Don’t recognize that debt? Here’s what to do.

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Debt collectors make up to one billion contacts with consumers each year. It’s their job to make sure they’re collecting from the right people. But sometimes, they reach the wrong person. Other times, they’re actually part of a fake debt collection scam. 

If you don’t recognize a debt, here’s what you can do:

Find out who you’re dealing with. Ask for the collector’s name, the company’s name, and its address and phone number. Legitimate collectors will provide this information.

Don’t give additional personal information. The collector might ask you to confirm personal information. If the collector has the wrong information, like an address or phone number you’ve never used, don’t correct the mistake with the right information. And don’t give any other personal information. If it’s not your debt, but the collector now has the right personal information for you, it could be harder for you to dispute the debt later.

Refuse to discuss the debt until you get a “validation notice.” Collectors must send you a written notice. It tells you how much money you owe, the name of the creditor, and what to do if you don’t think you owe the money. This notice might help you figure out if you owe the debt.

Do your own detective work. Reach out to the company the collector says is the original creditor. They might help you figure out if the debt is legitimate – and if this collector has the right to collect the debt. Also, get your free, annual credit report online or at 877-322-8228 and see if the debt shows up there.

Dispute the debt in writing. If you think you don’t owe some – or all – of the debt, or you just don’t recognize it, send the collector a letter disputing it. Be as specific as possible about why you think the debt is wrong – but give as little personal information as possible. Once you get the validation notice, you have 30 days to send this letter.

By law, the collector then must stop contacting you – though the debt doesn’t go away. But, if the collector sends you written verification of the debt, they can start contacting you again.

And, if there’s incorrect information on your credit report, dispute that, too. You can use these sample letters, using the address given in your credit report.

For more, see our debt collection page.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


Great Information!!!

Thank you for this information because that's exactly what's going on with my credit because I never put anything in my name but two car loan & that's it. I ended up with all this othese other bills & I don't know how the bills came along.

Yesterday another call came in as a debt collector. This is the third time I have had this happen. One - I was contacted on my cell for a debt for my son-in-law. Second -a debt for my daughter-in-law. Third - a message that I have not replied to on my parents phone. This scam is everywhere! We have to be so very careful. Additionally note: a person went in to my daughter's bank and cashed a fake check with all her information on it for over $900. And that was done at THE BANK! It is a scammer's paradise!Beware everyone!!!!

It's getting to me, my sister got 13 messages from someone looking for me! She is at home dying of cancer and it's breaking my heart, I can't believe the people out there that can make up this stuff. I wish I could make it stop


You can report a problem to the FTC at, or call the FTC toll free at 1-877-382-4357.

How can I complain about cramming by T-Mobile when they refused to give me a list of my 1600.00 + bill for one month ?

Thank you so much for this helpful information. You have helped so many of us who get attacked by this debter now we have more help. Thank you.

A legitimate collection agency or law firm will point you in the direction to research they are legit.

However, a legitimate collector may also require you to provide your personal information to verify you are the right person (last 4 SSN, DOB, etc). If they disclose your debt to an incorrect person, they have violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.

Makes sense Wally

recently cancelled a credit card I had for three days and charged nothing on. I had an email account with a password and the cc company sent me a bill for $36.00. I had no idea what it was for and they had already cancelled my account. I couldn't get back into the system to find out about the amount and what it was for. I have a deadline of January 5th, 2016 to pay and I cannot find out what it is for. I never charged a thing on the card. I feel this is a scam. I cannot pay if I wanted to.

After establishing the debts are not mine, is there a way to block these numbers. Many are 800 numbers or show private on the caller ID.

If you’re getting repeated calls from the same number, your phone company may be able to block that number, but first ask whether there’s a fee for this service.

If you’re getting unwanted calls from a lot of different numbers, look into a call blocking solution. There are online call blocking services, call blocking boxes, and smartphone apps that block unwanted calls. Do an online search to look for reviews from experts and other users, and find out whether the service costs money.

