRS “Get My Payment” tool lets you track the payment to your account.)
  • Many state and local governments have temporarily halted actions like evictions, foreclosures, and water and utility shutoffs. Contact your state and local government to find out about emergency protections that may apply to you.

If the collection calls get to be too much, you can stop them. Just send the collector a letter telling them to stop contacting you. Keep a copy for your records. Stopping the calls won’t cancel the debt. You still might be sued or have debt reported to a credit bureau. But, stopping the calls may give you time to regroup, then start working your way toward financial recovery.

Drawing of a debt collector on the phone. Click to play debt collection video.

Updated November 23, 2022 to reflect the extension of the student loan payment pause. Visit the U.S. Department of Education to learn more.

Search Terms

28 Comments


It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Jb
April 22, 2020
Amazing for helping right now , haven't been getting and I think that's amazing that they are following the rules besides one that is a scam that is a automatic voice thing and doesn't say anyone name or account and if you go on internet everyone else says the same thing about it.
Jod2020
April 22, 2020
844-804-8467 / 646-480-0521 and 425-754-1401 are debt collection scammer that broke the law and needed to be held accountable. They life threatened people for money.
FTC Staff
April 23, 2020

In reply to by Jod2020

You can report that to the FTC at www.FTC.gov/Complaint. The information you give will go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

ds
April 24, 2020
What if I have a debt to the IRS and they continue taking payments, I can no longer afford. They won't even take a call
Financialstress
May 01, 2020
I got a call this morning @ 8:01am from a company about a debt owed for having to break my lease early. (This was due to unforeseen circumstances) I spoke to them about a month ago and they were friendly stating that if I can pay a certain amount now they will be able to work with me on payments after I get my finances under control. I did the payment they asked for last month eventhough it was large and had to borrow money :(. This time wanted they wanted the same large amount. When I told them what I could afford they said that if I didn't give them that large amount it would go to collections. He was unable to give me any information as to whether they are doing anything for people effected by this pandemic and refused to let me speak with his superiors stating that I would have to find that information online myself, then swiftly hung up on me. Was he in the right by threatening to send it to collections unless I pay the larger amount? Also, not giving me any other way to contact them? I am willing to give what I can, but cannot afford what he was telling me I had to pay. I do not want this going to collections
KB
May 13, 2020
Th covid-19 crisis is not a legally justifiable excuse for defendant failure of performance since his obligations well due way before shelter in place went into effect! Settlement recorded April 23, in court! Settlement was signed end of Jan 2020, and i paid 50k! and now the lawyer sending me this letter threatening me! any advise? Thanks,
Rrod7
May 14, 2020
I'm currently out of work because of covid. I'm now being hassled by my HOA to do spring up keep/ cosmetic repairs to the property or face fines. I emailed them said I was out of work and losing my home this is the last thing I can do during this hardship. To weeks later I was given a $100 citation for parking wrong. I don't have the money I'm worried they will balloon the fees as they stated on the fine.
2cats
June 02, 2020

In reply to by Rrod7

Us too! Got served w lawsuit 2 weeks ago. Went from 1200 to 1500 to 2500 and they can lien the property if we don’t pay.
Rhythmof1
May 15, 2020
hospital calling about my ER visit in Dec 2019. This was when the virus first came to the U.S and no one knew about it. I can't believe they're calling to collect debt
Tracy333
May 23, 2020

In reply to by Rhythmof1

I am going through the same thing, mine occured in January of 2020, I caught sepsis somehow, and ulcerative colitus. my medical debt is massive, they are threatning me with collections, which will destroy my excellent credit score. Im just at a loss, even if I made a payment plan, so many different doctors, saw me in hospital, each one billing seperately, the payment plans are bigger than I am,,,, my hospital bill itself was 182,000 for 6 days of hospitization.....Im just trusting in God to assist me.
BJL0204
May 25, 2020
Do creditors have an extension over the six year statute of limitations for collecting debt due to Covid? I just heard from someone out of the blue that I owed a debt from 6 years ago which would have expired on April 28, 2020 but the collection company that called me told me (on Friday evening before a long holiday weekend) that I have to “secure payment” on this so the company won’t file in court. Please advise - I am in Massachusetts.
jje
March 30, 2021

