Other posts on this blog talk about aggressive debt collectors and your rights under the FDCPA. In this post I want to talk about what you can realistically do when the collection calls are ringing your phone off the hook.
First, you should know that if they are calling non-stop and leaving threatening messages, you should try and record those on your answering machine. You should also keep a log of the calls (just leave a notebook by your phone and write it down). Try and get the name of the caller, the time the call came in and the duration of the call. (If you end up litigating later your attorney will probably get the official phone records, but contemporaneous notes or a log of the call will give your attorney a head start on the scope of the harassment.) If they call you at work, tell them immediately that your employer prohibits such calls and under no circumstances should they call you at work. Then log any of these violations as well.
Second, you can send a “cease and desist” letter. You can usually find a template for one on the internet. If you send that letter the creditor has to stop calling, but they still can contact you to let you know they are ceasing collection activities, filing a lawsuit, or pursuing other legal remedies. So the long and short of it is that the “cease and desist” letter stops the calls in the short term but does not stop legal collection efforts in the long run. Still, it does stop the harassment and lets the creditor know that you are aware of your rights.
Third, if you receive a letter from a debt collector saying you have “30 days to send a written request for validation of the debt” or something along those lines, send it. Its just a simple letter from you to them. After they receive this letter, they cannot call you until they send that information. So you have again stopped the harassment and put them on the defensive. You may also get lucky and come across a third-party debt collector that has bought your debt and does not have accurate information from the original creditor as to the source and amount of the debt.
Fourth, go on to the CFPB website. There is information there about your rights as a consumer that is really invaluable.
Finally, don’t be afraid to contact an attorney. There are attorneys who make it a practice to file a lawsuit to collect damages from third-party debt collectors. The FDCPA is a strict liability law, which means that a consumer does not have to prove actual damages. Instead, a consumer can be awarded statutory damages up to $1,000 plus reasonable attorney fees if a debt collector is proven to have violated the FDCPA.