Taking certain steps may help people stop contact from harassing creditors. According to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, over 70 million people in the U.S. with debts in collections reported receiving contact from creditors in the year before the bureau’s survey. Debt collectors may make phone calls, send emails or letters, file lawsuits, or take other such actions to compel payment by consumers.
To stop collections agents from contacting them regarding outstanding debts, consumers may take actions such as writing letters, filing complaints, and filing lawsuits. While state and federal laws permit persistent collection attempts by agents, the laws prohibit tactics and behaviors that reach the level of harassment. Therefore, consumers have rights, which include acting to stop certain ongoing communications. Creditor harassment may include making repeated phone calls, using profane or obscene language, or making threats of violence or harm.
The first step for consumers to take in stopping creditor contact is to send a letter to the collection company. In such letters, people should state their desire not to receive any further communication. After a collection company receives a cease-and-desist letter, it may only contact the consumer to notify him or her it will stop communications or to inform the consumer of plans for specific actions.
Should creditors continue to communicate with consumers after receiving cease-and-desist letters, consumers may consider filing formal complaints. People harassed by debt collectors may report the collection companies to the appropriate state agency. Consumers may also choose to file creditor harassment complaints with the Federal Trade Commission. State agencies or the FTC will investigate such claims and, if they find evidence of harassment, will take appropriate action against the involved collection companies.
In cases of extreme harassment, consumers may consider filing lawsuits against the responsible debt collection agencies. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, consumers may recover damages and attorney fees. Consumers should keep in mind, however, that such claims may not require them to prove any actual damages. Even if the court finds a collection agent violated a consumer’s rights, the debt stays valid, and the consumer still bears financial responsibility for it.
The stress caused by unwanted contact from debt collectors often only exacerbates an already difficult time for consumers. However, options exist for them to stop the contact and regain control of their finances.