Debt collectors must follow a federal law about how they can contact you. In general, if you write them a letter asking them to stop, they must stop calling you or contacting you in any way. Click Send a Letter, above, to find out what to write and how to send the letter. 

A debt collector can only contact you after they receive your letter if they are taking a specific legal action like filing a lawsuit or forgiving or selling your debt. This rule only applies to debt collectors and attorneys collecting debts for creditors. The original creditor can still contact you.

Even if you send a letter, you still owe the original debt. You should still pay the collector. Don't ignore any letters regarding a lawsuit. Click Going Forward, above, to learn what to do if you get court papers or a letter about the debt.

Generally speaking, if you send a letter to a debt collector that tells them to stop, the debt collector cannot contact you again. Debt collectors can, however, contact you to tell you that they won’t contact you again, or to notify you that they or the creditor could take other action (for example, filing a lawsuit against you).

What should the letter say? 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has created an easy form that will create a "Stop contacting me" letter for you. Make sure you include your address and the date, when they contacted you, and any information they gave you about the debt

Mail the Letter "Return Receipt" 

Go to your local post office and ask to send the letter "Return Receipt" requested. This means that you will receive a delivery record showing the signature of the person that received the letter.

It will cost you a few dollars extra, but there are two reasons you want be sure the collector received your letter:  

  • If you know they received your letter, you know they are required by federal law to stop contacting you.
  • Also, if this ever became a debt collection case in court, you can use the receipt in your trial. 

Remember, the debt does not go away with this letter. This letter only makes it so the debt collector cannot contact you in writing, on the phone, or in person. You are still required to pay the debt.

Do not ignore any letters regarding a lawsuit

If you cannot pay the debt, the creditor or the debt collector may file a lawsuit against you. If a lawsuit has been started against you, you must be served a copy of the court papers. These papers are usually called a Summons and Complaint. 

What do I do if I am served with court papers? 

Usually, you have 20 days to respond to court papers. For debt collection cases, you are not usually given a date to appear in court.

Instead, you need to respond to the claims made against you by filing an answer.

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Last Reviewed: June 30, 2022