If you're feeling harassed by constant calls, emails, letters, maybe even unseemly things like contacting your work or your family members, from collections agencies, you have a very strong tool to fight back with. The tool is called a cease and desist letter, and this page is dedicated to providing more information about your rights as a consumer. Writing a cease and desist letter does not mean that you accept the alleged debt as valid, in fact it's not an uncommon practice to include a cease and desist in addition to certain other types of credit letters.
They do have the right to contact you and to attempt to collect the alleged debt, however they will never have the right to harass you. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you can tell them to leave you alone. They have no choice. They must leave you alone or face some very real consequences.
What exactly is a cease and desist letter?
This is a letter that you (or an attorney, on your behalf) sends directly to the debt collections agency that is harassing you. This letter lets them know that they cannot contact you about the debt anymore, save for one time. They are allowed to contact you once more after they receive the C&D.
During this final contact, they can let you know that they will no longer be pursuing the debt, or just acknowledge your letter. After that, if they get in touch with you for any reason, they're putting themselves at risk of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which can result in very real legal punishments. They don't want that to happen, so they'll leave you be.
Now, that doesn't mean they're out of your life completely. You may still owe the alleged debt, and they can escalate it to a court case if they choose to. They can also still submit negative items to your credit report. They can also take any other actions that a collections company would normally take, except for contacting you. Basically, this is what you might want to do when the time for talking is over. It means they'll leave you alone in terms of contacting you, but it doesn't mean they're just out of your life for good. If that's what you're looking for, you may want to consider a Pay to Delete agreement.
The good parts of sending a cease and desist letter to a collections agency
There are pros and cons, let's start by listing some of the pros. Remember, each situation is different. It may be a good idea for someone else, but it might not be the best choice for you (or vice-versa.) It's a bit of a gamble, and with any gambling, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You're rolling the dice, and hoping that this shows them you're serious about not wanting to deal with them, and that they just write-off the debt and forget about it, if it's not worth their continued effort. On the other hand, you may be forcing them to file suit against you if it's worth it financially to continue to pursue the debt.
If you're confident that the debt is absolutely not worth them filing a lawsuit against you, a cease and desist letter essentially takes away their strongest weapon. This is often true in cases where the debt is old and near the state's statute of limitations, or for a smaller amount of money. ‘Smaller' basically refers to any amount that's not worth them having their legal team work on a case.
The bad parts of sending a cease and desist letter to a collections agency
It's not all sunshine and roses, and this strategy can definitely backfire. On the downside, it's telling them point blank that the only way they're going to get anything from you is by taking you to court.
It's telling them that you're not willing to work out any kind of a deal, and if they're only allowed to contact you via court documents, be prepared for that to happen.
Sometimes, a goodwill letter or an offer to settle the debt are much more productive options, and ideally you should speak to a professional attorney, or a credit repair company to help you navigate these waters.
A few tips and pieces of advice to keep in mind:
- Ensure that your letter is written in a professional, yet firm tone. Nothing about it should come off as personal, avoid getting into great details about the situation, just keep it totally professional, concise, to-the-point.
- Make sure that you include your full name along with your account number and your address. This ensures that everyone is on the same page in regards to which account is being discussed.
- Reference the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act. They're intimately familiar with it, and this allows you to let them know that you are also aware of your rights.
- Remember, they can only contact you once more in regards to what actions they may or may not take after receiving your cease and desist letter. They may not contact you at all, they could also just go directly to a lawsuit. It's out of your hands once you send them this letter, you're legally preventing them from contacting you to try to work things out, just keep that in mind.
- Be very careful and precise with your language, you don't want to accept responsability for the debt as you may still be able to challenge it or they may not be able to validate it. If you inadvertently accept responsability, they can use that against you.
Here is a sample Cease and Desist letter
As with all of the other credit letter examples we have provided on this site, they have not been written or vetted by a lawyer, and you should not send them in verbatim. It is recommended that you write your own, or seek professional assistance in doing so. We are not lawyers, nor are we qualified to offer any form of legal advice whatsoever, other than to seek the council of an attorney if you're unsure about this process, or seek the help of a reputable credit repair company.