How to Dispute a Collection Notice

Debt Collectors & Your Legal Rights

If a debt collector calls repeatedly, sends you several collection letters, drops by your home or work unannounced, and you know the charges are incorrect, you have legal recourse to stop the harassment. By law, collection agencies must provide proof that you owe money once you request information. And they must stop harassing you to pay once you write a formal letter of dispute.

A formal letter of dispute gives you time to sort out the details of the debt and find out how much you actually owe. It will not relieve you of the responsibility to pay in the event that you actually do owe money.

When you first receive a collection notice in the mail or phone call from the collection agency, write down four things:

  • the name of the collection agency and the name of the agent
  • the address of the agency
  • the amount you supposedly owe
  • the date of the phone call or letter

Draft a formal letter of dispute following this template.

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[Today's Date]

[Collection Agency Name]
[Collection Agency Address]

To whom it may concern,

I received a letter/call on [date] stating that I owe $[amount]. I am writing to formally dispute these charges. I request that you send the following items to me in writing:
  1. The name of the original creditor (The original creditor is the company that hired the collection agency to harass you.)
  2. Proof that [name of collection agency] is licensed to collect debts in [state], your agency's license number, and the name of the agent sent to collect this debt
  3. The exact amount that I supposedly owe, and a description of the product or service that I supposedly did not pay for
  4. The date of the transaction
  5. Copies of documents that prove I made such a purchase or agreed to pay
  6. Copies of any judgments (if applicable)

I also demand that you send a copy of this letter to all of the credit bureaus that you report to. If my credit score is negatively affected by a false collection claim, I may seek legal damages.

I am aware of my rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

[Your Name]

A collection agency needs a license to operate. One of the most common scams is when a fake agency sends collection notices to random people for small amounts of money. The fake agency figures (correctly) that most people will pay to avoid the hassle of disputing.

Debt collection agencies often send reports to credit bureaus, i.e., companies that formulate and publish your credit score. This includes the major bureaus such as TransUnion, Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and possibly ChexSystems. You can sue a debt collecting company if they submit false negative data about you to any credit bureau and it negatively impacts your credit score.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act are two laws that protect consumers. Under these acts, collection agencies are required to respond to your letter of dispute within 30 days. If they fail to do so, the case against you may be closed. Also, no debt collector can call you or try to get money from you or your employer until they supply the proof that you request.

Be sure to keep copies of all correspondence between you and the debt collectors. You can read more sample dispute letters online for more guidance depending on the details of your problem. Visit the website of the Federal Trade Commission so that you can read the full text of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Above all, know your rights and don't let collection agencies attempt to trample them.

© Had2Know 2010