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Can’t Pay Debts Turned Over to Collection Agency. – Barbara

My husband has been out of work for almost three years and exhausted all unemployment over a year ago and I am retired and getting a small pension and Social Security.

Consequently our income has been greatly reduced.

We have a couple of very high phone bills that have been turned over to collection and we have absolutely no extra money to pay them right now. We do intend to pay the bills as soon as we are able to, but how do we deal with the collection agencies in the meantime?


Dear Barbara,

First off, the situation just is what it is.

There are two approaches in a situation like this. If it is a third party collector you can send a cease & desist letter like the one below.

While this will often stop collections it will not stop the creditor from either suing you or sending it out to another agency and you’ll have to run from the calls all over again.

Debt Collector Cease and Desist Communication Form Letter

You can send the following letter cease and desist communications letter to the debt collector or debt buyer contacting you to stop communications from them. Be aware, this letter is only effective on third-party debt collectors and subsequent buyers of your debt from the original creditor and not the original creditor that extended the credit to you.

BEWARE: This is not a magic wand. If you send this letter and shut off communications it can lead to you being sued sooner since the collector still has that option following receipt of this letter.

Upon receipt of this letter the debt buyer or collector has the following options:

  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 which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or
  3. where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy.

A Sample Letter

Your Name
City, State Zip


Debt Collector’s Name
City, State Zip

Re: Account Number


According to my rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act I am formally requesting that you cease all communications with me or anyone else involved.

“If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt.”

You may consider this letter as my formal notification.

If you do not comply I will file a public complaint with the public consumer complaint database at and with state and federal agencies including the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and my Attorney General.

If you are unable to comply with this request I will find a local consumer FDCPA attorney to represent me from, the National Association of Consumer Advocates.


Your Name

Send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested.

The postcard you get back, like the one below, will show the name of the company you sent it to, a signature of who signed for it and when they got it.

Staple the return postcard to a copy of the letter you sent and put it in a safe place with your other important papers. You may need this later.

If you receive any further telephone calls or messages, keep a log of who called about the debt in question, when they called, and what they said. Keep all written communications they may send about this debt as well.

I personally believe the better approach is to make the collector your friend and explain the situation to them with a smile. This will let your account flow through the normal collection queue and get dumped out at the end of their efforts and result in less stress and more control for you.

If you can’t afford any payments then by all means do not make any promises to pay. Great the collector calls with politeness and be honest about your situation. The odds are much better this way they’ll mark your account not to call than sue.

Additionally, since you will be taking the calls and talking to the collectors you will learn to not be afraid of them. They can only intimidate you if you let them.

Which approach seems more reasonable to you?

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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