How to Stop Debt Collection Calls

How to Stop Debt Collection Calls
Gina Freeman (Pogol)January 31, 2021
Key Takeaways:
  • You can stop calls from debt collectors by making a written request.
  • Bill collectors cannot call you at work if you ask them not to.
  • Calls stop if the collector agrees to settle your debt.

Carrying a lot of debt is stressful enough without dodging calls from aggressive debt collectors. If you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone: nearly one-third of Americans with credit have debt in collections, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Bill collectors may call at inconvenient times or in embarrassing places. It's understandable that you'd want to block collection calls at work or stop collection calls to your cell phone. The best way to stop collection calls depends on who is calling and how much contact you're willing to allow.

In late 2021, changes to debt the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) increased protection for consumers from inconvenience and embarrassment caused by debt collection calls.

Best Way to Stop Collection Calls

The most obvious way to stop debt collection calls is to simply pay what you owe. But you would not be looking for ways to stop calls from bill collectors if that was an option. There are valid reasons to want collection agencies to leave you alone:

  • You're trying to stop collection calls for a family member.

  • You don't think you owe the money.

  • You can't afford to pay your collection account.

  • You're in a debt settlement program and trying to save a lump sum to offer creditors.

  • You don't want debt collection calls at work.

  • You don't want debt collection calls to your cell phone.

While working out a strategy to get out of debt, you might get debt collection calls. If you want bill collectors to stop calling, you must ask them to do so in writing. This request is called a “cease and desist” letter.

How to Write a Cease and Desist Letter to a Debt Collector

Cease and desist letters are legally binding notices to debt collectors telling them to stop contacting you. You don't need a lawyer for this -- just get your debt collector’s name, address, and your account information and write a letter telling them to stop all contact, and by law, they have to do so.

In your letter, tell the debt collector to cease and desist all contact with you, your family, and your friends in reference to any alleged debt you owe. If you have not yet decided what to do about the debt, lawyers on Nolo.com advise that you do not acknowledge that you owe the money or make any offer of payment. Just tell collectors to stop communicating with you.

Also let them know that if they don’t comply with your request, you will file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your state’s Attorney General’s office.

In your letter, make sure that you also include:

  • The date

  • Your name and address

  • The name of the debt collection agency

  • The account number on the debt

Keep a copy of your letter and it's not a bad idea to send it with delivery confirmation.

What Happens When You Send a Cease and Desist Letter to Bill Collectors?

Cease and desist letters aren't magic. Debt collectors can still contact you to let you know they’re ending all communication with you or to inform you if they plan to file a lawsuit to collect the debt.

Understand that a cease and desist letter may stop debt collectors from contacting you, but it does not wipe out your debt in any way. If the debt is legitimate, you still owe the money, and your balance continues to grow as interest and fees pile on.

What should you do about the debt? It depends. If the account is very old, you could wait for the debt to expire. Depending on your state laws, however, that could take more than 10 years. Meanwhile, your credit score could be tanking and you might even end up in court.

How to Stop Collection Calls at Work

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) does not allow bill collectors to call you at inconvenient or unusual places. So if debt collectors call you at work, all you have to say is that the calls are "inconvenient" and to stop calling. If the collector contacts you at a work email address, you can also indicate that you don't want emails at work.

Make sure to note the date and time you requested collectors stop calling you at work. Then, write them a cease and desist letter with a formal request to stop contacting you at your place of employment.

Collection Contact Through Text or Social Media

On November 20, 2021, FDCPA protections were extended to digital communication. The Act now covers contact via text, social media, and other channels that did not exist when it was first enacted.

Debt collectors may contact you through email and text messages within reason as long as they don't violate your privacy. For example, debt collectors can't communicate through a social media platform if the message is viewable by the general public or your social media contacts. And debt collectors have to tell you that they are debt collectors if they send you a private message via social media like Facebook or LinkedIn.

How to Block Collection Calls to a Cell Phone

Calls to your cell phone from a debt collector can be embarrassing and inconvenient. And they are dangerous for collectors -- if you have told a collector to stop calling you at work, and she contacts your cell phone, you might be at work, and she's probably violated the FDCPA.

