Calls from debt collectors can be very annoying, to say the least. They can be annoying to the point that it makes you want to change your phone number just to stop the calls. Fortunately, there is a better way - one that lets you keep your number without having to deal with such calls.
When Can Debt Collectors Call
Debt collectors are required to abide by a federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This law defines what debt collectors can and cannot do when they are collecting a debt.
For starters, debt collectors cannot call you about a debt that you do not owe. When a debt collector first contacts you about a debt, you have the right to request them to verify that the debt is yours. If the debt collector cannot provide verification, they are not allowed to contact you anymore.
Even if you do not send a validation request, debt collectors have certain rules they must follow when it comes to contacting you over the phone. For example, they cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. your local time. They cannot call you repeatedly, and they cannot call you at any time you have previously stated is inconvenient.
How to Stop Debt Collection Calls
There is no law that says you have to communicate with a debt collector by phone. If you hang up on a debt collector, there is nothing they can do about it. But, if the collector continues to call you repeatedly even after you have hung up on them, they are in violation of FDCPA.
You can stop debt collectors from calling you by simply telling them that you prefer to communicate with them in writing. After that, the collector is required to send you letters to communicate with you. Written communications work in your favor because it gives you a record of everything that is said. If the debt collector violates FDCPA, you have hard evidence that could lead to a lawsuit in your favor.
The surest way to stop debt collectors from calling you is by sending what is known as a cease and desist letter. The letter would state that the collector should cease and desist further communication with you. The letter only applies to third-party debt collectors who are working on behalf of the company you originally created the debt with.
When Debt Collectors Contact You About Another's Debt
People who have recently changed their phone numbers are often plagued with calls from collectors trying to reach that number's previous owner. Unfortunately, telling the debt collector that they have the wrong number may not be enough to stop the calls for good.
Instead, you should send a cease and desist letter as if the debt were yours. Of course, you should not admit to the debt, especially since you are not the debtor, but you can request that the debt collector stop calling your phone number. If calls persist after the cease and desist letter, report the collector to your state's Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Debt collectors might also contact you trying to locate another person, like a friend or relative. Somehow, in their background check, your contact information has been linked to that person. The law does allow debt collectors to contact the third party to get a phone number, address, and employment information, but they can only contact a specific third party once and they cannot reveal any information about the debt. They violate the law if they continue to contact you for contact information even after you have told them what you know.
If you are the attorney, spouse, or parent, or guardian of a minor who owes the debt, the collectors are allowed to contact you. A cease and desist letter can stop collection calls in these cases too.
What Happens After the Cease and Desist
Once the collection agency receives your cease and desist letter, they can communicate with you once more, via mail, to let you know one of three things: that further efforts to collect the debt are terminated, that certain actions may be taken by the debt collector, or that the debt collector is definitely going to take certain actions.
When you send the cease and desist letter to the debt collector, you should do so via certified mail with return receipt requested. This will provide proof that the letter was sent and received. If the debt collector communicates with you beyond the single instance allowed by law, this evidence will allow you to seek punitive action against the debt collector.