You may have heard that a cease and desist letter is a good way to get a debt collector off your back. However, before you send one we have some important warnings.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) you have the right to tell a debt collector to never contact you again. The FDCPA also says that once you tell the debt collector not to contact you, the debt collector cannot contact you again except to tell you that he received the letter and/or to tell you he is taking legal action against you.
In our opinion, though, you want to be careful about sending a cease and desist letter.
If you send a cease and desist letter to a collector and you owe the debt, the collector has three options:
1. Leave you alone and forget about trying to collect what you owe,
2. Sell your debt to another collection agency, or
3. Sue you to try to collect your debt.
Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing which option the collector will choose. In other words, sending one of these letters may leave the debt collector with no option but to sue you.
That's why we recommend you get a free consultation with a consumer law attorney to learn whether this is a good strategy for your situation.
If you've been contacted by a debt collector, it's important that you understand your rights and options as we explain them in our ebook Debt Collection Answers.
So what should you do if you are contacted by a debt collector? First, make sure that you actually owe the debt and if you do, that the amount of the debt is correct. Then, figure out how you are going to deal with the debt. If you are thinking about responding by sending a cease and desist letter, there are some times when we think it makes sense to send one of these letters unless:
The statute of limitations on the debt has expired. (In other words, the debt is too old for you to be sued successfully over it),
You don't owe the debt, or
You cannot pay the debt and you know you are judgment proof.
(Important: This is our opinion - not legal advice. We are not attorneys, and recommend you contact a consumer law attorney for legal advice.)
If you do decide to write a cease and desist letter, don't worry about using certain language or quoting the federal law. It's not necessary. All you have to do in your letter is tell the debt collector not to contact you again and to include your contact information and enough information for them to know what account you are writing about.
If the reason you are sending the letter is because you don't believe the debt is yours, or you don’t believe you owe it, then make that clear in your letter. If you are sending the letter because you believe the debt is too old, then explain that. Keep your letter short, straightforward and to the point.
Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy of the letter for your records along with a copy of the receipt the post office sends you confirming it has been delivered.
If the debt collector contacts you after he receives your letter for any reason other then to confirm receipt of your letter or to tell you he is taking legal action against you, then you should immediately contact a consumer law attorney as there is a very good chance he has broken the law.
Is is not uncommon for debt collectors to contact debtors after they have received a cease contact letter. If they do, they are likely breaking federal law (and perhaps state law as well).
If this happens to you, we recommend you talk with a consumer law attorney right away. There are attorneys who will help you for free, because they know the debt collector may have to pay their legal fees.
Find out how to get FREE legal help with debt collection questions here.