Why Debt Collectors Keep Calling After You Tell Them To Stop

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by Jay Fleischman, Esq.

March 11, 2011

You’re at home one evening, sitting down to a pleasant dinner with your family.  The kids are chattering, your spouse is listening to you talk about your day, and the food is on the table.

It’s like Norman Rockwell popped up from the grave to arrange the scene.  That is, until the phone rings.

You pick up the line and are greeted by a bill collector asking about a past due debt.  Calmly and politely, you tell the collection agent that he should stop calling you, lose your phone number and move on.  You’re refusing to pay the debt, and no amount of pressure will cause you to change your mind.

Breathing slowly so as to calm your brittle nerves, you sit back down at the table.  At least you handled that well, and the calls will stop.

Ten minutes later, the phone rings again.  Same debt collector, same debt.  Same demand to pay.

Wait a minute – didn’t you just tell this jerk to stop calling?

Before you rush to a lawyer’s office with a claim under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for violating your rights, realize that the debt collector hasn’t done anything wrong by calling again.  He’s wasting his time by dialing your number after being told in no uncertain terms that you refuse to pay, but that’s about it.

Under the law, a debt collector must cease communications with a consumer only when the 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.

Your voice means nothing, and won’t stop the calls.

So what’s to be done?  Get out a piece of paper and write a letter to the debt collector.  In that letter you should write the following:

I refuse to pay the alleged debt.  Please cease further communication with me.

Now go over to a fax machine and fax the letter to the debt collector.  Make sure you’ve got your complete information (name, account number, and address) on the letter.  Save the fax transmission receipt in case the phone calls keep coming.

Once the debt collector receives the letter, all communications must cease (except in some very limited situations).  But until you say so in writing, the phone’s going to keep ringing.

Write the letter, then go back to dinner before it gets cold.

Image credit:  coreycam/Flickr

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Jay S. Fleischman is a bankruptcy lawyer with offices in Los Angeles and New York. He can often be found on Google+ and Twitter, where he shares information about consumer protection issues and personal finance.

Last modified: March 3, 2011