Make A Bill Collector
Cease & Desist
Are you in debt--and avoiding ringing
phones, ignoring your mail and only hesitatingly opening the door--all to
steer clear of the dreaded bill collector?
No one likes dealing with these people. But the good news is that the
law forbids repeated harassment by bill collectors--and gives you the right
to sue for violations. If you complain loudly enough--and you've got proof
backing you up--you have a chance to get the whole debt canceled.
Bill collectors are of two types. (No,
not nasty and even nastier.) Some bill collectors work for the original creditor,
the business or person who first extended you credit or loaned you money.
Others work for a collection agency, a company hired by an original creditor
to collect its debt.
The difference is important. You have
much greater legal protection against harassment by debt collectors who work
for collection agencies, because they are governed by a federal law called
the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA.
Tell Them to
Few consumers know that under the FDCPA,
you have the right to tell a collection agency employee to bug off. Simply
send a letter stating that you want the collection agency to cease all
communications with you. All agency employees are then prohibited from contacting
you, except to tell you that collection efforts have ended or that the collection
agency or original creditor may sue you.
Debt collectors, however, are notorious for breaking the law--contacting
people who have sent a cease-contact letter, or violating other provisions
of the FDCPA.
To get results, you need proof of the
illegal behavior. Proof of the phone calls from someone at a collection
agency violating the law? Some try to tape the next harassing phone call
they get. In most states, you can tape a conversation without telling the
other party, as long as you are a party to the conversation. That's because
the law allows you to record any conversation in which at least one party
consents to the taping, and you can be the one who consents.
In some states (listed below), it's illegal to record a conversation,
unless you get the permission of the person to whom you are speaking, or
in some states at least warn the person that the conversation may be recorded
Telephone Recording (Find
I Would Not Record
A Conversation Without The Other Party's Knowledge
The Following Is
A Summary Of The Recording Consent Laws In Each
Alabama - One Party *
Alaska - One Party * Arizona - One Party
* Arkansas - One Party * California -
Two Party * Colorado - One Party *
Connecticut - Two Party * Delaware - Two Party
* District of Columbia - One Party *
Florida - Two Party * Georgia - One Party
* Hawaii - One Party * Idaho - One Party
* Illinois - One Party * Indiana - One
Party * Iowa One - One Party * Kansas
- One Party *Kentucky - One Party *
Louisiana - One Party * Maine - One Party
* Massachusetts - Two Party * Maryland
- Two Party * Michigan - One Party *
Minnesota - One Party * Mississippi - One Party
* Missouri - One Party * Minnesota -
One Party * Montana - Two Party *
Nebraska - One Party * Nevada - One Party
* New Hampshire - Two Party * New Jersey
- One Party * New Mexico - One Party *
New York - One Party *North Carolina - One Party
* North Dakota - One Party * Oklahoma
- One Party * Oregon - One Party * Ohio
- One Party * Pennsylvania - Two Party *
Rhode Island - One Party * South Carolina - One
Party * South Dakota - One Party *
Tennessee - One Party * Texas - One Party
* Utah One - One Party * Vermont - One
Party * Virginia - One Party * West Virginia
- One Party * Washington - Two Party *
Wisconsin - Two Party * Wyoming - One Party
If you can't tape a conversation, try
to get a witness. Have the witness listen on a phone extension while you
and the collector talk. Try to get the collector to repeat the earlier illegal
U.S. Federal Eavesdropping Regulations
When you obtained a tape,
Here Is A Web Site That May Help You Clean Up Any
It's illegal for bill collectors to:· Contact third parties, other
than an attorney or a credit bureau, except to locate you · call you
repeatedly or contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. · contact you
at work if your employer prohibits it · use or threaten to use violence
· use obscene or profane language · place telephone calls to you
without identifying themselves as bill collectors · claim you owe more
than you do · claim to be attorneys · claim that you'll be imprisoned
or your property will be seized · send you a paper that resembles a
legal document, or · add unauthorized interest, fees or charges.
If you have legally obtained conversation
taped or witness willing to swear the truth, you can make an official complaint.
The federal agency that oversees collection agencies will send you a complaint
form if you ask, or you can simply write a letter. Contact the
Commission at 6th and
Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20580. Include the Collection Agency's
name and address, the name of the collector, the dates and times of the
conversations, and the names of any witnesses. Attach copies of all offending
materials you received and a copy of any tape you made. Also, send a copy
of your complaint to the state agency that regulates collection agencies
for the state where the agency is located. To find the agency, call information
in that state's capital city. Finally, send a copy to the original creditor
and the collection agency. The original creditor may be concerned about its
own liability and offer to cancel the debt at once.
Once your complaint is filed, don't expect immediate results. The FTC
may take steps to sanction the agency if it has other complaints on record.
The state agency may move more quickly to sue the collection agency or shut
it down for egregious violations. Your best hope is that the creditor will
offer to cancel the debt.
if they keep it
If you've been subject to repeated
abusive behavior, consider suing the collection agency. But don't bother
if the illegal behavior was annoying but nothing more. For example, if the
collector called three times in one day but never again, you probably don't
have much of a case.
You can represent yourself in
Court, or hire a lawyer
and go to regular court. (The other side may have to pay your attorney fees
and court costs if you win or you could end up paying the other party's if
you loose.) You're entitled to any actual losses--for example, your pain
and suffering, or the amount you paid to switch to an unlisted number to
avoid harassment--and up to $1,000 in punitive damages.
In truly outrageous cases--especially if the abuse inflicted on you was
substantial and you have reports from therapists and doctors documenting
your suffering--consider hiring a lawyer to represent you. One Texas jury
awarded $11 million to a woman and her husband against both a collection
agency and creditor. The collector had called the woman repeatedly at home
and work, and made death and bomb threats. She, fearing for her own and her
husband's safety, had actually moved out of town. (Driscol v. Allied Adjustment
Bureau, Docket #92-7267 (El Paso, TX 1995).
See More Cases For Yourself By Clicking
Use of the following letter
may cause a creditor, attorney and/or collector to file suit against
a consumer simply because they may not have any other way of resolving
and or dealing with the alleged debt.
For Your Rights!
FOLLOWING LETTER WAS SENT TO A COLLECTOR
Certified Mail #:___________
Personal & Confidential
I have been made aware of the laws
pertaining to credit and collections and therefore am notifying you that
under the provisions of Public Law 95-109 and 99-361, know as the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act, that your services are inappropriate to the issue
between the alleged creditor and myself.
You and your organization must cease
and desist all attempts to collect the above referenced matter. Failure to
comply with this law will result in my immediately filing a complaint with
the Federal Trade Commission, the State Attorney General's Office, and/or
any and all appropriate Federal, State and Community Agencies or Departments.
I will pursue all criminal and civil claims against you and your company
if you violate my Rights. You may no longer phone or write to me concerning
this matter as I will be dealing directly with the alleged creditor.
If any Negative Information is
listed/placed on my Credit Bureau Report(s), I will be forced to file suit
against the involved parties as well as you and your organization, both
personally and corporately, to seek any and all legal remedies available
to me by the law.