Generally, the sound of your landline ringing or the sight of your cell phone lighting up would be a neutral, or even positive, experience. After all, you have this technology in the first place to keep in touch with the world. But when debt collectors are hounding you, these simple occurrences can send a chill of anxiety down your spine. Or, they spawn annoyance—especially if they reach the incessant level.  So, how can consumers stop collection calls from running their lives? The solution is two-fold: Know how to deal with collectors in the moment and proactively address your debt so you can achieve freedom from its obligations.

Tips for Handling Debt Collectors

Knowing your rights as a consumer and interacting productively with debt collectors can help you keep a handle on the situation. This is especially important if you feel like the calls and letters are starting to get out of control. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) “prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.”

Here are a few rules to keep in mind as you assess your collection calls:

  • Debt collectors may not contact you outside of an appropriate window, typically 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., unless you grant them permission.
  • You can prohibit debt collectors from reaching you at work by submitting a verbal or written request.
  • Debt collectors must be forthcoming about their identity; they cannot pose as another figure to intimidate you or deceive you.
  • However, debt collectors are allowed to contact consumers in a variety of formats: telephone, letter, email, text message, etc.

Consumers have the option to formally request debt collectors stop contacting them, but it must be in writing. However, as Nolo points out, doing so does close off the line of communication between creditors and debtors. This can make it harder to keep track of your debts or even negotiate with debt collectors down the line. If you make this request, collectors can only contact you by serving you with a lawsuit.

When a debt collector contacts you, create a record of the interaction. You should receive a validation letter within five days of the collector’s initial contact disclosing more details. Once you have documented the collection attempt, turn your attention to your debt. Is it legitimate? Will you be disputing the amount or timeline? Will you be attempting repayment on your own? Or will you turn to a debt relief strategy like debt settlement? 

Eliminating Your Debt at Its Root

The only true way to stop collection calls is to tackle your debt head-on. How you go about doing this will depend on the amount and nature of your outstanding balances.

Consumers with substantial credit card debt, for example, may pursue debt settlement as a means to reduce how much they owe. Only careful research will help you choose a workable solution. Before enrolling in any particular program, do the legwork. Searching for consumer feedback by company—for example, Freedom Debt Relief reviews—will help you get a feel for the legitimacy. This option will not stop collection calls, and typically involves pausing payments to creditors while consumers save up to negotiate. However, it can address the root issue of substantial debt as part of a long-term solution.

Some people decide to take on debt repayment on their own, perhaps using a popular method like “snowball” or “avalanche” to prioritize debt. If you go this route, make sure you keep an eye on your interest rates for credit card balances. Over time, these fees can tack on a significant additional sum, making it harder to climb out of debt. It’s important to continue paying at least the minimum balance on all debts, even as you focus on paying down one at a time.

Collection calls don’t have to run your life. As long as you know how to handle them and respond appropriately, they can be a tool to motivate debt repayment.