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Will This 11-Word Phrase to Stop Debt Collectors Actually Work?

You may have heard that all it takes is a simple 11-word phrase that instantly makes debt collectors stop in their tracks. But will that actually work? Probably not.

“Please cease and desist all calls and contact with me immediately.”

Does this phrase work?

You’ll see countless posts online telling you to use this phrase when a debt collector calls. Supposedly, it will force them to stop calling. Unfortunately, that’s a myth. It won’t work.

There’s nothing special about that phrase. It’s a rumor that got its start on Larry King Live.

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8 ways to stop debt collector calls that actually work

Debt collectors and debt collection agencies are governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which places legal restrictions on when and how they can contact you. For example, the FDCPA forbids collectors from calling you at inconvenient hours (before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.) and they can‘t use abusive language.

The FDCPA also gives you the right to instruct debt collectors not to contact you. Here are eight ways to stop collections efforts:

1. Request a debt validation letter 

First things first; you want to ensure that the debt you’re being asked to pay is actually yours. Debt collectors are required to send you a debt validation letter that includes information like:

  • The name of the creditor you supposedly owe money to
  • The amount you owe
  • How you can dispute the debt

If you haven’t received one already, contact the collector and request it be sent immediately.

READ MORE: Did you receive a debt validation letter?

2. Confirm the statute of limitations on your debt

Debts have a limited period of time where debt collectors can file a lawsuit against you or try to recover the money. This is called the statute of limitations. Confirm what yours is for your debt because if the period has passed, your debt could become time-barred, meaning there’s a possibility you won’t have to pay it.

READ MORE: What is the statute of limitations on debt in your state?

3. Review your credit reports to confirm that the debt is valid

If a debt seems entirely unfamiliar to you, your credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion will have a record of your entire credit history. You can view your report for free at annualcreditreport.com and see if the debt is genuinely attributed to you. Contact the credit bureaus immediately if you think there’s a mistake in your report.

READ MORE: States where you can go to jail for unpaid debts

4. Contact your original creditor

Reaching out to your original lender and offering a lump-sum settlement can help you bypass the debt collector. This may not work, though, if your debt has already been sold to a collection agency.

READ MORE: DIY debt settlement

5. Offer to make a small payment if they stop collection efforts

At the end of the day, debt collectors just want to recoup some money. Some will accept a small payment in exchange for stopping collection efforts. While it might not work every time, getting collections off your back is worth a shot.

Beware: Making even a small payment on your debt will reset the statute of limitations.

READ MORE: How to deal with debt collectors when you can’t pay

6. Write a cease and desist letter

The FDCPA says debt collectors must stop contacting you entirely if you ask them in writing not to. You do this by sending a cease and desist letter. Include your relevant contact information, current address and social security number. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides sample letters to help you get started.

Once they receive your letter, they are no longer allowed to contact you, with two notable exceptions:

  • Acknowledging your request: Debt collectors can send a reply confirming that they received it and won’t be contacting you anymore.
  • Notifying you about a lawsuit: If your debt is legitimate, your debt collector can still sue you over it, and they’re allowed to notify you that they’re planning legal action.

If you decide to send a cease and desist letter, make sure to send it by certified mail with a return receipt so that you’re able to prove that your debt collector received it.

READ MORE: What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

7. Enroll in a debt management program

Debt management plans are set up by credit counselors to help you reduce your monthly payments and fees. The credit counseling agencies act as mediators between you and your creditors, helping to establish a reasonable repayment plan that works for you. Though many agencies are nonprofit, a small monthly fee is still charged for debt management plans.

READ MORE: The definitive guide to credit counseling

8. File for bankruptcy

This is a nuclear option and may wreck your credit score for seven to 10 years. However, if you’re eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it could protect some of your assets and give you a financial reset. Even if you legitimately owe a debt a collector is contacting you about, an automatic stay will go into effect as soon as you file for bankruptcy, protecting you from creditors and debt collectors. Of course, it’s best to talk to a bankruptcy attorney before making a decision like this. Many offer a free initial consultation.