Unfortunately my last name is similar to that of a convicted swindler and deadbeat. For years I've been getting collection notices from various creditors of his, I just got one from one claiming to represent the City of Spokane traffic court, the photo violation is not even close to my Arizona one, and owner's name is not spelled like mine. I can only conclude debt collectors send notices to any and everyone who might be possibly be the debtor. Therefore, look very closely at any notice you receive, and follow the good advice here. Demand validation and the dispute procedure be sent in writing to you, tell them NOTHING.

Good info should you be a victim of a scam/fraud. But.....You state to NOT correct any personal information, or address info that is incorrect while speaking to the debt collector (presumably on the phone); yet, you state to request a verification notice without providing correct address and name information. How do you get that notice if you don't give out corrected personal info?

Have had 2 calls from a "Robert Goss phone # 319-266-5671 ,claiming that I am being sued by somebody, the name 'Riverside' was mentioned, and something about a bad check written back in 2011. I have no idea what this is about.

I receive these same phone calls; however, I can never get a mailing address from them to send cease and desist letter(s). And when I look the company up I can never find it online so that I can contact them in some way. This is quite frustrating. They are now starting to use random phone numbers from my area code - maybe so I'll answer the phone?

please tell them stop i have dissbilttys i dont need them scareing me :( ilove at 145

I keep on getting phone calls for a payday loan that is not mine. They have all jumbled information. For example they have an address I lived at 12 years ago. They list a bank that I have never had. Yet they have my name and Social Security number correct. I am extremely ill, they say the debt was from 2012 which proves even further that it is not mine as I was extremely ill and my parents were my caregivers at this time. They are threatening to take me to court. I've asked to please stop I am extremely ill yet they continue the calls every other day. How to you fix something like this. Especially when you are 109% sure it's not your debt. Please help. Thank you.

You have rights when a debt collector contacts you.

Within five days after they first contact you, a legitimate collector must send you a written “validation notice” telling you how much money you owe. The notice also must include the name of the person or business you owe money to, and what to do if you think you don't owe the money.

By law, a debt collector can't say it will take legal action against you, if it doesn't truly intend to take that action. Read more about your rights.

The caller might be a fake debt collector who is trying to harass you and get you to pay a debt you don't owe. This FTC article has tips on detecting and dealing with fake debt collectors.

I got this call too, well... my parents AND other people in my family did!!! They said mine is from 2010, and it's not even possible! Everything else you said is EXACTLY the same! I reported them.

This says to dispute a debt in writing. Is email considered "in writjng"?

The FTC recommends that you send a letter by certified mail, and pay for a “return receipt” so you’ll be able to document what the collector received. Keep a copy of the letter for your files.

I've kept a mail from debt collector for the debt of someone who has similar name. Since my visa status is H-4, I don't have a SSN and I don't have any credit report. And since I've just moved from foreign country, I'm very sure it's my debt. In my case, how should I handle? Can I just return to sender as wrong address since name is not matched? Since I haven't got any SSN, I can't provide my credit history from credit company to debt collector. Thanks in advance.

If you get mail that is not for you, give it to the mail carrier. Or take it to the Post Office. Tell them the person does not live at that address.

I received a pink letter stating there was a lawsuit for collections in the county court for someone with my name or a similar name. They had the same name as me but a different middle initial. it scared me that this came to my address. it did also state that if i was not the person, to disregard and then to call a number for a free debt consolidation. is it okay if I just threw it away since it said to disregard if I was not the person with that name?

I received a letter from a "Lawsuit Verification Company." It stated that there is a Collection lawsuit that has been filed against me 2 weeks ago in Superior Court of Los Angeles. The bank is TD Bank USA, N.A., but yet I don't have any type of banking account with them. I have an 812 FICO score and am not aware of any outstanding debts I have. Initially, I didn't believe the notification, until I checked the Court Case number that was provided on the suspect notification. I checked the number at the LA Superior Court website and there was an actual case summary involving me with my name! The Future Hearings states that I am to appear in court on 6/25/2020. Why would I have to wait 3 years from now to appear and have a hearing in court? I'm confused if this is real or fake because it appears on a legit LA court website (www. lacourt. org). How can I verify further details if this is real or not?

If you have information from a court, you can contact the court and ask for information. You could talk to a court clerk and explain the documents you got.

If you think someone mis-used your personal information to get a loan or create debt, go to to report identity theft.

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