How to Stop Collection Calls (Guide)
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If you have debt you’re struggling to manage, you don’t need the added stress of irritating collection calls. Keep reading to learn how you can stop debt collection calls from interrupting your life.
Written by the Upsolve Team. Legally reviewed by Attorney Andrea Wimmer
Updated May 10, 2023
Calls from collection agencies and bill collectors interrupt schedules and pile on stress. You have the power to stop calls from collection agencies. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) exists because debt collectors have used devious and harassing methods to collect debt. If you have debt you’re struggling to manage, you don’t need the added stress of irritating collection calls. There are consumer laws that protect you from overzealous debt collection agencies. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) estimates that in just one year 1/3 of Americans are contacted about debt. If you’re one of those hundred-million individuals, keep reading to learn how you can stop debt collection calls from interrupting your life.
Can I Stop All My Collection Calls?
Consumer surveys report that most aggressive collection calls are from debt collectors and not original creditors. Fortunately, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in Title 47 of United States Codes bans unauthorized robocalls, certain autodialer calls, pre-recorded calls, and texts to cell phones. That helps, but it doesn’t cover all debt-seeking calls. Whether you can stop all your debt collectors’ calls from coming in will depend on the type of debt and the debt collection agency.
Calls from an original creditor are not covered under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and a company that buys debt and tries to collect the debt for itself is not subject to the FDCPA. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector is someone collecting debt for someone else, not themselves. This is called a third-party debt collector. The Supreme Court made the third-party rule clear in a unanimous 2017 case about debt collection on auto loans.
If you have delinquent debt interfering with your life plans, consider filing bankruptcy to get rid of your debt and to stop collection calls. Once you file a petition for bankruptcy, an automatic stay stops collection calls. Bankruptcy is a form of debt relief that can stop debt collection calls from credit card companies, medical bill servicers, and other types of calls trying to collect unsecured debt. Bankruptcy can’t help with child support or alimony, or most types of student loans and IRS debt.
If you’re not in a bankruptcy, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is in place to help stop debt collector calls that are for non-business mortgage debt, credit cards, medical debt, and other types of personal debt that have been passed on to debt collectors.
A creditor has a right to collect a debt, but debt collectors have restrictions on calling times, calling places, and how they talk to you. If you have an attorney, a debt collector must contact that attorney instead of you. Do you want to get the most annoying debt collection calls to stop? If you don’t have a consumer protection attorney and you’re not filing for bankruptcy, you’ll have to send the collector a letter. Once a debt collector is aware that you want them to stop contacting you, they must stop calling you. They can contact you to tell you a collection effort is being stopped or to tell you that they are taking legal action. (For instance, if they are going to garnish your wages or take you to court, they can tell you that.)
What Time Are Bill Collectors and Collection Agencies Allowed To Call?
Debt collection calls under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act are prohibited from before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. They can’t call you at an inconvenient time if they know it’s inconvenient for you, and they cannot call you at an unusual place. Debt collectors can’t call you at work if they suspect your employer won’t let you take personal calls. Despite this, debt collection agencies will still call you at work. If this happens to you, tell the caller you’re not allowed to accept personal phone calls at work. If a call comes from a collector at an odd hour, tell the debt collector it’s an inconvenient and unusual time and place to call. If the collector doesn’t stop calling, the next step is a letter. We’ll discuss that in detail below.
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Who Can Collection Agencies Call To Collect A Debt?
Debt collection calls for your past-due accounts can only be made to you, your spouse, or your attorney. Collectors can call certain family members once to find out your home address, phone number, and job. There’s an exception if there’s inaccurate information, and this can be abused. Debt collectors can also call a credit reporting agency, the creditor, and the creditor’s attorney. They can also contact other people if you granted them permission to do so. Sometimes the permission is granted in a contract or from a previous phone conversation.
What Type of Debt Collection Behavior Is Illegal?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act describes actions that are illegal for debt collectors. As we discussed above, there are restrictions on people, places, and time. But that’s not all. The content of collection calls is also regulated. The FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission) Consumer Sentinel Network reports debt collection violations are the second most reported consumer marketplace complaint, putting debt collection violations second to fraud and higher than identity theft.
