The first thing to realize up front:
If you are getting a lot of calls from debt collectors, there is a good chance that they have ALREADY broken the law.
Because, it seems that debt collectors (generally speaking) have a hard time doing their job without breaking the law–either on accident or on purpose.
In fact, bill collectors and the collection agencies they work for are NOTORIOUS for breaking the law.
It pays to know that up front. If you’re getting calls from the same collection agency 10 times in a day, then that is harassment, and it’s a violation of the law. If the collectors are calling neighbors, friends, and relatives and talking to them about your debt, then that too is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
So how can you stop the madness?
The process might seem simple, but because of the tendency of debt collectors to ignore the law, it isn’t always as straight forward as one would hope.
First, let’s start with the law.
The FDCPA (§ 805(c)) states the following:
"(c) CEASING COMMUNICATION. If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except— (1) to advise the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated; (2) to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or (3) where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy. If such notice from the consumer is made by mail, notification shall be complete upon receipt. (d) For the purpose of this section, the term “consumer” includes the consumer’s spouse, parent (if the consumer is a minor), guardian, executor, or administrator."
This should be simple, right?
Just notify the debt collector in writing that you wish for them to cease communication, and done.
If you ask the debt collector to cease "ALL" communication you could find yourself getting sued. If the debt is large enough to justify a lawsuit the debt collector could sue since by taking away their ability to WRITE and CALL, you’ve essentially removed every option they have for collecting the debt short of a lawsuit.
So instead of asking the debt collector to "cease and desist all communication", you need to ask them to "cease and desist PHONE CALLS only."
In the letter you write, it is important to specify that written communication is acceptable and that they should immediately cease and desist contact by PHONE.
Now you probably think you’re done.
There are still issues that complicate matters.
Remember that first point we made? Let me refresh your memory…
"Bill collectors and the collection agencies they work for are NOTORIOUS for breaking the law."
One common problem, according to recent statistics from the FTC, is debt collectors ignoring consumer demands to stop phone calls.(1)
So what can you do if you’ve sent a "cease and desist phone calls" notice, and the debt collector ignores it?
One simple step you can take is to make a script for yourself, and every time you receive a phone call from a debt collector, read it. It could go something like this:
"Hello, I recently sent a letter to your company demanding that you cease and desist phone calls, which you have obviously chosen to ignore. In order to collect evidence to submit along with my complaint to the attorney generals office, I am recording all phone calls. You are hereby notified that this call is being recorded."
Chances are, they’ll hang up in a hurry after that.
You can also try a more (legally) threatening version of your previous "cease and desist phone calls" notice, and include a "CC" to the better business bureau and the state attorney general.
Another strategy is to use call blocking and/or call screening, but that can be problematic since most collectors will be calling from multiple phone numbers and area codes.
You may also be able to sue them, and if they are blatantly ignoring the law and harassing you, it may be worth consulting with a qualified attorney.
So what if you manage to get the collector to obey the law and stop calling you?
You’re done now, right?
Yes, until the collector sells the debt to another collection agency.
Then the calls will start coming in again, and the process starts over.
To make "stopping bill collector calls" as simple and stress-free as possible, we recommend using a streamlined system, with ready-made letters, envelopes, postage, and phone scripts. Just get everything you need together ONCE, and then work your system every time you start getting phone calls.
(1) FTC Annual Report 2011, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act