New Rules Proposed Could Allow Debt Collectors to Get A Lot More Aggressive
Consumer Alert: Proposed rule change by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could let debt collectors to start sending text messages and emails, and call up to seven times a week.
A spokesperson for the CFPB says, "The rule does not allow debt collectors to send an unlimited number of text messages or emails [because it] would require [them] to include… an option consumers can use to unsubscribe."
But unsubscribing may be harder than it sounds according to complaints to the Federal Trade Commission. The group received more than 200,000 complaints last year from customers about debt collectors who kept calling after being told to stop.
"Seven calls is just too many. We need a lower limit," says Joanna Darcus, with the National Consumer Law Center. "This rule stops far short of actually protecting consumers, and instead gives license to debt collectors to use more modern means of technology to continue to reach out to and harass consumers."
According to three reporting agencies, one in three Americans has at least one past-due debt. No one wants their wages to be garnished. So what can you do if debt collectors won't leave you alone?
Send a Cease and Desist Letter
Don't depend on a verbal request. If you made your request over the phone, the debt collector isn’t legally required to comply, no matter how many times you’ve said to stop calling you. The exception is when a collector contacts you at work after you've told them not to.
Make sure the collector received the letter
If you sent your cease and desist letter via certified mail with return receipt requested, you’ll be able to tell whether the letter was received. Even if you haven’t received the return receipt back, you can use USPS' website to track the letter using the certified mailing number. However, if you didn’t use certified mail or a return receipt, just ask the collector to confirm whether they received the letter.
One final contact from the collector is ok
The FDCPA allows the collector to contact you one final time even after they’ve received your cease and desist letter. This contact has to be made via mail and should let you know one of these things: that the debt collector won’t be taking any additional collection action for that debt, that they may take certain action in the future, or that they’re definitely going to take certain action.
Make sure it's not a new collector or a new debt
Collection accounts are often passed around from one collection agency to another until you pay or the debt is canceled. If a new collector gets control of your debt, just send a cease and desist letter to them, too. Save a copy of the cease and desist letter to your computer to make it easier to send a second or third letter.
Keep in mind the cease and desist doesn’t apply to the original creditor or their in-house collectors
The FDCPA was written for third-party debt collectors, that is those collectors who were assigned to collect the debt on behalf of the original creditor. Your creditor may have its own in-house collection department that’s collecting on the account. In that case, your cease and desist letter doesn’t apply. Sometimes, a cease and desist letter may trigger more severe action, like a lawsuit. If the collector is blatantly ignoring your cease communication request, send a final letter asking them to cease communication. In your second letter, reference your first letter, including the certified receipt number and the date and time the collector signed for the letter.
Finally, if contact continues, report the collector to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and your state Attorney General
In the meantime, you may be able to block the calls depending on your phone services. For example, many smartphones markets have apps or built-in features that let you block phone numbers or at least set a silent ringtone for that caller so you won’t be disturbed. Note that blocked callers may still be able to leave a voice message. Beyond that, you’ll have to change your phone number or just ignore the calls.