By law, collection agencies cannot harass creditors on the phone – and there is a way to prevent them from repeatedly calling you. But is it true that you can stop debt collectors altogether by pronouncing a single sentence of 11 words?
The Mysterious 11-Word Phrase – Does it Exist?
Back in 2017, Larry King interviewed prominent credit guru John Ulzheimer, who had worked for giants like Equifax and FICO and knew the industry inside out.
Among the insider tips, Ulzheimer shared with the audience was this: if you are being pursued by debt collectors, you can stop them from calling you ever again – by telling them ’11-word phrase’.
This simple idea was later advertised as an ‘11-word phrase to stop debt collectors’. Thousands of debtors have searched for the exact phrase online – in vain. It’s no more than a marketing trick: the internet pages that promise to reveal the magic sentence usually just try to sell you a book or a guide.
We have read the book, that credit expert John Ulzheimer promotes, and the truth is that there is no exact 11-word phrase that gets collectors off your back. The book gives you advice on how you can stop harassing collection calls:
(!) You just have to say something along the lines of ‘from now on, I demand that you only contact me in writing. You may not call me on the phone”. (Chapter 8: Frequently Asked Questions (Page 162))
Why does this simple method work so well? The secret lies in the laws that protect the interests of debtors.
What the Law Says About Calls from Debt Collectors
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the key document that safeguards your rights as a creditor. In particular, it defines which debt collection practices are legal and which aren’t. The sections that interest us here are the following:
- FDCPA Section 807(8) (about collection agencies)
- § 807. False or misleading representations [15 USC 1692e]
The FDCPA forbids harassing borrowers with phone calls. A collector has the right to call a debtor once a day and send them mail, but it’s illegal to do the following:
- Keep calling the creditor so as to threaten, intimidate, or simply annoy them. Basically, anything above one call a day can be considered harassment in this context;
- Call the debtor at night or while they are at work;
- Call the creditor’s family members, friends, and acquaintances and reveal any information about the debt to them;
- Use rude or abusive language;
- Threaten to take the debtor to court. While starting legal proceedings against a creditor is possible, there is a very specific procedure for that, covered in one of our past articles.
How to Stop Phone Calls from a Collection Agency
As we’ve said at the beginning of the article, the first thing to do is to tell the collector on the phone that you forbid them to call you and that they can only communicate with you by mail. To make this as official as possible, you should then send a letter to the agency or creditor with a written demand that they contact you exclusively in writing from now on.
State firmly that you don’t allow the agency or creditor to call you on the phone – ever, for any reason. The FDCPA obliges collectors to respect such written requests.
If the collector continues to call or threaten you, report them to your Attorney General and file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can also lodge a complaint with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).
More Ways to Stop Collection Calls
Telling the collectors to communicate only in writing usually works, but there are a few more powerful techniques to stop the annoying calls:
- Ask the collection agency to prove that the debt is really yours. By law, you have the right to demand debt validation in writing. The collector will have five days to get together the documents (such as the original loan contract, etc.) and send them to you. After you receive the validation, you will have one month to dispute it.
- Double-check the statute of limitations on your debt. In most states, it varies between 3 and 6 years. A collector cannot initiate court proceedings against you if the debt is too old.
- Enroll in a debt management program. These are non-profit debt counseling services that help borrowers to reduce monthly payments and fees, as well as act as intermediaries between them and the creditors. Once you tell a collector that you’ve joined a debt management plan, they will likely stop calling.
A final word of advice: if the collection agency does initiate legal action against you and you get a letter from an attorney, don’t ignore it. If you do, you’ll lose the case and will end up paying even more than the original debt. For more information on how to react to a letter from a debt collection attorney, read this guide.