The question about sending a letter to get a debt collector to stop contacting you is always an interesting one.
The decision to send such a letter is so multifaceted and involves emotion, risk, and tolerance. But, maybe most importantly, it consists in having a plan and taking action that will ultimately deal with your debt constructively and positively.
Like so many other things in life, the answer if you should send a cease and desist communication letter can be complicated. It is certainly not as cut and dry as many assume.
Let’s take a deep dive into the issues.
Regardless of what decision you decide to make, if a debt collector contacts you, you should take the following steps initially.
- Identity of the debt collector, including name, address, and phone number
- The amount of the debt, including any fees such as interest or collection costs
- What is the debt for, and when was the debt incurred?
- The name of the original creditor.
- Information about whether you or someone else may owe the debt.
- Keep all that information in a safe place. It can be as simple as on a piece of paper and more high-tech, like in a notes app on your phone or computer. One easy way to keep track is to send yourself an email and then archive it so you can search for it later.
- Don’t panic. Take a deep breath. We can deal with this.
Do not give personal or financial information to the caller until you have confirmed it is a legitimate debt collector. Do not make any statement that you owe the debt.
If you have received a debt collection notice, it is not the result of something that happened yesterday. Therefore, there is no need to react instantly and make payment promises.
Instead, you should respond when you have a realistic plan of action that addresses your entire financial situation.
So, take a deep breath before you do anything rash or say something that can worsen the situation. I’ve known many people who screamed at the debt collector, “If you don’t like this, sue me.” And they were sued.
Don’t invite a bad outcome. Take that breath, get the collector’s information if they are on the phone, and politely say goodbye.
When faced with stress or an uncomfortable situation, it is normal and natural for many people to react quickly and want it to go away as fast as possible.
In this podcast, I talk a lot about dealing with emotions when having to face dealing with a debt collector. I also give you a better way to interact with the collector.
A rush or flood of emotions can cause you to act before thinking the situation through. It might also lead you to make a stressful situation worse by responding with tension or anger, which can make the problem worse when it does not have to be.
Facebook Warriors and Forum Bullies
So many well-intentioned people online, on forums, and social media sites provide advice and opinions.
It is essential to consider in advance that their advice is shaped by their life experiences and emotions rather than by a cold hard look at the reality of your situation. They don’t know you.
Some people are very aggressive and appear to insist you should tell the debt collector to stop contacting you, but the question you should ask is why they feel that way. Is that a wise thing for you to do?
What is right for one person is not always right for the next.
I have observed some people who feel they need to stop the debt collector because they feel powerless in other parts of their lives. They feel victimized and want to do anything to feel in control.
Perception is not reality.
When the time is right, there are letters you can send to debt collectors to stop communications or get more information.
Below are links to sample letters suggested by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
The letters span a range of issues. For example, there is a letter if you want more information on a debt.
There is even a letter to request the debt collector to stop contacting you.
While these letters are powerful, you should understand the limits. The original creditor you have a contractual relationship with does not have to abide by the stop communication request. This is if a third-party debt collector is involved.
- I do not owe this debt.
- I need more information about this debt.
- I want the debt collector to stop contacting me.
- I want the debt collector to only contact me through my lawyer.
- I want to specify how the debt collector can contact me.
If you use any of these letters, you must do so immediately after you’re first contacted and keep copies of any letters you send. In certain situations, you only have 30 days after you’ve been approached to ask for specific information, but even if more than 30 days pass, it’s still a good idea to ask for what you need.
Please keep a copy of any letter you send and for best results, send it by some traceable means that will provide you with proof the debt collector received the letter. Also, keep the delivery proof and a copy of the letter in a safe place in case you need to prove you did send it.
Is It Worth the Risk
Once a debt collector receives your letter, the debt collector may not contact you again except to:
- Tell you there will be no further contact.
- Tell you that they or the creditor may take other actions they are legally allowed to take, such as filing a lawsuit against you.
When you force the debt collector to stop communicating with you, it can lead to you being sued faster. You’ve turned a stressful situation into a legal tangle if that happens.
Requesting a debt collector is my least favorite approach to working wisely towards the best outcome. I find not forcing the debt collector to stop communications is always better as either a stall tactic or a strategy.
Ultimately the goal is not to stop the debt collector from contacting you over a debt you had. Instead, the primary goal should be to deal with and resolve the underlying debt situation so you can close the door on it and put it behind you.
Dealing With It
So that’s it. Can you send a cease and desist letter to a debt collector? Yes. But that’s not the burning issue.
Hopefully, I’ve given you information here to help you understand the question isn’t if you can, but if you should.
Ultimately, the best approach to a debt collector will involve looking at your overall financial situation and having a comprehensive plan to deal with your debt today, and setting yourself up for doing better financially moving forward.
Think about it like this. How often have you told your significant other or partner to shut up during a fight or stressful encounter? Did that approach ever improve the situation?
If you need help in dealing with a specific debt situation, I recommend Damon Day for professional help.
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