Getting constant calls from a debt collector can feel harassing or overwhelming. So you’re probably wondering how to stop debt collectors from calling.
It may feel like the calls from that debt collector will never stop, or you may feel like you are at their mercy and required to do whatever they say. But you aren’t. You have rights and options. It’s time to be aware of what you can do regarding debt collection harassment.
When is a debt collector allowed to call?
First, you should know that a debt collector can’t just call you whenever they want. They are only allowed to call between the hours of 8 AM and 9 PM. If they call you before 8 AM or after 9 PM, it’s considered harassment unless you worked it out with them to talk during that time.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was put in place to protect the consumer from unlawful collection practices. You can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) if the debt collector is in violation of the FDCPA.
The FDCPA is a “strict liability” law. This means that you do not have to prove any actual damages. You have one year from the time the debt collector violated the law to sue for damages in the State or Federal court. You can be awarded up to $1,000 plus attorney’s fees because the debt collector violated federal law.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is another government agency in the federal sector that enforces debt collection laws; they seek to protect consumers against harassment.
Is it legal for debt collectors to call?
It is legal for a debt collector to call you within reasonable hours, again from 8 AM to 9 PM. They can contact you at your place of employment, but if you ask them to stop, they must obey the law.
A debt collector can also contact you via email or text message. They can also send you letters in the mail. If they can’t get a hold of you one way, they’re likely to try another way to get your attention and make you take action.
When can a debt collector’s call be considered harassment?
There’s a fine line between contacting you to talk about the collection and harassment. It’s essential to know how to recognize when you’re being harassed and how to stop debt collection calls.
Harassment can be subjective, but the law protects you if you think a debt collector is harassing you. You must keep track of all methods of contact, words spoken, and threats made when you feel harassed.
While there are hundreds of ways a debt collector can harass you, here are some signs of harassment:
- Threatening criminal action or physical harm if you don’t pay the debt
- Using obscene or profane language
- Contacting you more often than necessary, even a few times a day, is too much.
- Impersonating a lawyer or police officer
- Calling and hanging up repeatedly
- Providing false or misleading statements to scare you into paying the debt
Is there a way to stop debt collection calls?
You can stop collection calls, and it’s not as hard as you think. A simple letter asking them to stop calling is all it takes. If they keep calling, they violate the law and could face the consequences.
To ask the debt collector to stop contacting you, write a cease and desist letter. You can write this on your own, and you don’t need an attorney’s help. Just make sure you’re writing the letter to the appropriate debt collection agency. Check the name and address and include your name and account number in the letter. You will also want to send the letter via certified mail with return receipt requested.
Make sure you clearly state that you want the debt collector to stop calling you. Also, include any other places or people the collector has called that you want them to stop calling. Your final statement should mention that you will file a complaint with the FTC if they don’t follow through. This statement alone usually gets them to stop.
Once they receive your letter, the debt collector may not contact you again except to confirm that they’ve received your letter and to let you know there will be no further contact.
Is it bad to stop debt collectors’ calls?
It’s important to stop collectors’ calls to stop debt collector harassment. If a debt collector isn’t harassing you but is just calling to find out when you’ll pay your debt, you may want to avoid the calls rather than demanding a cease and desist.
If you tell the debt collector to stop calling you, they will, but that means you won’t get any information about your debt. Stopping the phone calls doesn’t stop them from taking legal action against you. It’s better to get the information so you can negotiate with them or figure out your next steps rather than being unpleasantly surprised.
Also, if you tell the debt collector to stop contacting you, they could just sell your debt to another collection agency that may do the same thing, or they may sue you. Either way, you’ll still be on the hook for the debt, and it can hurt your credit even further.
But, if you feel harassed, the statute of limitations has passed, or the debt doesn’t belong to you, by all means, write the letter and get them to stop calling you.
Is it a good idea to let debt collectors call?
If you know the collection belongs to you and you plan to find a way to satisfy it, let them call you, but don’t let it get unpleasant. If you don’t want them calling a specific number, such as contacting you at work, tell them so.
When you let collectors call, you can give them updates on how you’re doing with your plan to settle your debt, or you can negotiate the debt.
Since debt collectors often buy your debt for pennies on the dollar, you have room to negotiate. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize this. You’ve already been hit for the late payments with the original creditor, so go ahead and negotiate a lower payoff. In your negotiations, also ask the debt collector to remove the collection from your credit report after you settle it as agreed.
This is called a pay-for-delete. Collection agencies don’t have to accept it, but many will in exchange for payment. Include it in your negotiations and see where you end up; you may come out with a more favorable outcome than you thought.
Tips On Avoiding Debt Collection Calls
If you don’t write a cease and desist letter, there’s not much stopping a debt collector from calling you, but here are some tips to avoid the debt collector calls until you’re ready.
- Only allow them to call your home number. If they call you at work or at a relative’s house, ask them to stop. Be specific about the numbers they are not allowed to call so you don’t feel harassed.
- Tell the debt collector you prefer to discuss the issue in writing. This permits them to email you or send you mail, but not to call you. This leaves the door open and the chance to settle the debt, reducing the risk of a lawsuit.
- You don’t have to answer the phone. Nothing says that you must answer the phone when they call. Don’t answer the phone if you aren’t in the right frame of mind to deal with them or don’t have anything new to share.
Knowing how to stop debt collector harassment is essential. While most debt collection agencies operate within the law, plenty of them cross the line. Being aware of what a debt collector can and can’t do is important. You’ll know when they’re violating the laws and when you have the right to file a complaint.
Don’t let aggressive debt collectors harass or overwhelm you. Instead, figure out what you want to do and how you want to settle the debt. Keep the communications cordial and ask them not to call you where you are uncomfortable being contacted. If they harass you, file a complaint and consider legal action if it continues.