By: Ciele Edward
Debt collector harassment is a common problem in America. Collection agencies know that one of the most effective ways to obtain payment from a debtor is to telephone him incessantly until he pays the debt out of either frustration or fear. Although the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) restricts debt collectors from using constant telephone calls to harass consumers, it does not stipulate how many telephone calls are too many. Thus, it isn’t uncommon for a debtor to receive ten or more telephone calls from debt collectors each day. What many debtors don’t realize is that the FDCPA gives all consumers the ability to force debt collectors to stop calling.
Legal Restrictions and Permissions for Collection Calls
The FDCPA only allows debt collectors to call you between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. This rule applies to your specific time zone – not that of the collection agency. The goal of this telephone restriction is to prevent you from being inconvenienced by collection calls in the middle of the night or at other odd hours. As long as debt collectors adhere to this time frame, they may call you at any location.
Unfortunately, this may lead to you receiving collection calls at work. If you don’t have a direct line, your co-workers will quickly tire of fielding your collection calls. Although debt collectors aren’t permitted to discuss your debt with anyone but you or your attorney, collection calls aren’t difficult to recognize. Not only is it embarrassing for your co-workers to find out about your debt problems, many employers do not allow workers to take personal calls while on the job. If you don’t take action to force debt collectors to stop calling you, you may find yourself unemployed.
When Debt Collection Calls are Inconvenient
The next time a debt collector calls you at work, make it clear that receiving collection calls at your place of employment is an inconvenience. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from calling you at any time or location that is inconvenient to you.
You aren’t restricted to using this method only at work. Informing a collection agency that its calls are inconvenient stops the calls at home as well. If you work nights, for example, collection calls in the morning when you are asleep may be inconvenient for you. If you have a baby who takes a nap after lunch, calls that occur in the afternoon hours between lunch and dinner may be inconvenient.
If your goal is merely to stop collection agency representatives from calling you at work or at certain hours of the day, notifying debt collectors of your preferences over the phone is sufficient. The debt collector must take note of your request and adhere to it in order to avoid violating federal law. Keep in mind, however, that collection agencies aren’t known for being cooperative. Sending the collection agency your demands in writing and keeping a copy for yourself helps you create a paper trail to back up your claims in court should the collection calls continue.
Stopping All Communication From Debt Collectors
Collection calls aren’t the only debt recovery method collection agencies employ. Another way these companies persuade consumers to pay is by sending collection letters through the mail. The FDCPA gives you the right to demand that a collection agency stop sending you collection letters. You can put a stop to collection calls and letters simultaneously, but you cannot do so over the phone. Unlike notifying a collection agency of inconvenient times to call, you must put a demand that the company cease all communication with you in writing.
When communicating with a collection agency via mail, always request delivery confirmation or a return receipt. Collection agencies have been known to ignore consumer demands if they arrive via standard mail because the sender has no way of proving that the company ever received the letter.
The Risks of Barring Communication From a Collection Agency
Should you force a collection agency to stop contacting you, you leave the company with no viable way to collect the debt outside of court. If the debt is still within your state’s statute of limitations for debt collection lawsuits, the collection agency is far more likely to file a lawsuit against you. Should it decide to do so, the FDCPA notes that it may contact you and inform you of its intentions – even if you have a cease communication order in place.
Avoiding a Debt Collection Lawsuit
To stop collection calls while simultaneously preventing a lawsuit, ask that the collection agency stop calling you, but note that the company is free to contact you via mail. By leaving the company the option to send collection notices through the mail, you don’t strip debt collectors of their ability to contact you about the debt. Keep in mind, however, that the FDCPA has no specific provisions in place regarding partial, rather than complete, privacy demands. Thus, the incessant calls may cease while collection letters continue or the company may simply cease all contact.
Whether you want to prevent a collection agency from ever contacting you again or you simply want to put a stop to collection calls, debt collectors must honor your request for privacy. If a collection agency ignores your demands for privacy, you have the legal right to file a lawsuit against the company for violating the FDCPA.