How to Get Debt Collectors to Stop Calling

Stressed couple at a kitchen table getting a call from a bill collector.
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The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives you the right to stop calls from debt collectors, but you have to put your request in writing. The letter is called a cease and desist notification. However, not all debt collectors will follow the rules when it comes to stopping calls.

In fact, in 2011 the Federal Trade Commission filed charges against one large debt collection company that failed to comply with cease and desist letters (among several other law violations). Here’s what you should do if a debt collector ignores your cease and desist letter.

Don't Depend on a Verbal Request

If you made your request over the phone, the debt collector isn’t legally required to comply. No matter how many times you’ve told them to stop calling you. The exception is when a collector contacts you at work after you've told them not to.

You don’t have to send a letter to stop a collector from calling you at work. Tell them your employer doesn’t allow you to receive these types of calls. Keep in mind the collector can continue to call you at your home phone number until you pay or send a cease communication request.

Make Sure the Collector Received the Letter

Before you accuse the debt collector of violating Federal law, make sure the law was violated. If you sent your cease and desist letter via certified mail with return receipt requested, you’ll be able to tell whether the letter was received. Even if you haven’t received the return receipt back, you can use "USPS.com" to track the letter using the certified mailing number.

However, if you didn’t use certified mail or a return receipt, ask the collector to confirm whether they received the letter. If not, send another—this time via certified mail—so you have proof the letter was delivered. A return receipt provides you with the signature of the person who received the letter. Certified mail recipients also sign for their letters, but the post office keeps the signature on record.

One Final Contact From the Collector Is Ok

The FDCPA allows the collector to contact you one final time even after they’ve received your cease and desist letter. This contact has to be made via mail and should let you know one of the following:

that the debt collector won’t be taking any additional collection action for that debt,

that they may take certain action in the future, or

that they’re going to take certain action.

Make Sure It's Not a New Collector or a New Debt

Collection accounts are often passed around from one collection agency to another until you pay or the debt is canceled. If a new collector gets control of your debt, send a cease and desist letter to them, too. Save a copy of the cease and desist letter to your computer to make it easier to send a second or third letter.

Where Cease and Desist Doesn’t Apply

The FDCPA was written for third-party debt collectors. Third-party are collectors who were assigned to collect the debt on behalf of the original creditor.

Your creditor may also have an in-house collection department that’s collecting on the account. In that case, your cease and desist letter doesn’t apply. Sometimes, a cease and desist letter may even trigger more severe action, like a lawsuit.

If the collector is blatantly ignoring the cease communication request, send a final letter asking them to cease communication. In your second letter, reference your first letter, including the certified receipt number and the date and time the collector signed for the letter. State again that you want to the debt collector to stop contacting you regarding the alleged debt.

If All Else Fails, Report Them

Finally, if contact continues, report the collector to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and your state's Attorney General. In the meantime, you may be able to block the calls depending on your phone services. Many smartphones markets have apps or built-in features that let you block phone numbers.

You can also set a silent ringtone for that caller so you won’t be disturbed. Note that blocked callers may still be able to leave a voice message. Beyond that, you’ll have to change your phone number or ignore the calls.