Facing financial difficulties is stressful. The last thing you need is constant collection agency calls, adding to your anxiety, interrupting your day, and making it all the harder to think clearly and construct a sensible plan for getting out of debt. Unfortunately, many debt collectors seem to subscribe to the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” school of thought. Sometimes, their tactics are even effective. But, choosing which creditor or collection agency to pay based on who pressures you hardest is generally not an effective financial management strategy.
There are better ways to stop collection agency calls.
Documenting Collection Agency Calls
Debt collectors who violate the law may be liable for damages, and may also be required to pay your attorney’s fees when you take legal action against them. However, if you decide to pursue a claim against a collection agency, debt buyer, or other debt collector, you’ll need evidence. That means keeping good records, such as:
- A call log that notes the time and date of each call you receive from a debt collector, along with information such as the name of the person calling, the number they called from, and what happened during the call
- All bills, letters, and other communications that you receive from a collection agency or other debt collector—don’t throw these away simply because they appear to be duplicates
- Voicemail messages left by debt collectors
- Under some circumstances, you may want to record your telephone conversations with debt collectors, but be careful. In many states, it is against the law to record a conversation without the other person’s permission. If you plan to record calls, make sure that you clearly understand and follow your state laws.
Stopping Collection Agency Calls
There are many possible approaches to stopping debt collector calls, ranging from simple changes in the way you respond to pursuing claims against the collection agency. Here are three key strategies for ending debt collector calls:
1. Answer Debt Collector Calls
If you can’t make payment or have multiple creditors and collection agencies competing for the same dollars, you probably don’t want to pick up the phone. Talking to a debt collector is never pleasant. But, if a collection agency is attempting to call you multiple times a day, picking up the phone can be your best defense.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits collectors from calling repeatedly as a means of harassing you. If you haven’t picked up the phone, they will generally claim that they were just trying to reach you. However, answering the phone and either attempting to negotiate or advising the collector that you have no ability to make payment changes the equation. A collection agency isn’t likely to convince a court that 20 calls placed the day after you said you weren’t able to make payment were made for any purpose other than to harass you.
2. Send the Collector a Cease and Desist Letter
The FDCPA also requires that debt collectors stop contacting you if you tell them to. Although some collection agencies will stop calls after a verbal request to cease communication, the best approach is to send a letter advising the collector that you do not want to be contacted again, and to keep a copy of the request and a record of its mailing. It’s not required, but to protect your ability to pursue damages for any violations, you may want to send the letter by certified mail.
After receiving a cease and desist letter, the collector must stop contacting you under most circumstances. There are some limited exceptions, such as if the collection agency is going to file a lawsuit against you. You should also be aware that delinquent debt changes hands a lot. If the account is moved from one collection agency to another or is sold to a debt buyer, you may have to repeat the process.
3. Talk to a Consumer Financial Protection Lawyer
Bad debt collectors count on people like you not knowing how to fight back. Educating yourself about your rights and about options like those discussed above is a great start. But, sometimes you need a knowledgeable advocate in your corner.
If a debt collector has violated the FDCPA, you may be entitled to $1,000 in statutory damages, and the debt collector may be required to pay your attorney’s fees. Contact us today if a debt collector:
- Is harassing you with repeated telephone calls
- Continues to call after you have issued a cease and desist letter
- Is calling you at work after being advised that your employer objects, or
- Has called friends or neighbors for any purpose other than attempting to contact you