If any debt collection firms are harassing you – and you now know from the previous chapter that harassment is illegal – you can make them stop immediately.
“Cease Contact” or “Cease and Desist” Letter
Simply write a two-sentence letter advising them to cease all contact with you. The first sentence should say: “I am unable to pay this bill because …” or “I refuse to pay this debt because…” and explain your reason. You also have the option of not providing a reason at all. The second sentence should state: “I hereby assert my right, under Section 805-C of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, to request that you cease any further communication with me.” In Appendix C of Zero Debt, you will find a sample Cease & Desist Letter. This basic language is all you need to say to debt collectors to get them off your back.
After they receive your “Cease & Desist” letter, debt collection firms can’t contact you, except to indicate that the collection process against you has stopped, or that they plan to take, or recommend that your original creditor take, legal action against you, such as taking you to court. Even then, debt collectors can’t threaten legal action unless they truly intend to take it. Either way, the annoying phone calls and those harassing letters will immediately end.
“Usually (collectors) will say they’ll proceed with court action and it’s not true,” says former collection agent John Bowe. “They’ll say things like ‘Your wages will be garnished’ even if it’s not true, because collectors will walk right over a person who’s ignorant of the law. Knowing the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act is the debtor’s best tool against collection agents.”
Using the U.S. Post Office
When you send your “Cease & Desist” letter, make absolutely sure that you send it Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. I can’t stress enough the importance of taking this step. “You definitely want to send the letter certified mail,” cautions Bowe. “If it’s not sent certified, they’ll probably say it got lost in the mail and contact you again.”
Your Certified Mail receipt from the Post office will be your proof of mailing. And having that Return Receipt – signed by an employee at the collection agency – will bolster your claims if you get embroiled in a legal dispute.
I don’t care how broke you are; don’t send off any Cease & Desist Letters if they’re not processed through the U.S. Postal Service as Certified Mail-Return Receipt Requested. Otherwise, you’ll be sorry. And you’ll have wasted your time. As of this writing, to send a letter Certified Mail will cost you $2.70, in addition to your postage charges. To get proof of delivery, you must fill out Form 3811 (the Return Receipt form) at the Post Office. That will cost you another few bucks. Again, don’t fret over these charges; it’s money well spent. Obviously, postal rates are subject to be raised over time. So for the latest, up-to-date fees, please visit the U.S. Postal Service web site at: www.usps.gov.
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