Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Communicating with Debt Collectors -- Cease and Desist Letters

You do not have to talk to debt collectors. Unfortunately, this is something of a secret. Many consumers, when contacted by pushy, aggressive debt collectors, believe that they have no choice but to talk to them. This is at least partly because communicating with a debt collectors often involves a barrage of threats -- of arrest, wage garnishment, property seizure, lawsuits, etc. Many of these threats are false and unlawful (you can read more about false threats here). However, regardless of the tenor of the conversation, you have the ability to end it and block further ones. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq., ("FDCPA") contains the following provision:

If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt....

15 U.S.C. 1692c(c).

There are three exceptions. After receipt of a cease and desist letter, a debt collector can advise you that further collection efforts are being terminated, notify you that it will invoke specified remedies which it ordinarily invokes, or notify you that it intends to invoke a specified remedy.

Those legalistic exceptions aside, cease and desist letters can be quite useful. However, you must send the letter directly to the debt collector certified mail return receipt requested. Cease and desist letters are only effective upon receipt and the only practical way to prove receipt is with that U.S. Postal Service green return receipt card. If you are contacted again by a debt collector who has received your cease and desist letter, you have the right to sue under the FDCPA and recover statutory damages, actual damages, reasonable attorney's fees, and the costs of suit.

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