Debt Self-Help Center

Bills.com Team
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Highlights


  • Pull your credit report regularly to identify any errors.
  • Dispute an inaccurate debt amount with a debt dispute letter.
  • Stop collection calls with a cease and desist letter.
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Tools & Knowledge to Get Debt-Free on Your Own

We created this Debt Portal to help you solve debt problems, from validation letters to credit repair forms. Bills.com’s “Debt Do It Yourself Center” will put you in the driver’s seat to solve your debt problems on your own for free.

Disputing a Debt with a Collector

Under Federal law, you have the right to request documentation proving that you actually owe the debt being claimed by a collector. If you have any doubts as to the validity of a debt being asked to pay, you can dispute the debt in writing (this process is also called “requesting validation”). Once you have notified the collection agency of your dispute, it is required to cease all collection activity until it has responded to your request by providing documentary evidence, such as a signed credit agreement, demonstrating that you are the person who is responsible for the debt. Below are three letters which you can use to help you in disputing your debt with a collection agency.

The following sample letters are PDF-formatted files. Your browser or mobile device will need a PDF reader to view the files.

Debt Dispute Letter

If you receive a call or letter from a collection agency for a debt that you don’t think you owe, you can send the agency this letter to put it on notice that you dispute the validity of the debt and that you are demanding that the agency provide proof that you are responsible for paying it.

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Notice of Insufficient Validation

Frequently, collectors will respond to a request for validation with nothing more than a computer printout of the balance owed. Generally speaking, this is not sufficient proof of the debt. If you receive a response to the first letter which you think is insufficient, you can use this letter to put the creditor on notice that it has not satisfied its obligations to provide proof of the debt.

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Failure to Validate Debt

If you do not receive a response to your debt dispute letter within a reasonable time (usually 30-60 days), or if the creditor continues its collection efforts without validating the debt, you can use this letter to notify the collector that it is legally required to stop its collection activity against you. Having sent the debt dispute, and following up with this letter, may put you in a better position if the creditor refuses to stop its collection efforts and you are forced to file a complaint with the FTC, your state Attorney General’s office, or even to file a lawsuit against the collector for violation of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA).

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Debt Settlement Offer Letter

If you work out a debt settlement on the telephone with an original creditor or collection agent, and want to reduce your agreement down to the written word, send the person you negotiated your agreement with the following letter. See the Bills.com article Settlement Letter to learn the eight terms and conditions that should appear in a debt settlement letter.

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Cease and Desist (C&D) Letters

Here are four letters you may use if you wish to stop a debt collector or other lender from contacting you, or from making ACH withdrawals from your accounts.

Federal law, the FDCPA specifically, requires debt collectors to stop calling you if you make such a request in writing. However, this rule applies to third-party debt collectors, and not necessarily to original creditors. Some states have their own version of the FDCPA, which extends this rule to original creditors. For example, if you owe money to CitiBank, and CitiBank calls you, a cease-and-desist letter may not stop these calls. Also, many creditors will abide by such requests, not because they are legally required to do so in all states, but because they do not want to violate the law in error and want to maintain a positive public image.

Cease Communication Notice

The Cease Communication Demand letter is a general letter designed to stop all collection calls.

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Work Harassment Letter

This letter is specifically targeted to collectors who call you at work, which are a particular problem, as some collectors will make multiple calls to a consumer’s workplace in an effort to shame or irritate the consumer into paying the debt. Use these letters sparingly and only when needed; there is no need to send a cease communication demand to every collector who calls, but you should know you have this option if a collector’s calls become harassing or abusive.

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Expired Statute of Limitations

Download and adapt this letter if a collection agent contacts you in an attempt to collect a debt on an account that is time-barred by your state’s statute of limitations.

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Revoke ACH Payments

Use this letter to revoke a lender or other business from using the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system to make withdrawals from your checking or other financial account.

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Credit Repair – Dispute Listing

We strongly encourage consumers to pull a copy of their credit reports from all three major U.S. credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — at least once each year. It is important that you review your credit reports on a regular basis, as credit reports can be inaccurate and contain derogatory information about accounts for which you have no responsibility. This erroneous information can cost you thousands of dollars in the form of higher interest rates and reduced access to lower-cost forms of credit. Reviewing your reports will also help you find if you are the victim of identity theft, as you will be able to see if any large credit transactions have taken place about which you were unaware. If you find any erroneous or surprising information on your credit reports, you have the right under federal law (the Fair Credit Reporting Act) to dispute the debt. You may order copies of your credit reports, free of charge, through AnnualCreditReport.com.

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141 Comments

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  • RF
    Mar, 2013
    Robert
    Can a Debt Collection agency hold and refuse to cash checks? Can they refuse to show us their policy on payments? My wife has a small debt less than $500 in collections that she has been paying on, but her hours at work have been cut. She was working 160 hours a month and now she works around 70 hours a month. She was paying $50 a month now she is is sending them $10 a month.

