What would you suggest people do if they’re getting harassed by collectors?
Collection calls can get annoying, exhausting, or downright abusive — especially if you just can’t pay right now or are getting them by mistake.
But there are things you can do to stop many of the calls. Just keep in mind that stopping the harassment won’t stop the collection process itself, or absolve you of the debt if you do owe it.
Here’s what to do:
If you’re receiving vague messages that you suspect might be from a collections agency — for example, if you’re getting voice mails requesting that you call a toll-free number, with no additional information — call the number back and talk to a real person. (If you are not the person they’re calling for, just stay on the line without pressing anything. Eventually this will connect you to a person in most cases.)
Once you know you’re speaking with a collector, ask for the name and address of the collection agency that’s calling you. You may be told that they’re not allowed to give out that information, but that isn’t true. (After all, I’m sure they’d provide that if you wanted to send them money.). If that happens, ask to speak to someone else until you get someone who will tell you, or call back and just start the conversation with a chirpy “Hi, what’s your mailing address?”.
Send a certified letter
Write them a letter telling them to stop contacting you, keep a copy of it, and send the original to them certified mail, return receipt requested, as advised in the FTC’s Debt Collection FAQs for consumers.
Here’s the basic text of a letter I sent that worked for me:
To whom it may concern:
This letter is to inform you that effective immediately you may no longer contact me to attempt to collect a debt. According to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, you may only contact me to tell me there will be no further contact, or to let me know that you or the creditor intend to take a specific action, like filing a lawsuit.
[my name and address]
According to the FTC,
“Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again, with two exceptions: a collector can contact you to tell you there will be no further contact or to let you know that they or the creditor intend to take a specific action, like filing a lawsuit. Sending such a letter to a debt collector you owe money to does not get rid of the debt, but it should stop the contact. The creditor or the debt collector still can sue you to collect the debt.”
If you’d like to know more about what debt collectors can and can’t do in the United States, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act contains detailed information.