If you’ve fallen behind on your bills long enough, you may start receiving some unwanted phone calls, text messages, emails and other communications from debt collectors. These are folks whose whole job is to get you to pay back money that you owe. They will do that regardless of your own financial position.
If you’ve gotten to a place where debt collectors are calling you for repayment, it means that your original creditors have sold your debt. That means you’re likely seriously delinquent on a bill.
It doesn’t matter how things got that way. It’s incredibly important to start to work your way out.
A debt collector’s only job is to try to collect the debt from you. In order to do that, they will contact you endlessly to try to get you to pay up. This can include a whole host of different communication vehicles. Those can range from your telephone to your cell phone, email to text messaging.
So if their only job is to get money from you, how do you get them to stop? As it happens, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (or the FDCPA) regulates debt collectors fairly closely. It details a number of things:
- It regulates how debt collectors can contact you. They generally are not permitted to post on social media or call your employer without a court order. They can, however, contact your family members. They can do that to ascertain your location and current contact information.
- They can’t threaten you. There is likely an image of a debt collector as a large guy wearing leather and threatening to beat you up. This isn’t the case and debt collectors are barred from threatening your safety.
- They are not allowed to say they’ll sue you. They may still do it, but they aren’t allowed to threaten a lawsuit as a way to get you to pay.
- They must provide validation of the debt if you request it. This means that they have to prove that you owe the debt and provide a whole host of information about it.
- Most importantly for this article, they have to stop contacting you if you ask them to.
You can ask them to stop contacting you verbally if they call. But in order for it to be official, and for you to take action against them if they do not stop contacting you, it needs to be in writing.
A cease and desist letter is easy enough to draft. Let’s take a look at the sample below.
Sample Cease & Desist Letter
City, State, Zip
Debt Collector’s Name
City, State, Zip
RE: [Your Account Number]
To Whom It May Concern:
Pursuant to my rights under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) and other state and federal debt collection laws, I hereby request that you cease and desist and communication with me, as well as my family and friends, in relation to any and all alleged debts that you claim I owe.
You are notified that if you do not comply with this request, I will immediately file complaints with appropriate state and federal regulatory bodies, including but not limited to, attorneys general, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Civil and criminal claims will be pursued.
You’re using no-nonsense language here. “Don’t contact me or I’ll take action against you.” You’re also supplying enough information to ensure that they mark your account appropriately.
Finally, and most importantly, you are not admitting that you owe the debt. By saying “alleged debts,” you are noting that you do not recognize that you actually owe the money in question.
This can be important if legal proceedings are necessary. If you inadvertently say that you do recognize the debt as valid and do, in fact, owe the money, you can restart the statute of limitations.
This is the amount of time that a creditor or third-party debt collector has to collect the debt in question. This time varies from state to state but the important thing to remember is that it restarts if you make a payment or admit that you owe the debt.
You should plan to send the letter via certified mail. It may cost a bit more than your traditional mail service, but it ensures that the appropriate party receives it.
Note that this letter only applies to the specific debt collector and only in this specific instance. If you owe another debt to a different collector or owe a completely separate debt in the future, the collector can contact you again.
It’s also important to remember that these laws only apply to third-party debt collectors, not first-party, or the original creditor in question. If you owe a bunch of money to your auto lender, they can call you as much as they like.
This means that my debt goes away?
No, it simply means that the debt collector can no longer contact you about the debt in question. The company can have one final phone call to detail what actions they plan to take.
This is an important phone call to take. The collector will often attempt to settle for a smaller amount of money and if you owe the debt, it may not be a bad idea to take them up on it. You can always ask them to validate the debt and they may decide to take you to court to attempt to recover it.
Remember, the debt collector is no longer legally able to contact you, which means they won’t be able to tell you of their plans moving forward. What this means in practice is that if they do decide to take you to court, you’ll likely first learn about it via a summons.
Sending a cease and desist letter to a debt collector is a great way to get them to leave you alone while you sort out how to pay your debts. It’s important to remember, however, that if you owe the debt, it’s important that you pay it. Debt collectors will keep piling up until you pay or until you’re forced to declare bankruptcy.