How to Stop Debt Collectors From Calling
If you’re wondering how to stop debt collectors from calling you, the solution is as simple as sending a letter. Until you mail that written request, however, debt collectors have the right to call you in an attempt to collect the money you owe.
Here’s what you need to do if you want to put a stop to debt collector calls.
When debt collectors can call you
A debt collector, often called a collection agency, is a company that works to convince consumers to pay their credit obligations. An original creditor may hire debt collectors to work on their behalf. Yet in many cases, debt collectors purchase unpaid debts from other companies (typically for pennies on the dollar) and become the new owners of the debt.
Debt collectors are governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a federal law that protects you from abusive or unfair debt collection. Notable guidelines debt collectors must follow under the FDCPA include:
- May not contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. without your permission
- Cannot call you at work if you’ve told them you cannot receive calls there
- Must disclose information about the debt, including the creditor, the amount and what you can do if you suspect the debt isn’t yours
- Cannot contact you after you’ve requested they stop communication (they may still contact you to respond to your request and to notify you of any specific actions being taken, such as a lawsuit)
The debt collector isn’t allowed to harass or lie to you or engage in unfair practices such as collecting fees on top of what you owe (unless your original contract or state permits it).
Send a letter to stop debt collectors from calling
For debts handled by third-party debt collectors, you can send a letter to ask the company to stop contacting you. You have the right to make this request, thanks to the FDCPA. The act typically doesn’t apply to creditors who collect their own debts, but it will if a creditor operates its collections under a different name, so as to suggest it is a third-party collector.
After receiving your letter, the collector may only contact you to:
- Confirm that it will stop additional communications
- Let you know that it has the right to take further actions (like filing a lawsuit)
- Notify you that it actually is taking further action against you
Should you stop debt collector calls?
Debt collection calls can be a nuisance. But if the debt is legitimate, keeping an open line of communication can help you stay on top of any changes to the account. Further, if you refuse communication with the debt collector, you leave them with only one way to do its job; if a collector cannot contact you by mail or phone, it might opt to file a lawsuit against you, since suing you is the only option it has left to try to collect the debt.
That said, you could request the debt collector only contact you in writing. This is beneficial because you’d receive paper records on the account in collections. So, if the debt collector violates the FDCPA, you have a paper trail to back you up in a lawsuit.
Debt collector calls: Do’s and don’ts
- Watch for your validation notice: Per the FDCPA, a debt collector must send you a validation notice no later than five days after it first contacts you. This notice should contain details about the balance you owe, the name of the original creditor and what you can do if you don’t believe the debt belongs to you.
- Ask for verification: If you don’t believe you owe the debt, one of the first steps you may want to take is to ask for verification. You will need to send your verification request in writing and, again, via certified mail with a request for a return receipt. As long as you mail in your request within 30 days of receiving the validation notice, the collector must send you written confirmation of the debt. This confirmation may include details like a copy of the original bill or a copy of the judgment filed against you (if applicable).
- Keep a written record of conversations: When you speak with a debt collector, it’s a good idea to write and keep detailed notes about those conversations. A debt collection call log might come in handy in the event that a collector promises you something (like a settlement), but then changes its story after the fact.
- Know what debt collectors can or can’t do: The FDCPA sets a number of rules that debt collectors have to follow. For example, debt collectors can only call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. (based on your time zone), and they can’t threaten you or lie to you. Becoming familiar with these rules can protect you from unfair practices.
- Provide personal or financial information: Debt collection scams, unfortunately, are not uncommon. For this reason and others, the Federal Trade Commission encourages you to exercise caution when sharing personal or financial information with a debt collector. This advice is even more important if you speak with a collector you don’t know or recognize, especially before you receive a validation notice via mail.
- Admit the debt is valid: Debt collectors have to follow a statute of limitations when it comes to suing you over an unpaid debt. Depending on your state of residence and the type of debt, this time frame can commonly vary between three to 10 years (sometimes longer). However, if you admit a debt is valid, either in writing or over the phone, you might reset the clock on a time-barred debt.
- Make a payment, no matter how small: Another misstep that could revive a time-barred debt is making a payment — even a small payment can reset the collection clock, which would also reopen the window the collector has to sue you for the debt. Instead, if you want to pay a debt (time-barred or otherwise), it’s typically best to pay the entire balance or agreed-upon settlement amount in full.
- Expect paying a debt to raise your credit score: It may be wise to pay or settle a collection account in full if the debt is legitimate, but you should maintain realistic expectations with regard to your credit score. Depending on the credit scoring model a lender uses, paying off a collection account might not do anything to improve your score.
FAQ on debt collection
Can a debt collector sue you?
In many cases, a debt collector does have the right to sue you in an attempt to collect an unpaid debt. However, if your debt is time-barred due to age, an attorney can help you fight the lawsuit in court, since the debt collector is suing past the statute of limitations.
Can debt collectors call you at work?
The FDCPA does not automatically restrict debt collectors from calling you at work, but the federal law does give you the right to put an end to such calls. If you inform a debt collector (preferably in writing) that you can’t receive calls at your place of employment, the company must stop calling you there.
How many times a day can a debt collector call?
Debt collectors are not allowed to harass or abuse you with repeated phone calls, though the FDCPA doesn’t specify how many phone calls are too many.
Can a debt collector refuse a payment plan?
Many debt collectors are happy to set up payment plans with consumers. However, the FDCPA doesn’t require a debt collector to accept or extend a payment plan offer.