Debt collectors are known for using intimidation tactics to bully people into paying outstanding debts. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with a creditor or collector pursuing you for a debt that you’ve agreed to pay. However, it’s often the way collectors go about collecting debts that keeps them in trouble with the authorities.
No matter how much weight they throw around, you’re not totally powerless against debt collectors. You don’t have to live in fear of answering the phone. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows you to stop collector calls – for good. All it takes is the stroke of your pen, or these days a few words typed in your preferred document processor.
The debt collection law – which, by the way only applies to third-party debt collectors – gives you the right to stop collector calls with a letter, commonly called a cease and desist letter. The letter is quite simple. You tell the collector that you no longer wish to be contacted about the debt. You don’t have to promise a payment (and shouldn’t) or admit the debt is yours or explain why you can’t pay right. Just say that you don’t want to be contacted. Law-abiding collection agencies will stop once they get your letter.
After you've typed and printed two copies of the letter (one for yourself), take your letter to the post office and have them mail the letter certified, with a return receipt request. It will cost just more than $5 to mail the letter with these services. The benefit is that you have proof of when the letter was received and the signature of the person who received the letter. If the collector contacts you again, outside the one allowed instance, you have the right to complain or take legal action or both.
When the collector receives your cease and desist letter, they’re required to stop contacting you. But, they do get one last time to notify you in writing of any action they plan to take next. For example, they can send a letter letting you know that they may sue you.
The cease and desist letter only works for with the agency you mailed it to. If you have other debts with other agencies or if that debt moves to a different collection agency, you’ll have to send additional cease and desist letters to stop calls. Keep a copy of the letter on your computer so you can easily modify it to apply to future collection agencies.
If you want to pay the collection, but you want to make sure the debt is valid, you can postpone collection calls by requesting validation. The FDCPA also gives you the right to request verification of collection accounts, but you must make the request in writing.
In the debt validation letter, you can say that you dispute the validity of the debt and want the collection agency to send proof. Just like your cease and desist letter, the debt validation should be sent via certified mail with a return receipt request.
The collector doesn’t have a time limit on sending you validation of the debt. You, on the other hand, have only 30 days from the date of initial contact with the collector to request validation. Once the collector receives the letter, they must stop collection efforts until they’ve sent proof of the debt. They don’t get to contact you one last time as with the cease and desist letter.
Also, like the cease and desist letter, the debt validation letter only applies to a single collection agency. When a new collection agency is assigned your debt, you’ll have to repeat the validation process.
Source: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act