Debt collectors are vicious. Whether you’re a couple months behind on a payment or just being harassed because someone else claimed your number as their own, getting a collector off your back can be tough work. It’s not impossible, though. There are laws that protect consumers and debtors, and not even collectors can get around them. If collectors are harassing you, here are a few ways to stop them in their tracks.
A Written Cease and Desist
The official way to stop a debt collector is to submit a written request to them to tell them to stop contacting you. You’ll want to save a copy of the letter for yourself and don’t forget to pay for return receipt so that you can verify that the collector did, in fact, get the written request. Send it via post. While e-mails are written requests, the FTC specifies that requests should be written and mailed into the collector. Once the notice is received, there are only two reasons the collector may contact you. They may reach out to confirm that there will be no further contact, or they can call you to tell you about intent on behalf of them or the creditor to take specific action against you, such as a lawsuit. Any contact beyond that and they’re acting outside of their trade practice regulation, and you may be able to retaliate. Just be sure to document all behavior that falls outside the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, including any calls you may receive after submitting your written request.
Ask For Verification Of Debt
If a debt collector is calling you, once they’ve verified that you are the person they’re looking for, they’re bound to do a few things, including provide verification of the debt. Most collectors operate in such a way as to scare you into paying without looking further into the matter, but you have the right to request verification of the debt. Once again, it’s best to submit this request in writing, although you can mention your intent to file such a request over the phone, as well. Just note that a request for verification must be submitted within 30 days of the collector notifying you of your right to dispute, something they are also legally obligated to do. The collector then must mail the consumer the requested verification or cease all collections efforts. Verification should include at least the amount owed and the name and address of the original creditor.
This is particularly useful if a collector is trying to collect on a debt past your state’s statute of limitation, or on a debt that is not yours.
If all else fails, you may want to consider getting an attorney to handle the matter, especially if you’ve already made other arrangements to pay your debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act outlines some pretty specific figures consumers should receive if they’re being wronged by a collector, including cash for any financial harm a collector has caused you (like if they illegally contacted your workplace and cost you your job), plus a $1,000 penalty. There are plenty of attorneys out there that specialize in debt collection law. Find one near you and give them a call.