Should I ignore a debt collector's calls and letters? (2024)

If you’re not sure whether you should answer a debt collector’s call or call a creditor back, consider whether you’re judgment-proof or planning to erase debt in bankruptcy. Ignoring creditors in those instances is often fine.


I'm behind on my bills and would like to catch up. However, debt collectors are mailing collection notices and calling my house. Is it okay to turn off the phone and not acknowledge debt collection calls? What happens if you ignore debt collectors?


It depends. Dealing with growing debt is difficult and wanting to ignore debt collectors is understandable—and sometimes, not acknowledging debt collectors can be the right thing to do. Before making that decision, determine if you'll be able to pay in the future or if you'll be filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

If you plan to use bankruptcy to wipe out or "discharge" debt, your strategy of ignoring creditors will work fine. When filing for bankruptcy, there's not much reason to talk with debt collectors, and answering calls from debt collectors can make things worse. Debt collectors know bankruptcy will wipe out the debt and will often double down on debt collection efforts—you probably don't want to be harassed even more.

If getting rid of debt in bankruptcy isn't an option, and you'll have the funds to pay your debt in the future, consider talking with your creditors. But you might want to develop an action plan first. The timing—and your situation—is everything. Here are a few things to consider.

Ignoring a Debt Collector's Calls and Letters When You're Judgment Proof

If you're not employed or making very little, and you don't have any valuable assets a debt collector can take, you likely don't need to worry about repaying your debts. Debtors like you can ignore creditor calls because you're "judgment proof."

People who are judgment proof can ignore creditors because debt collectors can't collect from judgment-proof people. But being judgment proof is rare. So before assuming you're a judgment-proof debtor, you'll want to know what a creditor might be able to take to satisfy a debt.

Find out the types of property your state lets debtors protect from creditors. Every state has laws protecting or "exempting" a debtor's property like clothing, household goods, some equity in a car and home, and a retirement account.

But exemption laws vary widely. Here's where you'll find your state's exemption laws (exemption laws apply during collections and bankruptcy).

Also, don't assume you're judgment-proof unless you're sure your financial situation is permanent. Even though most creditors must file a debt collection lawsuit and get a money judgment before taking your property with wage garnishments, bank levies, and property seizures, money judgments last for years. And the interest on judgment debt accumulates the entire time the debt remains outstanding.

Ignoring a Debt Collector's Calls and Letters When You're Considering Bankruptcy

Debt collectors rarely give up. Here are some things to be aware of while figuring out how to pay your debt or whether you should discharge your debt in bankruptcy.

  • Your credit will suffer. The creditor will continue to report the delinquency to the credit bureaus.
  • Your debt will get bigger. Expect the lender or the debt holder to add interest, late fees, and collection costs to the debt balance.
  • You might get sued. The debt collector might file a lawsuit and get a money judgment. A creditor with a money judgment can garnish a debtor's wages, go after the funds in a debtor's bank account, and seize property not protected by an exemption. Learn about lawsuits stopped by bankruptcy.
  • You can protect some income and property. Review your state's exemption laws to determine what debtors can protect if you lose a collection lawsuit and decide to file for bankruptcy.

Next, you'll want to consider whether you can get the debt relief you need by filing for bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy will likely be a good option. Debtors can wipe out qualifying debt, like medical bills, credit card debt, personal loans, and more, in approximately four months without paying creditors.

If you make too much to pass the Chapter 7 means test or have a house, car, or other property you'd lose in Chapter 7, Chapter 13 bankruptcy will likely be a good choice. Find out what you'll pay in a Chapter 13 plan.

And filing for bankruptcy stops debt collectors almost instantly. Creditors and debt collectors learn about the automatic stay put in place by the bankruptcy court shortly after you file and must stop most debt collection actions immediately.

How to Get Debt Collectors to Stop Calling

If you're annoyed by the harassment and ignoring calls from debt collectors is no longer working, you can take action to force debt collectors to stop calling. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires a debt collector to stop communicating with you if you send a written request, subject to a few exceptions.

When You Should Answer Debt Collectors Calls

Ignoring a debt collector isn't always a good strategy. You should call a debt collector back in these two instances:

  • Find out if the debt is legitimate. If you don't recognize the debt or aren't sure its amount is correct, write to the debt collection agency and dispute it. The FDCPA gives you the right to request debt validation.
  • Settle the debt. You might be able to get the debt collector to settle for a lesser amount. If you can convince the creditor you can't pay more—or if the creditor doesn't want to incur court costs—you might be able to settle the debt for far less than you owe.

Many people are uncomfortable asserting their rights or negotiating lesser amounts with debt collectors. An attorney can explain some of the alternatives to bankruptcy.

Need More Info?

We want to help you find the answers you need. Go to TheBankruptcySite for more easy-to-understand articles, or buy a self-help book like The New Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O'Neill.

