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

Comments

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

I AM INTERESTED IN FTC , I AM FRAUD,SCAM VICTIM , I AM MONEY LOST , I NEED HELP OF YOU ,

You can report a problem to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint, 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 IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft.

I received a collection notice from a company representing Dish Network. I called Dish and they told me the account in question was the same name as me but no my social security number. They then said the only way I can clear it up is to send a copy of my credit report. How can they demand my credit report when the information on the account that is delinquent doesn't even match me? I thought there were consumer credit laws to protect my information.

so they are leaving voicemails on my home phoone that they are a debt collector but they dont ask for any by name to return the call

I received a notice of proposed settlement from a collection agency for a account with a utility company. I have never had a account with any utility company in this state. I got this straight with the utility company 3 years ago after I proved to them that they were wrong. What do I do now, I am tired of my time being wasted and being harassed.

The tips in this blog can help you. To start, ask the collection agency for a validation notice. The notice will tell you how much money you owe, the name of the creditor, and what to do if you don’t think you owe the money.

I recieved a letter from a collections saying I owe over $4000 from Chase Bank credit card (which I never opened).Chase can't help me since my file's been sold to a greedy agency. I called that agency and now they said I received a summons which I never did. How do I dispute first of all, an opened credit card account, and 2nd a judgement. I'm trying to work for the city as well and this just ruins my chances now.It's outrageous how this surprise bill came out of nowhere. Help..advice please!

If someone committed identity theft and opened a credit card with your personal information, you can report identity theft at IdentityTheft.gov.

You can give details about what happened and create an Identity Theft Report. You can send the Identity Theft report and a letter to debt collectors to ask them to stop collecting debts you don't owe. You can create a personal recovery plan to help you resolve other problems at IdentityTheft.gov.

Hi What responsibility does the original creditor have to valid a customer debt? Most of the information here seems to apply to the collection agency under the FCDPA

Information of a Lawyer will be written in making a Legal Collection Letter?

A debt collector is a person who regularly collects debts that are owed to another person. A debt collector is not required to be a lawyer.

I just received an email from "Settlement Agency Inc" with an email address of settlementagencyinc @ gmail.com. It has a case number and amount owed and if I dont contact them by April 30th theyd take legal action. Obviously that has passed but this is a very threatening email threatneing contacting my employer garnishing wages and going to court. and doesnt even give what the "debt" is in reference too. What should I do I clearly feel this is a scam.

Within five days after they first contact you, a legitimate debt collector must send you a written validation notice that tells how much money you owe. The notice must state the name of the creditor you owe money to, and what you can do if you don’t think you owe the money.

If you think a caller is a fake debt collector, ask for his name, company, street address, and telephone number.

 

Tell him you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written validation notice. If he refuses to give you this information, do not pay. Paying a fake debt collector will not always make him go away. He may make up another debt to try to get more money from you.

A few weeks ago I got a medical bill in my mother's name but with my home address. My Mom visited me last year. She was hospitalized due to her hypertension but she has a medical travel insurance and she was also covered by the hospital's charity care program. The debt collection agency sent a medical bill in my mother's name, I never opened it and wrote "person no longer at this address," since my mother already went back home (she lives in South Korea). I received a few more of this and I just send them back without opening them. From what I remember of my mother's medical bills, all of them have been paid by the hospital's charity care program, my Mother's medical travel insurance and some that were not included in the program and insurance, she paid herself. And I know that this particular doctor trying to collect now, I know for a fact that her services were covered by the hospital's charity care program plus the medical travel insurance. My question is, do I have to talk or communicate with the debt collection agency? Is it not enough that I returned their letters? I know we do not owe anymore medical bills.

Received a writ for garnishment from a collection agency. Contacted person who I supposedly owe debt to. He said he has no unpaid debts nor does he know me. It is a flooring company. He said the same place keeps calling him and he tells them he has sent nothing in for collection.

I received a letter about a debt in another state about a bill from an address I've never heard of.He asked me for my last four to verify myself and was saying that he's going to send me a letter about fraudulent and that I need to get an police report.I WS Anna know did I do the right thing by calling to see why I got this bill or did I make a big mistake oh and hr asked fory address which by the way was on the letter I got from them

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