Myth No. 6: If you're in debt, collectors' efforts will make sure everyone around you finds out

"Not true at all," says Udis. In fact, just the opposite.

"Under federal law, they cannot discuss the debt," she says. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits collectors from even disclosing that there is a debt, Udis says.

So while a debt collector could conceivably call friends or family to find you, he or she may only call one time, she says. Collectors are not even allowed to say they're calling because of a debt, she adds. And that reason doesn't hold water if they already have your contact information.

While the federal law applies to third-party collectors (companies collecting debt for the original creditor or companies who buy the debt), some states also impose the same confidentiality restrictions on the original creditors, says Rheingold.

Worried about your job if a creditor gets a judgment to garnish your salary? Again, you're protected, says Udis. Federal law prohibits employers from firing employees because they're having wages garnished, she says.

Myth No. 7: Telling debt collectors to 'buzz off' means they can't call you

Again, half right. You have the right to tell collectors (verbally) not to call you at work, and they are required to obey, says Tracy S. Thorleifson, attorney at the Federal Trade Commission.

You also have the right to ask them not to contact you again, and they have to comply. But to invoke that right (granted under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act), you want to put the request in writing, says Udis. After that, the collector is barred from contacting you again.

One right you don't give up with a "drop dead" letter: Collectors still have to serve notice if they file a lawsuit.

Don't want to draft your own letter just to tell collectors to go away? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a series of debt collection sample letters.

Myth No. 8: Divorce decrees split debts into piles of 'his' and 'hers'

Definitely a myth. Sometimes divorce courts will parcel out the payment of debts (joint and otherwise) during a divorce. (She pays the card bill; he pays the house note, etc.)

But "the court order is between you and the ex-spouse," says Hillebrand. "It doesn't change the obligation you have with the credit card company."

When you walk into court with your name on certain bills and obligations, you are just as responsible to those creditors when you walk out, Udis says.

The best options for joint debt during a divorce are to either pay it all off before the divorce is final or contact the creditors to put the entire obligation solely in one name.

Whichever move you opt for, get proof in writing and hang onto it.

Myth No. 9: You can 'inherit' debts

Totally wrong. Unless a friend or family member of the deceased was already liable for a debt before the death (think joint debts or community property situations), they're not responsible for it after the death, says Robert Hobbs, deputy director of the National Consumer Law Center.

Debts can't be reassigned by creditors or collectors after death or "inherited," he adds.

What is supposed to happen: Once the creditors find out someone has died, they contact the estate and ask to be paid. The estate pays the applicable bills and distributes the assets, says Hobbs.

The best move: If you're getting calls from creditors or collectors insisting you've "inherited" debts, it may be time to chat with an attorney.

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