Debt collectors must identify themselves at the beginning of the call. This is an important protection. Giving sensitive information to the wrong person can wreak havoc on your bank account and you could end up a victim of identity theft. Identify the caller and authenticate debt before you engage in serious conversation. The FTC has had over $500 million in collections from FDCPA violations, and a bulk of those fines are for collectors that try to collect fake debt. Debt collectors can’t pretend they are an attorney or affiliated with a U.S. government office. They can’t mislead you about the details of the debt, such as the amount owed or who is getting paid for the debt.
Debt collectors can’t be violent or make threats against you, your reputation, or your property. A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau survey found that 1 in 4 people surveyed about debt collection had threatening contact from a debt collector. It’s illegal for a collection caller to use obscene, profane, or abusive profane language in calls or letters. Debt collectors can’t threaten to sue you if they have no intention of suing you, and they can’t threaten to throw you in jail. They can’t take your stuff unless it’s legally secured under your loan contract.
It’s also considered a violation of the FDCPA if the collection caller calls repeatedly, or allows the phone to ring repeatedly, to annoy, abuse, or harass the person they're contacting to collect the debt. Anyone with a lot of debt can tell you that repeated calls still happen. CFPB research shows it’s not uncommon for debt collection calls to be made four or more times a week.
Is It Possible to Stop Collection Agencies From Calling?
It’s easy to mute your cell phone and ignore debt collection callers, but your problems could get worse if you avoid your debt. You could end up with wage garnishments, court judgments, a harmful credit report, and a lousy credit score. Federal law mandates that in most cases debt collectors must stop calling you once you ask them to stop contacting you, but you must make this request in writing. By taking certain steps to stop collection calls, you can manage debt your way without needless interruptions.
First, prepare to track evidence
Get a notebook or digital place where you can keep track of debt collector company names, amounts of debt, addresses, phone numbers, times and dates of calls, and a trail of the people you’ve talked with on the phone. Mobile apps to record calls and take screenshots can help your recordkeeping. Chances are the debt collection agency is recording you!
Second, talk to the collector and lead the conversation
Know what to say first. If you have a consumer protection attorney or a bankruptcy attorney, tell the debt collector you have an attorney and give them the contact information for your attorney. If you can’t take personal calls at work, tell the collector. If you’re disputing the debt, tell the collector. If the debt collector is calling at an inconvenient place and time, tell the debt collector. Then, ask questions.
Take the lead, don’t let the debt collector take the lead. You wouldn’t let someone in your home uninvited without knowing who they are—use that same principle with calls from debt collectors. Ask questions to determine who you’re talking to (name and company), the original creditor, the original debt and current debt amounts, account numbers and contact information, and current options to verify or dispute the debt. You’ll be able to verify you’re not talking to a scammer. Record this information.
If the debt is old, you’ll want to check state laws for the statute of limitations that applies to debt collection in your state. If the statute of limitations has expired, they can try to sue you, but the case will be dismissed if the time for the statute of limitations has passed.
Third, mail a letter telling the collector to stop calling
Upsolve has a sample cease and desist letter you can mail to stop collector calls. Send the letter certified mail, return receipt requested. The post office can help you. After the debt collector receives the letter, they can contact you to tell you they are no longer contacting you, and to tell you about legal action. After the cease and desist letter is sent, the calls should stop. If they don’t, you can file a complaint.
Where Can I Report Illegal Collection Calls and Complaints?
Debt collectors can be fined and charged legal fees if they violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but a consumer only has one year from the date of the violation to start court action. You can take action and report violations and scammers to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on their websites. You can also make a report about fraudulent collection calls to your state Attorney General or hire a consumer protection attorney.
Can I File Bankruptcy to Resolve Debt and Stop Collection Calls?
Yes! You can file bankruptcy on your own or use the help of a law firm that specializes in bankruptcy. Either way, you’ll have to take a credit counseling course first. Upsolve can help you file a pro se Chapter 7 bankruptcy by guiding you with their website app, but you always have the option to hire a bankruptcy attorney. You can also see if Legal Aid in your state can help with bankruptcy. Bankruptcy will stop your debt collection calls and swipe away your debt so you can ring in a fresh start with less stress and more time for the life you planned.