Few things are as annoying and embarrassing as being pursued by debt collectors. Collection agencies often convince debtors to make payment arrangements by wearing them down with a barrage of collection calls and dunning letters. If you have a debt in collections, you may receive calls from debt collectors at all hours of the day and night. You may even find yourself with the humiliating task of fielding collection calls at work. Fortunately, federal law gives you the right to demand your privacy and end the nonstop harassment from debt collectors.
Collection Agency Harassment and Your Right to Privacy
In an effort to protect consumers from harassment, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act places limitations on what a debt collector can and cannot do. Calling a debtor at a time or place that the collector knows is inconvenient to the debtor is one such limitation.
Although you can tell a collector over the phone that calling you at night or at work is inconvenient, there is simply no way to prove that you requested privacy from the company. When dealing with collection agencies, it’s crucial that you create a paper trail. Doing so gives you the ability to seek legal recourse if debt collectors fail to comply.
The Cease and Desist Letter
A cease and desist letter is merely a written statement to the collection agency stating that any further contact with you is inconvenient and demanding that all collection letters and telephone calls stop immediately. Keep a copy of the letter for your own records and mail the other to the collection agency.
If possible, send the cease and desist letter via certified mail with a return receipt. This forces an employee to sign for the letter. The postal service then returns the signature card to you. A signature card serves as proof that the collection agency received your cease and desist order–preventing the company from continuing to contact you while simultaneously claiming it never received your letter.
Check the Statute of Limitations Before Sending a Cease and Desist Letter
One major downfall to using a cease and desist letter to stop harassment from debt collectors is that it may put you in danger of a lawsuit. Although a collection agency can no longer legally contact you about the debt, that doesn’t mean that the company loses its right to collect. Once you’ve invoked your right to privacy, the collection agency must either sell the debt or file a lawsuit against you.
Fortunately, a collection agency can only legally file a lawsuit for a certain length of time. Once this time period–the statute of limitations–passes, debt collectors can still collect the debt if you opt to pay voluntarily, but they cannot sue you. If the statute of limitations is still in effect, sending a collection agency a cease and desist letter is dangerous. It limits the debt collector’s options and places you at a much higher risk of a lawsuit. The statute of limitations for debt collection is different in every state, so be certain about your state’s regulations before forcing debt collectors to cut off all contact with you.
A Cease and Desist Letter Does Not Apply to New Collectors
While a cease and desist letter is a useful tool, it only applies to the collection agency it is addressed to. In most cases, if the debt is outside of your state’s statute of limitations and the collection agency can no longer contact you about the debt, the company’s only option is to sell the debt to another debt collector. The debt’s new owner is then free to contact you unless you send the new collector a separate cease and desist order.
If the statute of limitations in your state in still in effect and a cease and desist order isn’t an option, there are other ways to stop the harassment. Federal law still states that debt collectors cannot contact you at times they know are inconvenient. By sending the collection agency a written request that it not contact you at certain times of the day or at certain locations, you can successfully reduce the stress and humiliation of incessant collection calls without stripping the company of its ability to conduct collection activity and placing yourself in danger of a lawsuit.