How to Stop a Debt Collector from Contacting You


For purposes of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), a debt collector is any person or company that regularly collects, or attempts to collect, consumer debts for another person, business or institution, or uses a name other than its own when collecting its own consumer debts. The law does not apply to the original creditor, trying to collect a consumer debt under its own name. A consumer debt is any obligation, or claimed obligation, of a consumer to pay money arising out of a transaction that occurred primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.

In more simple terms, the law is meant to protect consumers from inappropriate collection tactics employed by debt collectors, for money that is owed or alleged to be owed for normal family and household expenses, including car loans, medical bills, utility bills and credit card debt. The law does not apply to business debts, or to certain other debts incurred by a consumer but not for personal, family, or household purposes, such as court fines, criminal penalties, or parking tickets.

Instructing a Debt Collector to Cease Communication

When you are contacted by a debt collector for a debt that is covered by the FDCPA, you have the right to instruct the debt collector not to contact you about the debt. Once given proper notice to stop contacting you, the debt collector is required to follow that instruction, except in the following narrow circumstances:

  1. To advise the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated;

  2. To notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies that are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor, such as filing a collection lawsuit; or

  3. If applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy.

If a debt collector responds to an instruction to cease communication, consistent with those limitations, its response must be accurate. For example, if a debt collector replies by indicating that a lawsuit has been filed against the debtor, but no such lawsuit has been filed, that dishonest response would violate the FDCPA.

Make sure that you keep records of all correspondence with a debt collector, and any associated documents, as those documents are important to establishing any violation by the debt collector of the FDCPA.

Instructing a Debt Collector to Contact Only Your Lawyer

If you are represented by a lawyer, you or your lawyer may instruct the debt collector that all further contact is to be directed to your lawyer. Once the debt collector receives that notification, the debt collector may no longer contact you directly. The following letter is an example of one that may be sent to a debt collector, instructing the collector to only communicate through counsel:

Your Name
Your Address

Date

Debt Collector's Name
Debt Collector's Address

Subject: Debt Collection Against Your Name
Creditor Name: Creditor
Account No. Account Number

Dear Account Representative,

This letter is in response to your letter dated Date, concerning the collection of the above referenced account.

I am writing pursuant to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) to inform you that I am represented by an attorney in relation to the alleged debt associated with my account Account Numer with Creditor. Please direct all further inquiries to my attorney:

Attorney's Name
Attorney's Address
Attorney's Phone Number

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Your Name

That letter will not restrict the debt collector from contacting your lawyer about the debt, but if you receive any subsequent direct contact from the debt collector you should notify your lawyer of the improper contact. Your lawyer may be able to use the FDCPA violation to help negotiate a resolution of the debt, or as the basis for taking legal action against the debt collector.

Instructing a Debt Collector to Stop All Contact

If you want a debt collector to stop contacting you about a debt, you may send notice to the debt collector instructing it to stop. Once the debt collector receives that notification, it may contact you only one additional time to notify you that it is ceasing contact, or that the debt collector or creditor intends to take specific action in relation to the debt. This type of notice does not resolve the debt, prevent a collection lawsuit, or remove the debt from your credit report.

The following is an example of a letter instructing a debt collector to stop contacting you:

Your Name
Your Address

Date

Debt Collector's Name
Debt Collector's Address

Subject: Debt Collection Against Your Name
Creditor Name: Creditor
Account No. Account Number

Dear Account Representative,

This letter is in response to your letter dated Date, concerning the collection of the above referenced account.

I am writing pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 USC 1692c(c), to request to request that you cease all communication to me about my account Account Number with Creditor.

[If you want, you may explain your circumstances. For example, "I was recently laid off from my job, and I do not presently have any resources with which to pay off this debt." However, no such statement is required.]

[If there have been any violations of the FDCPA, you may wish to describe them. For example, "Please note that in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, one of your agents contacted me last night at 9:30 PM. Please be certain that any future contact from your agency is made in full compliance with the FDCPA."]

Sincerely,

Your Name

Instructing a Debt Collector About the Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations defines the maximum period for which a cause of action may be filed in a court. In specific relation to the collection of a debt, the statute of limitations applicable to the debt will define a maximum number of years between the time the debt is incurred and the time a lawsuit is filed to enforce a debt. While a debt collector may contact you about an expired debt, a debt for which the statute of limitations has run, a debt collector may not lawfully threaten to sue you over a debt that it knows may no longer be enforced through a legal action.

If contacted about a very old debt, a debtor may verify the statute of limitations, and specifically raise the appropriate statute of limitations when instructing a debt collector to cease further contact:

Your Name
Your Address

Date

Debt Collector's Name
Debt Collector's Address

Subject: Debt Collection Against Your Name
Creditor Name: Creditor
Account No. Account Number

Dear Account Representative,

This letter is in response to your letter dated Date, concerning the collection of the above referenced account.

I am writing pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 USC 1692c(c), to request to request that you cease all communication to me about my account Account Number with Creditor.

I have verified the statute of limitations for debts of this type in the state of Your State as being Number of Years years. Based on the date that the debt was allegedly incurred, the statute of limitations for the collection of this date has expired.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Although a debt collector may send a single response to a letter instructing it to stop contact, if the statute of limitations has run the response should not include any suggestion that the creditor or debt collector may file a lawsuit to collect the debt. It is a violation of the FDCPA for a debt collector to threaten an action that it knows is prohibited by law, including making a threat of litigation over a debt that the collector knows to be unenforceable through a lawsuit.

Where Can I Report Illegal Debt Collection Tactics

In most states, you may report a debt collection agency's misconduct to the state Attorney General's office.

You may also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, particularly if you have a problem with an out-of-state debt collection agency.

Federal Trade Commission
One Bowling Green Ste. 318
New York, NY 10004
1-877-382-4357 (877-FTC-HELP)

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
P.O. Box 4503
Iowa City, IA 52244
1-855-411-2372 (855-411-CFPB)

Copyright © 2003 Aaron Larson, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was first published on , and was last reviewed or amended on Jul 28, 2016.