Debt collectors have to stop calling your cell phone as soon as you tell them to. In fact, you can have collectors stop communications through any channel with very few exceptions.

What if Debt Collectors Are Calling the Wrong Number?

Some debt collectors buy old debts from the original creditors and try to collect. You might be subjected to annoying calls about a debt that isn't even yours.

Here’s how you stop debt collection calls for someone else’s debt:

  1. Answer the phone and explain you’re not the person they’re looking for.

  2. Tell them that they are calling the wrong number.

  3. Send a cease and desist letter to them.

  4. If they continue to call, file a complaint with the FTC.

As always, keep a record of when debt collectors call you, what you say to them, and the date on which you sent your cease and desist letter.

How to Stop Collection Calls if You're Working With a Debt Relief Company

One way to get out of debt faster and for less than you currently owe is by working with a debt relief company. Debt relief or debt settlement means negotiating an arrangement with your creditor in which it accepts less than what you owe as payment in full.

Most consumers who go through debt settlement stop making their payments to creditors. They put money aside until they have saved enough to make a settlement offer. However, creditors who are not getting paid may start calling or they might turn over the debt to a collector.

It's important to understand that the law treats calls from an original creditor like your credit card company differently than it does calls from a collection agency. Original creditors are not covered under the FDCPA and they may be able to keep calling you. It depends on the laws of the state in which you live.

If you're working with a debt relief company and are getting collection calls, the calls should stop (but are not guaranteed to) once your creditor and the debt settlement company reach an agreement.

During the settlement process, you can choose to communicate with collector calls, ignore the calls, or tell the collectors to stop calling. Your debt settlement company might be able to offer advice about debt collection calls.

There is no guarantee that working with a debt settlement company will stop all debt collection calls. But if you choose to exercise your rights, you should be able to control when and how debt collectors contact you.

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Frequently Asked Questions
How to get debt collectors to stop calling my family?
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You might be shocked if a debt collector contacts your loved ones. They might track down your relatives or friends on social media or via sites that publish addresses and phone numbers. But is it legal for debt collectors to call your family? 

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows debt collectors to contact people you know for a single purpose – to find your address, phone number, or workplace. Unless they are contacting your spouse, your executor/guardian/administrator/attorney, or your parents (and you’re a minor), debt collectors cannot disclose that they are calling about a debt. Debt collectors cannot disclose that they are working for a collection agency unless your relative or friend asks them who they work for.

Debt collectors cannot ask your loved ones to pay your debt. They cannot threaten to tell your family about the debt to shame you into paying it. And they cannot continue to call your family once they have made contact. All of those tactics are illegal, and you can sue if a debt collector breaks the law.

Can debt relief programs stop unwanted bill collector calls?
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If you or a debt settlement company working for you negotiates a settlement with your creditor or debt collector, the calls should stop. However, debt settlement companies cannot guarantee that all collection calls will stop. 

The FDCPA regulates collection agencies and many debt buyers. All you have to do to stop calls from these people is to write a cease-and-desist letter and send it to them. If they ignore the letter, you probably have the right to sue them. 

However, the FDCPA does not apply to original creditors like your bank or credit card company. If you’re getting calls from the collection department of an original creditor, you can write them a cease-and-desist letter, and they might have to stop contact. Some states like California have laws like the FDCPA that cover original creditors. But without a state law protecting you, original creditors can be much more aggressive than debt collectors. 

Still, they can’t call any time they want, and they cannot be abusive. Laws that cover abuse by original creditors include the Truth in Lending Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as well as other federal and state Unfair or Deceptive Practices Acts.

How to get debt collectors to stop calling work?
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The FDCPA does not allow debt collectors to call you at any time or place that you tell them is “inconvenient.” If you don’t want calls at work, the law says that you only have to tell the collector not to call you at work. Write down the date and time you told the collector to stop calling. 

But what if a collector won’t stop calling you at work? In that case, keep a record of the time and date of any unwanted calls and write a cease-and-desist letter referencing the time and date you asked them to stop calling, noting the additional times and days that they called, and perhaps remaining them that the FDCPA allows you to recover up to $1,000 in statutory damages, plus court costs and attorney fees.