Debt Collectors and the Do Not Call Registry

a man wearing headset at desk

Ronnie Kaufman / Larry Hirshowitz / Getty Images

If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls that come to your home each day, you can register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. Once you've registered your number, telemarketers generally cannot call you.

Many consumers are shocked, however, when debt collectors continue calling them even after they've added their number to the registry. Before you get angry, realize the National Do Not Call Registry is likely working as it should. The reason you're still getting collection calls is that the registry doesn't apply to debt collection calls.

The Purpose of the Do Not Call Registry

The National Do Not Call Registry was created to stop unwanted calls from telemarketers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines a telemarketer as someone who makes or receives calls to or from a customer to get that person to buy goods or services or to make a donation (Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act).

The FTC further defines a debt collector as an individual or business that collects or attempts to collect debts (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act). By definition, a debt collector isn't a telemarketer - because they're asking you to take care of an existing obligation and not to buy a product or service - and wouldn't fall under the jurisdiction of the National Do Not Call Registry. When the National Do Not Call Registry was established it didn't include any of the following:

  • Calls from businesses that you already have a relationship with
  • Calls for which you've already given written permission
  • Calls that aren't commercial and don't include unsolicited advertisements
  • Calls made by or on behalf of non-profit organizations

Why Debt Collectors Can Continue Calling You

When you signed up for a credit card or loan, buried in the fine print, you likely gave permission for the credit card issuer or lender to use a third-party collector to collect any delinquent debt from you. So, ultimately, you gave permission for the collectors to call you to collect the debt from you and signing up for the national do not call list won't stop calls from debt collectors.

How to Really Stop Debt Collection Calls

If you wish to stop debt collector calls, you should send a written cease and desist letter to the collector stating that you no longer wish to be contacted. Telling the debt collector doesn't protect your right to have them stop calling you; only a letter will stop the calls completely. Aside from paying the debt, a written request is the only way to get a debt collector to stop calling you.

Be sure to send your letter via certified mail and keep a copy for your records, so you have proof that you asked the debt collector to stop calling you. You may be able to take legal action against a debt collector that continues to call you even after you've written a letter asking them to stop contacting you.