READ MORE: Types of bankruptcy explained

All requests to stop debt collector calls must be done in writing

While you have the right to demand that collection agencies and debt collectors stop calling you, it must be done in writing.

Specify that they must stop any contact as of that moment. Be clear that you don’t wish the agency or creditor to call you ever again, for whatever reason.

How the debt collection call myth got started

Calls or letters from debt collectors can be annoying, scary and sometimes border on outright harassment. Just like anyone else would, you want the contact to stop. But how can you make that happen?

It was first mentioned in an interview on Larry King’s show. Credit guru John Ulzheimer was promoting the book “Credit Secrets,” which was written by Scott and Alison Hilton.

Ulzheimer stated in the interview that on page 43 of the book, there’s a “simple 11-word phrase you can use that makes it so no bill collector can ever contact you again.” He also stated that “this one single phrase makes it illegal for a debt collector to even dial your phone number.”

Unfortunately, this is false. The phrase doesn’t even appear in the book. This was simply a marketing ploy to boost the book’s sales, but it gave thousands of people false hope as they searched for information on this topic.

After that, countless blog posts popped up claiming to provide the notorious 11-word phrase. Don’t trust them. This does not work.

You have rights: Know how to use them

It is true that you have the right to tell debt collectors to stop contacting you, but you don’t need to use any particular wording (that phrase or any others) to do so.

What’s more, legally, debt collectors only have to abide by your request if you deliver it in writing, which is why the “magic” of the 11-word phrase is a myth. If you tell your debt collector to cease and desist over the phone, they don’t have to listen, regardless of whether you use the 11-word phrase.

Fortunately, there are better ways to stop debt collectors from contacting you.

Debt collection scams

One of the latest scams involves a call from “ASG Recovers” telling you that you owe an old debt.

These calls are automated recordings that usually come from “Carol”, “Chris” or “Mike”. The calls (and sometimes text messages) tell recipients to visit asgrecovers.com. If you try to call back, you will be unable to reach a live representative to handle questions.

The calls are telling recipients that the have an old debt. If the debt remains unpaid, ASG Recovery will send a 1099C form. ASG may also offer a settlement option to pay 10% of the total due at asgrecovers.com. Unfortunately, ASG Recovers has just a 2% trust score, so you put your information at risk if you enter any personal data at this site.

Pro tip: No matter how scary a phone message may seem, do not go directly through a website or click a link in a text to enter your personal information or make a payment. Instead, demand a debt validation letter. If the debt collector refuses to validate the debt, ignore any communication from them.

READ MORE: Is this phone call or email from ACS Debt Collector legitimate?

How to stop debt collectors from suing you

You can stop debt collectors from contacting you, but you can’t stop them from suing you over legitimate debts.

Here are the only ways to protect yourself from debt-related lawsuits:

  • Prove you don’t owe the debt: If you can prove that you already paid the debt or it was never yours to begin with, you will not have to pay it.
  • Wait for the debt to become time-barred:  If your debt is nearing the statute of limitations, wait until that deadline has passed, and you’ll be protected. That said, debt collectors can still try to get the money from you, and you must prove in court that the time limit has passed.
  • Pay the debt: The best way to protect yourself is to simply pay your debt in collections, so check into debt consolidation or debt relief options to see if there’s a simple way for you to pay.

You can also request that a debt collector contact you through your attorney, and if you have a debt management plan, the debt collector will negotiate with your credit counselor.

What to do if you feel your rights have been violated

If you feel the debt collector has threatened or intimidated you while trying to get you to repay your debt, your rights may have been violated. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), CFPB, and your state attorney general’s office immediately. You can also seek legal advice on your own.

The bottom line

Even though the popular 11-word phrase to stop debt collectors is a myth, there are several steps you can take to stop them from contacting you. Confirm that the debt is yours and that the statute of limitations hasn’t expired. Then, send your debt collectors a cease and desist letter using one of the templates from the CFPB. While you may still have to pay the debt or argue in court that it’s not yours to pay, you’ll finally stop those harassing debt collectors from contacting you.

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