Cease and Desist Letter

Read this before you tell a debt collector not to contact you again!

By Gerri Detweiler and Mary Reed. Updated December 2, 2020.

You may have heard that a cease and desist letter is a good way to get a debt collector off your back. It can be. However, before you send one we have some important warnings.

What is a cease and desist letter?

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.

These kinds of letters are often referred to as cease and desist letters or cease contact letters.

In our opinion, though, you want to think carefully before you send one of these letters. If you do owe the debt, and you send a cease and desist letter, 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.

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When is it a good idea to send a cease and desist letter to a debt collector?

There are some times when it may make sense to send one of these letters:

  • The statute of limitations on the debt has expired (in other words, the debt is too old),
  • You don't owe the debt, or 
  • You cannot pay the debt and nothing you own is at risk if you get sued (sometimes referred to as being "judgment proof").

Of course, 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, include your contact information, and provide enough information for them to know which account is yours.

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.

What if a debt collector ignores your letter?

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.

If this happens to you, then talk with a consumer law attorney right away. (First, make sure you aren't dealing with a scammer.) 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 problems here.

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 free ebook Debt Collection Answers.

Learn how debt collection laws can help you!
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