Even when you are behind in your payments on a debt, you are still entitled to certain rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §1692c, clearly details the rights you have in regards to what a bill collector can and can't do. For example, they are not supposed to call you at home before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
However, one of your most important rights is preventing the bill collectors from barraging you with phone calls and letters. Specifically, the law says, "If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing . . . 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 the debt."
There are, of course, a few exceptions. For example, they can call you to tell you that your account is closed or that they are pursuing specific legal remedies (without threats, as they have to be able to give you details).
It is also worth noting that "consumer" includes the person that owes the debt, his or her spouse, and his or her guardian if he or she is under age or incapacitated. That means you can write the letter for yourself if the debt is in your name or you can write a letter for your spouse or child. Additionally, if bill collectors are calling about a debt owed by someone who has died, you can write the letter if you are in charge of the estate.
There are no specific legal rules on how to write this type of letter. However, there are a few good practices to follow.
1. Date the letter and address it to the bill collector you want to stop calling you. This may not be the original company. Sending a letter to the hospital won't stop the calls if they have given the bill over to a debt collection agency.
2. You don't need to try and sound like an attorney. A single paragraph will do fine. For example: "In accordance with my rights as a consumer [or spouse, guardian, administrator of a consumer] under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, I ask you to stop all phone calls to [Phone Number] and stop all other communication in regard to account number _____________ (or "the debt" if you don't have the account number.) A simple and accurate letter is best.
3. Sign the letter with your legal name. If you are writing it for another person, sign it "[Your Name], on behalf of consumer, [Their Name]." Print or type the names under the signature along with the return address.
4. Send it Certified Mail – Return Receipt Requested. Under the federal law, the cease communication letter takes effect when it is received by the bill collector. A receipt is your evidence of that date.
If a bill collector keeps calling after the date on the receipt, call the Federal Trade Commission and ask how to report a violation. For more tips on protecting your home and privacy or for a free Virginia Home Insurance quote, contact an agent at Salzberg Insurance Agency today!