Even when you legitimately owe a debt to a creditor, you can legally tell him to "drop dead." A "drop dead" letter does not end the debt collection process, but it can stop unwanted contact with a debt collector. Depending on the aggressiveness of a debt collector, you can end up suing him for ignoring a "drop dead" letter, maybe for more than the value of the debt.
A "drop dead" letter to a creditor is a formal request for the agency to stop contacting you about the balance. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the federal legislation that gives you this right. Once you confirm the company received the letter, it is a violation of the law to continue harassing you.
The FDCPA only applies to third-party debt collectors. The original creditor is not obliged to stop calls about the debt just because you ask it to stop. Also, the creditors bound by the FDCPA can contact you in a limited manner after receiving the "drop dead" letter. The only response a debt collector can have is acknowledgment of the letter, notice of a cease of collection efforts or intent to sue you.
Turning the Tables
You can sue debt collectors that ignore "drop dead" letters in small claims court for $1,000 or actual damages per violation of the FDCPA. Some borrowers are so adept at finding FDCPA violations that they make it a side-job and prefer the calls to keep coming. However, you will have to build your case, such as recording telephone calls if state law allows it.
If you issue a "drop dead" letter, send it by certified mail. Should a "drop dead" letter does not work, you can hire a lawyer to send a cease and desist letter. Once your hire a lawyer to handle your debts, the debt collector can only contact you via the lawyer. When you cannot pay the debt at all, you can file bankruptcy, which stops all collection on the debt.
- Legal Zoom; Got Debt? Stop Creditors from Harassing You with these Few Legal Tips; October 2004
- "Dallas Observer"; Better Off Deadbeat; Kimberly Thorpe; January 2010
- Federal Trade Commission; Debt Collection FAQs: A Guide for Consumers; April 2009
- Federal Trade Commission. "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act," Pages 6-7. Accessed Oct. 6, 2020.
Russell Huebsch has written freelance articles covering a range of topics from basketball to politics in print and online publications. He graduated from Baylor University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.