Send a Cease & Desist Letter?

Apr 20, 2020 by

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) lays out the rules by which debt collectors are supposed to abide and the rights of Americans who are contacted by debt collectors. One such right you have is to send a “cease & desist” letter to a debt collector. Once that’s done, by law the debt collector may contact you just once more, and only for one of two reasons:

  1. To tell you there will be no further contact, or
  2. To let you know that it or the creditor intend to take a specific action, like filing a lawsuit.

Any further contact from the debt collector is a violation of the FDCPA, and the debtor can and should file a complaint with the state Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission.

Debt Collection Tools

Let’s say you’re behind paying a debt you legitimately owe. A debt collection agency begins writing and phoning you. This may feel like harassment to you, but unless the collector violates the FDCPA, there’s little you can do about the contact except 1) pay the debt, or 2) do your best to ignore the collection activities.

A debt collector’s most persuasive weapon is a lawsuit. Through court action, a debt collector can gain authority to garnish wages or a bank account, or place a lien on a debtor’s property, which effectively prevents transfer of title. Most debt collectors take this step only as a last resort because it’s costly and a lawsuit may push a debtor into bankruptcy where the debt could be dismissed entirely, leaving the debt collector with nothing. Before legal action, debt collectors typically focus for considerable time on their favored tools: Repeated phone calls and letters.

Reasons Not to Send a Cease & Desist Letter

By sending a debt collector a cease & desist letter, you’ve effectively taken away all of its collection tools except a lawsuit. No more calls and no more letters, you’ve told the collector. You’re giving the debt collector two options: 1) Forget about collecting the debt and try to sell it to another collector (probably at a loss) or 2) sue you.

Giving a debt collector incentive to sue is a bad move. Through a lawsuit, the collector can gain court-authorized approval to do all sorts of things—garnishment is an oldie but goodie—that you likely will find extremely maddening. If you truly can’t pay the debt, you may feel compelled to file bankruptcy to survive.

When To Send a Cease & Desist Letter

If a debt collector contacts you about a debt, and you’re absolutely certain you don’t owe it, a cease & desist letter can do you no harm. Even so, you have the right to ask the debt collector for proof, or verification, that you owe the debt. Requesting verification is a good idea, even if you feel sure you don’t owe the debt. I’m often amazed at what my wife proves to me I’ve forgotten.

Secondly, a cease & desist letter may be appropriate if you’re certain an overdue debt has passed your state’s statute of limitations period so court authorized collection action is no longer possible. You can then force a collector to leave you alone by sending it a “cease & desist” letter without risking being sued. You still owe the debt, however.

Googling “debt collection cease & desist” will retrieve numerous templates.

Nothing above is legal advice. If you have any question about the best course of action, consult an attorney. Try Legal Services in your area.


  1. Interesting. I never sent a cease and desist letter to a collector but they chose to sue me anyway. I answered the summons and the case was dismissed within 30 days of me filing my answer. In my answer I stated that the seller had violated the California Unruh Sales Act and that the debt was beyond the statute of limitation. Problem solved. I’m not a lawyer but I did get free advice from a prepaid legal service that I pay $10 a month into. It’s worth every penny!

  2. I will be sending out four cease and desist letters this coming week. I’ve done it in the past and they seem to work well.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by “seem,” but sending a cease & desist letter, especially for a significant debt, can make a lawsuit inevitable. The cease & desist takes away every collection method available to the collector except suing the debtor.

      • What I mean by “seem” is that on one particular occasion, the company kept contacting me even after I sent them the cease and desist letter. They did eventually sue me but that wasn’t until almost 4 years later. Needless to say I wasn’t going to be pushed around so I answered the summons, fought the case and won. I guess I could have sued them for continuing to contact me, had I pursued it.

  3. TheRicker

    Emotions and Frustrations aside…
    My wife gets a letter to pay a legitimate debt. The debt is paid in full to the collection agency within a week of the letter. During the payment process which was recorded, I asked if there were any other active debts being sought. The answer I recieved was “We have one on the books but it is not actively being collected on anymore”. Closure letter sent for paid debt and case closed.
    2.5 weeks later we get a new collection letter for the “Closed debt that was reported again and activated”. This debt is 16 years old and they want 1/3 the total debt. They indicated in thier letter they will not sure and it will not be reported to a collection agency. My guess is because the SOL is waaaaay over. Cease and Desist letter in this case?

    • TheRicker

      *will not sue

      • First: You can’t believe anything a debt collection agency says, even if in writing.

        If in fact the Statute of Limitations has expired on the 16-year old debt, you cannot successfully be sued. That doesn’t mean the agency won’t sue you anyway, and you’d have to go to court to prove the Statute had expired. In court, any outcome is possible.

        Here’s my concern: a key agency tactic is ‘tricking’ debtors into restarting at zero the Statute of Limitations clock. Ways this can happen vary by state, but conceivably the agency believe it has a shot that it could argue before a judge that a comment you made during your conversation with the agency about the 16-year old debt or action you took with respect to the other, repaid debt restarted Statute of Limitations. You could try to research how the Statute can be restarted in your state (talk to the Attorney General’s office) or discuss the situation with an attorney.

        There’s another sure-fire solution: Negotiate settlement and pay off the debt. See

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