In reply to by BJL0204

I contacted to AGO and am praying they put an end to the problem, I have a judgement from over 10 years ago attacking me. file a complaint online, it might help
DL
May 27, 2020
I just filed a complaint online w/the FTC. Had it sent to both the collection agency and orig creditor. Orig creditor had the incorrect addr on file. Collection agency has been calling and sent a notice threatening to report it to the credit bureaus. Informed them they need to halt everything due to the pandemic. If ppl are unemployed/furloughed or fired where are they get any monies to pay any bills. This bill isn't going anywhere. Rent and food is the priority.
moneytaken
May 30, 2020
The attorney general intercepted a payment being made to me thru ohio lottery. I needed this income to pay my rent due to corona plant closure. I thought all student debts were suspended by the the governor smh
JG1873
June 20, 2020
I had a lady come to my home today to serve me papers from Cavalry SPV I, LLC. She came inside my garage for me to sign the paper and hand me the forms. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and people in my home (my parents are both immunocompromised and over age 65, my son has asthma, and my 19 month old daughter has a congenital heart defect and if she contracts covid 19, it would be a very bad situation for her). The lady was less than a foot away from me when I signed using her pen on the paper on her clipboard and she did not maintain distance at all. I am very concerned about the fact the company she worked for is in the twin cities where there are thousands and thousands of covid 19 cases and her items she made me use may have been contaminated. I need your help! In Minnesota it says businesses must adhere to Minnesota Department of Health guidelines and social distancing was NOT adhered to. Please help me!!!!!!
MSR11
June 29, 2020
I was served 2 civil summons literally 5 days apart from two different debt collectors. Do to covid-19 I lost both of my jobs and the only income I have currently is my unemployment. Even though both of my jobs are planning to reopen they have not set a date as of yet. I have no money to hire a attorney, or a job for them to garnish wages from. So what do they expect me to do?? What type of low life debt collecting company tries to sue someone in the middle of a national pandemic with millions of people out of work.
MMoody
August 24, 2021

In reply to by MSR11

Hi. I am in the same sinking boat at the moment, two lawsuits by two different creditors at the moment and a third creditor in the wings calling me multiple times a day, every day to tell me if I'm not able to pay in full they'll be filing a lawsuit! Has anyone answered your question? Or have you found any information or help for the situation? I could really use the help/advice/guidance on what to do right now also. Literally losing my hair in clumps due to this added stress. Thanks! And I hope you're doing better now than you were then!
Von
July 01, 2020
If your account with a debt collection agency was put on a temp hold due to COVID and a pending court date, are you still legally required to pay on the debt in good faith while you wait on the pandemic restrictions to pass and new court dates to be re-issued?
Prossbur
July 28, 2020
As a social security recipient, I have not been given leeway to make payment arrangements with loan company despite the fact I have done so with other creditors. Their argument: still receive steady income so no excuse not to pay. I had financial difficulties before covid 19. But due to rising prices of supplies, I am still at a disadvantage. There should be compassion for all U.S citizens during this time because we have all been negatively affected in some way.
Bayarea35416
August 12, 2020
Court ordered debt collecting is still going on as well. They took everything from my account. They dont care.
Razor72
December 21, 2020

In reply to by Bayarea35416

What did you do to fight back? I assume nothing. They don't mess with people that actually put up even a token defense, such as simply answering the lawsuit with a general denial or a motion to compel private arbitration contained in THEIR contract they are trying to enforce.
Albinokathy
August 14, 2020
I have a common variable immune deficiency disease. I have to receive weekly treatments. My husband lost his job during Covid and has been unable to find another one and now they are telling me that my medicine can be withheld because I can’t make my payments. What can I do?!?!
Gina
August 18, 2020
If your paying a creditor for a hospital bill every month, can they still add your debt to your credit report?
Chez
December 24, 2020
I have a $31,000 College debt which has significant reduced my credit score. I have to move since I can no longer keep up in the house I rent. I can't get a decent place and am asked to pay double the down payment due to a substandard score because of the large debt. One company wants $1,500 because the school is closed and I'm eligible for loan forgiveness. I don't have $1,500 for a lawyer and the down payment is too high. My lease is up in a few months.
sweetslim1967
February 15, 2021
I owe Social security. Irs take my federal taxes until payed up. Will they continue to take my taxes during this pandemic
jwalker90
July 20, 2021
I've been getting garnished in Wisconsin for the past 6 weeks and my partner has been getting garnished for $2000 that was part of a semester he took in college. Kind of crummy that they are allowed to garnish us during a pandemic. We haven't been able to afford all of our bills now and my phone was just disconnected today. It sucks they take $250 between both of us every week, so that's $1,000 a month taken from our income.
Dwoodworth22
August 13, 2021
So I got a letter taped to my door today from Supreme Court of the state of New York and county i reside. I had a debt from a credit card (specifically credit one bank. Apparently they've served others I've known as well, threatening, I'm not sure if they ever received something they needed to respond to (avoiding to letter) within a specific time frame. Especially during this pandemic, I don't have the money to pay them. In past experience, it just has say on my credit report. Threatening to come after me for $400 seems silly. Who do they think they are sending people to my house now though? What are my rights? Especially in rise in covid cases, they don't need to come and tape stuff to my front door. I'm highly annoyed. If it were an electric bill or something of necessity, I wouldn't care as much, but I haven't spoke to these people in 2 years now and they're going to come to my home? I don't think so. Other credit companies don't go to this extent. Can anyone tell me me my rights or have any ideas?
Abby1212
September 21, 2021
If the Treasury Offset Program is paused for student loans, will casinos still keep your winnings if you are in default?