If an individual wants to minimize the number of telemarketing calls they receive daily, they have the right to register their phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. Once done, most telemarketers can no longer legally call the registered number. However, when debt collectors continue to call, consumers may be confused. Unfortunately, collection calls from debt collectors are not prevented by joining the registry.
The Parameters of the Do Not Call Registry
The National Do Not Call Registry was put in place in 1991 as a part of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The goal was to stop unwanted calls from telemarketers from reaching consumers.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines a telemarketer as someone who makes or receives calls to or from a customer to get that person to buy goods or services or to make a donation.
The FTC defines a debt collector as an individual or business that collects or attempts to collect debts.
Because a debt collector is calling about an existing obligation, as opposed to a telemarketer trying to get you to buy something or donate to a cause, they are not considered a telemarketer.
The National Do Not Call Registry does not include:
- Calls from organizations that you already have a relationship with
- Calls from organizations that you gave written permission to call
- Non-commercial calls
- Calls that are not unsolicited advertisements
- Calls made on behalf of non-profit organizations
Steps to Stop Calls from Debt Collectors
1. Send a cease and desist letter to the collector in writing. State implicitly that you no longer wish to be contacted.
2 . Send the letter asking them to stop calling you via certified mail and keep a copy for your records. You can also pay for a return receipt to prove that the debt collector received the letter. It may be possible to initiate legal action against a debt collector who continues to call you after receiving a letter from you asking them to stop contacting you.
3. Once the debt collector receives your letter, they are allowed to contact you one more time to alert you that they won’t be contacting you again or letting you know what action they are planning to take.
If the debt collector refuses to stop calling, you can contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and file a complaint.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) also provides sample letters individuals can copy and use in a variety of debt collection scenarios, such as:
* You do not owe the debt in question
* You need more information about a debt
* Cease and desist letters
* Letters directing agencies to contact your lawyer
* Instructions on how a debt collector can contact you
Collectors also must stop calling an individual represented by an attorney for the debt in question.
Statute of Limitations
Debt collectors have a set amount of time in which they are allowed to sue to collect on a debt. This statute of limitations is generally five years in Florida (except for real estate debt.) and is different in every state. Once that time frame has elapsed, they have no legal right to sue you if the creditor has not done certain things.
Still, debt collectors often attempt to collect debts outside this time frame. Typically they hope you will not understand the statute of limitations and its parameters. It is important to note that you still owe the debt – so they can report you to credit bureaus or continue to call in an attempt to collect on the debt.
The best way to stop a debt collector who legally has the right to pursue debt repayment is to take their call and work out a payment plan to pay off the debt. They may be willing to accept a much smaller amount of money to clear your account.
Bankruptcy is an Option
If you decide to file personal bankruptcy, the harassing calls will be stopped by a court-issued automatic stay until the matter is resolved. If you cannot make your payments and want the calls to stop, call a bankruptcy professional to learn more about your options.
Richard V. Ellis is a Sarasota – based bankruptcy attorney who has helped hundreds of area residents to get back on their financial feet.