Money and Debt

How to dispute a debt

A debt collector contacts you, saying you owe a debt. What if you don’t believe you owe this debt, or at least, not all of it? Read more to find out what you can do.

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Understanding the Basics

See what you need to know to take action.

A debt collector may try to collect money from you. But what if you believe that you do not owe the money at all, or at least not all of it? Mistakes can happen. It could even be a fake debt collector.

Talk to the debt collector

You can begin the dispute process by telling the debt collector you don’t recognize the debt. Do not admit to owing a debt until you see proof. Second, do not give out personal or sensitive financial information, such as credit card numbers, bank account information or social security number.

Next, get the name of the person calling you, the company name, street address and phone number. If they refuse to give you this information, or ask you for personal information, hang up.

Finally, ask them for a “validation notice.” Asking for this letter is the key step in making them prove you owe them money. A fake collector probably won’t respond.

Validating the debt

At this point many of the things you do are time-sensitive. Pay attention to deadlines.

They have five days to send the validation notice. The letter will include the amount owed, the name of the business you owe the money to and what you can do if they are mistaken. It will also list the name of the original business you owed the money to. Sometimes a debt is bought by another company, and you won’t recognize the name. Knowing that the debt was sold can be helpful if you have to go to court.

Until you receive this notice, do not speak to the collector anymore.

“Disputing” the debt

Once you receive the validation notice, you have 30 days to “dispute” the debt.  This means sending a “dispute letter” to tell the collector that you don’t believe you owe the money. Use this template to create the letter. The debt collector has to stop trying to collect during those 30 days.

After the 30 days are up, if you don't want them bothering you or contacting you again, you can write another letter. If the creditor does decide to sue, take a look at what you can do if you go to court against a creditor.

Forms and Letters

Find forms and letters that you can fill out yourself.

Local Government and Community Resources

Find courts and helpful resources in your community.