If you've been hounded with calls from debt collectors, you have legal and effective means to stop these calls. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the law that sets rules for third-party collection agencies, gives you the right to request that debt collectors stop calling you. However, for your request to be legal, you have to make it in writing. You can send what's known as a "cease-and-desist letter" to stop debt collectors from calling you.
Once the collector receives your letter, they're allowed one final contact to let you know what action, if any, they will take next. If, after receiving your cease-and-desist letter, the collector continues to contact you, they're in violation of the FDCPA. You can submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to report this violation.
What to Include
Writing a cease-and-desist letter is simpler than you might think. You don't have to include fancy legal language. Instead, you only need to request that the debt collector no longer contact you. It's just that easy.
If you only want the debt collector to stop calling you at work or only to contact you during certain times, you can include this in your cease-and-desist letter, too.
Your letter should include the current date, name, and address of the debt collector, and any account number you have for the collection. You can get details about your debt from your credit report, from any letters the debt collectors have sent you, or any notes you've taken during a call with the collector.
You don't have to mention paying the debt. It's probably better that you not mention anything about paying the debt or even acknowledge that the debt is yours. Otherwise, you could restart the statute of limitations—the time period that a debt collector can use the court to force you to pay a debt.
How to Send Your Cease and Desist Letter
Type your letter and print it out. You may be able to use a local library if you don't have access to a computer of your own. Sending an actual letter is critical to enforcing your rights under the FDCPA. Collectors aren't legally required to abide by a verbal request to stop calling you, unless you've asked them not to call you at work.
Here's sample text you can use for your letter.
City, State Zip
Debt Collector’s Name
City, State Zip
Re: Account Number
Dear Debt Collector:
Pursuant to my rights under federal debt collection laws, I am requesting that you cease and desist communication with me, as well as my family and friends, in relation to this and all other alleged debts you claim I owe.
You are hereby notified that if you do not comply with this request, I will immediately file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the [your state here] Attorney General’s office. Civil and criminal claims will be pursued.
Send your letter via certified mail, so you have a way to track that the letter was received by the debt collector. A return receipt request will provide you with signature proof that the letter was mailed. Make sure to keep a copy of the letter for your own records.
What's Not Covered
While a cease-and-desist letter will stop collectors from contacting you, it doesn't stop other collection activity. The collector may continue reporting the account to the credit bureaus. In some cases, collectors may even file a lawsuit against you to have the courts legally enforce the debt.
Future Debt Collectors
The cease-and-desist letter applies only to the debt collector that you send it to, not to any other debt collectors that might be calling you. If your account is sold or assigned to a new collection agency, you will have to send a new cease-and-desist letter for that debt collector. You can use the same template, just make sure to update the account and collector information.
Note that a cease-and-desist letter only applies to third-party debt collectors. It does not apply to the original creditor—the company who originally extended the account to you.