Know your rights when facing debt collectors


Whether you’re a college student or a senior citizen, dealing with debt can be a tricky subject.

“What consumers need to know is to be educated in understanding the amount of time that is allowable under the law for the debt collector to come back after you that money in order to protect your rights,” said Greg Dunn, CEO, Hawaii Better Business Bureau.

Dunn says generally debt collectors have up to six years to take you to court over money you owe, also known as time-barred debt.

“What we’re receiving calls on locally are people who may have debts that are eight, nine, 10 years old that are time-barred debts and they’re being threatened and told they have to pay that debt or they’re being asked to make a partial payment,” he said.

Dunn says at that point, you should ask questions.

“What consumers need to realize is that when you make a partial payment or if you engage and admit that you still owe that debt that can restart the clock,” he said.

Know your rights, since debt collectors are not allowed to threaten you with arrest.

Experts also say not paying back money you owe can hurt your credit rating, and can also have a negative impact on your financial future.

“Certainly if you promise to pay money back, you want to make sure you make every effort to pay that money back,” Dunn said.

If you’re in need of professional help, here are two important resources:

If you have a consumer concern or are interested in becoming an Action Line volunteer, give us a call at 591-0222 weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or send an email to

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