If you’re in trouble with collection agencies, you have strong rights under federal law to prevent those agencies from harassing you.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), collectors are barred from threatening to harm you, your reputation or your property, as well as from using profanity or falsely claiming to be an attorney or a government representative.
The law also prohibits claims the collection agencies may try to make threatening you with arrest or imprisonment if you don't pay, and it further prohibits late-night phone calls and/or repeated phone calls intended to harass you.
But how do you let the collection agencies know you mean business and want the harassment to stop? That’s where a “drop dead” letter can help.
What is a “drop dead” letter?
A “drop dead” letter is written notification from you to any collection agencies that are harassing you. It informs the agencies that you’re aware of your rights under FDCPA and that you’re requesting they stop contacting you about a given debt — effective immediately!
You can stop collection agencies from contacting you at home, at work or at all by sending them this letter.
Here’s a tip: It’s a good idea to send it by certified mail so there’s no question that they received it. And don’t forget to keep a copy yourself, too!
A “drop dead” letter should be very simple and direct to show you’re serious about ending the harassment. Here’s a sample letter that will suffice in most cases:
Once a collection agency receives your letter, the company is only allowed to contact you for two reasons.
The first would be to acknowledge receipt of your letter and to say that they won’t contact you again. And the second would be to notify you that they’re filing a lawsuit against you. More on that in a bit.
The bottom-line is this: If you’ve reached the point where you’re sending this letter to a collection agency, you want the harassment to stop and you want it to stop immediately. Fortunately, the law provides recourse if the collection agency chooses to ignore your request.
Under the law, if a company continues to harass you, you can sue for actual damages and punitive damages of up to $1,000, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Wait…did you just say I can still be sued on my debt?
Yes, you can.
A “drop dead” letter, while keeping collection agencies out of your face, doesn’t expunge your responsibility to pay a debt that you legitimately owe.
The collection agency can still elect to sue you against that debt. Persistent misconceptions spread on social media would have you believe otherwise. But it’s simply not true.
However, there are three instances when a debt may actually be forgiven — with a lot of caveats attached to that forgiveness. These circumstances include:
- Issuance of a 1099-C forgiven debt form
- The statute of limitations has passed — see what the law is in your state
- Your account is deemed "resolved"
For a deeper dive on when these three conditions apply, read our article "Do you still have to pay your debts if they're sold to a collections agency?"
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- How do I collect a small claims court judgment?
- How to reach a live person at Experian, TransUnion and Equifax