Cease-Communication Letters

Debt collectors often try to wear down the resistance of consumers by repeatedly calling and harassing them. If this is happening, you can easily make it stop. Here’s how.

Debt Collection Strategies

Debt collection is a huge and growing industry in the United States, and collectors are notorious for some of the strategies they use to force and intimidate consumers into payment.

They’re Trying to Harass You

Debt collectors know that they people they are calling do not have much money-their purpose is to move themselves to the head of the line. The way they do this is by attempting to inflict more pain or annoyance on the consumer than other bill collectors. In other words, debt collectors know you only have so much money to pay your bills – they’re competing with each other. The company that harasses you the most “wins.” Sometimes individual debt collectors claim not to engage in abusive behavior, but rather to be the victims of it. I leave the reader to decide how much sympathy these debt collectors deserve, but my point is that, in general, the debt collectors seek emotional engagement – and, also in general – the best thing you can do is avoid it.

You Can Make them Stop Bugging You

The collectors are not concerned with your priorities or well-being, but you should be, and it is hard to keep a clear head amidst all the noise and all the people trying to use you. Luckily the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) offers some help. Under the FDCPA, 15 U.S. Code Section 1692(c)c, “if a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer wishes [it] to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further…with respect to such debt.”

However, the collector may inform the consumer that it’s efforts are being terminated, or notify the consumer that it “may or will invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked” (i.e., suing or reporting to the credit agencies). Many people fear that by invoking this rule they will cause the debt collectors to sue them – but this fear is probably misplaced (it is according to my experience). The debt collectors have their own guidelines based on what they expect to collect. If anything, writing a cease communication letter may reduce your chance of being sued because it keeps the debt collector from gathering more information about you.

What to Do to Make Debt Collectors Stop Harassing You

Crucially, if the notification is made by U.S. mail, the communication is complete “upon receipt.” In other words, to make sure the debt collector is forced to cease communications, it makes sense (although it is not required by the law) to send the letter by certified mail. That way you have proof that the debt collector received the letter. Any further communication would be in violation of the FDCPA.

When the phones stop ringing off the hook, you will be freer to make decisions according to your own best interests and priorities.

For More Help

Our Debt Collections Pack can give you a sample cease-communications letter and the guidance you need to keep the debt collectors off your back.

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