We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all debt, credit, and bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets from debt collectors and in bankruptcy is by consulting with a local bankruptcy lawyer.

Should I ignore a debt collector's calls and letters? (2024)


Should I ignore a debt collector's calls and letters? ›

Ignoring a debt collector isn't always a good strategy. You should call a debt collector back in these two instances: Find out if the debt is legitimate. If you don't recognize the debt or aren't sure its amount is correct, write to the debt collection agency and dispute it.

Should you answer debt collectors calls? ›

Ignoring debt collection calls may make things easier for a while, but it won't make the problem disappear. Your debt situation could snowball and potentially turn into a bigger issue down the road. Your credit score could take a hit if you repeatedly ignore calls from debt collection agencies.

What happens if I ignore calls from a debt collector? ›

Ignoring or avoiding a debt collector, though, is unlikely to make the debt collector stop contacting you. They may find other ways to contact you, including filing a lawsuit. While being contacted by a debt collector might feel overwhelming, talking with them can help you get more information about the debt.

What happens if I don't respond to a debt collector? ›

If you owe the debt, you may be able to work out a settlement or other resolution with the collector. Responding doesn't mean you're agreeing that you owe the debt or that it is valid. If you don't respond, the court could issue a judgment or court action against you, sometimes called a “default judgment.”

Should you ignore debt collectors? ›

As you can see, ignoring debt collection efforts has no benefit. That's especially true if you've been sued; failing to respond to a lawsuit results in a default judgment against you. Even if you don't think you owe the debt in question, it's important to respond to a lawsuit before the deadline.

How do you outsmart a debt collector? ›

You can outsmart debt collectors by following these tips:
  1. Keep a record of all communication with debt collectors.
  2. Send a Debt Validation Letter and force them to verify your debt.
  3. Write a cease and desist letter.
  4. Explain the debt is not legitimate.
  5. Review your credit reports.
  6. Explain that you cannot afford to pay.
Mar 11, 2024

What should you not say to a debt collector? ›

Don't provide personal or sensitive financial information

Never give out or confirm personal or sensitive financial information – such as your bank account, credit card, or full Social Security number – unless you know the company or person you are talking with is a real debt collector.

What is the 11 word phrase to stop debt collectors? ›

If you are struggling with debt and debt collectors, Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC can help. As soon as you use the 11-word phrase “please cease and desist all calls and contact with me immediately” to stop the harassment, call us for a free consultation about what you can do to resolve your debt problems for good.

Will debt go away if I ignore it? ›

When it comes to debt collection calls, it is never clever to ignore them. In fact, it may make things a lot worse for you. The debt collector may file a collections lawsuit in court, which could lead to the garnishing of wages, seizure of personal property, or money taken from your bank accounts.

How do I scare off debt collectors? ›

Tell Them to Take a Hike

Under federal law you have the right to ask a debt collector to stop contacting you. It's best to put this request in writing, either by mail or by fax. “They can still sue if they want,” warns Howard.

What happens if you tell a debt collector to stop contacting you? ›

Once a debt collector receives your letter requesting they stop contacting you, they're not allowed to communicate with you again except to: Tell you there will be no further contact. Advise you that they or the creditor may take other actions they're legally allowed to take, such as filing a lawsuit against you.

What debt collectors don t want you to know? ›

Debt collectors don't want you to know that you can make them stop calling, they can't do most of what they tell you, payment deadlines are phony, threats are inflated, and they can't find out how much you have in the bank. Furthermore, if you're out of state, they may have no legal recourse to collect.

How should I respond to a debt collector? ›

What to Do When a Debt Collector Calls
  1. Decide If You Want to Talk to the Collector. ...
  2. If You Decide to Talk to the Collector, Keep a Record. ...
  3. Write to the Collector to Request it Stop Contacting You (If That's What You Want) ...
  4. Tell the Collector If You Think You Don't Owe the Debt.

Should you return a call from a collection agency? ›

Ignoring a debt collector isn't always a good strategy. You should call a debt collector back in these two instances: Find out if the debt is legitimate. If you don't recognize the debt or aren't sure its amount is correct, write to the debt collection agency and dispute it.

How to tell if a debt collector is legit? ›

Whenever someone tries to collect a debt, ask for all of their company's information, including:
  1. The collector's full name.
  2. Company name.
  3. Company address.
  4. Company phone number.
  5. Company website address.
  6. Company email.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner

Last Updated:

Views: 6145

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner

Birthday: 1994-06-25

Address: Suite 153 582 Lubowitz Walks, Port Alfredoborough, IN 72879-2838

Phone: +128413562823324

Job: IT Strategist

Hobby: Video gaming, Basketball, Web surfing, Book restoration, Jogging, Shooting, Fishing

Introduction: My name is Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner, I am a zany, graceful, talented, witty, determined, shiny, enchanting person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.