    The Collection agency is holding her checks for January and February because they say the amounts do not meet their policy for minimum payments. The Collection agency called back within five minutes -- it was a different lady this time. My wife asked for a copy of the policy on minimum payments and told there was no policy and they do not have a payment plan (My wife was making payments last year and they cashed the checks), and demanded that my wife come in to the office and pick up the two checks she sent them and pay the full amount right now!
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Mar, 2013
      Bill
      Read the Bills.com resource, If I Pay a Small Amount on My Debt, Can I Be Sued? to learn the basic rules for the type of situation you described.

      If your wife has a contract with the collection agent to pay $50 per month, and then later starts making smaller payments, she is in default of her contract with the collection agent. At that point, the collection agent can refuse to accept the payment, and demand she pay-off the debt immediately.

      However, if she made no promise, in other words formed no contract with the collection agent, then she is not in violation of any contract with the collection agent. You wife should consult with a lawyer who has consumer law experience in her state of residence to learn more about her rights and liabilities. If she cannot afford a lawyer, call your county bar association to learn the names of organizations in your area that provide no-cost legal advice to people with low and no income. Make an appointment with one of these organizations, and bring all of the documents you can find regarding the debt. The lawyer your wife meets with will explain her rights, liabilities, and options.
      1 Votes

  • SH
    Mar, 2013
    Shika
    This informatio​n is wonderful and I will further educate myself on this website for the purpose of cleaning my credit. However, I have a few questions; should a collection agency provide all of the documentat​ion requested using these letters, what steps would I take next to get the debt off of my report? Also, can these letters be used for judgment debts or is there a different process for this type of debt? I have received some medical bills; however, they do not show up on my credit report, but I am receiving bills from collection agencies. Would I use these letters for this type of debt as well? What do I do if after I have sent the Harassment Letter to the collection agencies and I am still receiving these calls routinely? If the collection agency does not respond to any of these letters that I send, how do I go about the process of reporting by way of the Fair Credit Act and getting in touch of my Attorney General's Office to begin litigation​? Thanks in advance for your guidance!
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Mar, 2013
      Bill
      Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), most accurate derogatory information may appear on a consumer's credit report for 7 years after the date of first delinquency, and some information can appear for a longer period of time. Bankruptcies, for example, can appear for 10 years. You mentioned a judgment. A judgment can appear for 7 years, or your state's statute of limitations for a judgment (and for any period for which it can legally be renewed), whichever is longer. See the hyperlink I mentioned in my first sentence here to learn more about your rights and liabilities under the FCRA.

      Regarding the sample letters on the Bills.com Debt Do It Yourself page, they are general-purpose letters and can be used for judgments. Again, as mentioned, the consumer credit reporting agencies are not obligated to remove accurate derogatory notations from a consumer's credit report.

      You mentioned debts that are not appearing on your credit reports. First, keep in mind there are three major consumer credit reporting agencies in the US — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — and the three may publish different information about you. One may publish Medical Debt A, but not B or C; the second may report Medical Debt B, but not A or C; and the third may report Medical Debt A, B and C. The appearance or non-appearance of a debt on one of your credit reports does not determine if you have legal liability for the debt. Think of Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion as specialized newspapers. An event appearing or not appearing in your local newspaper does not mean the event did or did not happen.

      When an original creditor or collection agent contacts you to collect a delinquent debt, validate the debt immediately. Follow the instructions on the page I just mentioned to validate a debt properly. Consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law experience if you believe a collection agent has violated the FCRA or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. You do not need to file a complaint with your state attorney general before you file a lawsuit against a collection agent.

      Find your state attorney general's complaint form by entering your state name and attorney general into your favorite search engine. All state attorney general Web sites have an online form or PDF you can download and print to file a complaint.
      0 Votes

  • AB
    Feb, 2013
    Anne
    I am in terrible financial trouble after being out of work sick for 1.5 years. I'm back at work however, in the interim I had neglected to pay one of my credit cards and after a short while forgot all about it! Eventually it was brought to my attention by a nasty collection agency who has sold the account/amount to another collection agency who is harassing my place of employment! The original amount was for $3,600 and now they are trying to collect $5,000! There seems to be no negotiating anything with these people. The bank/original credit card company has nothing to do with this since they sent it off to collections. I don't have the $5K and would be willing to make a payment arrangement but they will not hear of it! What should I do?
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Mar, 2013
      Bill
      See the Bills.com article Debt Settlement Advice to learn tips and techniques for negotiating with a stubborn collection agent. Keep in mind that although the collection agent has the legal right to collect the face value of the debt, it bought your collection account for about 8 cents on the dollar. Here, that means it paid between $288 to $400 for your collection account. Even if it accepts $500 or $600 as a settlement offer from you, it's earning a healthy return on its investment.

      If the collection agent continues negotiate hardball-style, then work with a debt settlement company or lawyer to negotiate on your behalf.
      0 Votes

  • JA
    Jan, 2013
    Jami
    I have a T-Mobile bill from when I was 20. I am now 32 and it recently has shown up on my credit report as a new debt. I thought the statue of limitations were up on this and it is now with a foreign third-party company, which was the one who reposted it. Is this legal? I thought it was illegal to repost something this old as a NEW debt?
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Jan, 2013
      Bill
      A delinquency like the one you described may appear on a credit report for up to 7 years from the date of first delinquency. This rule is spelled out in a federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If, as you suggest, the date of first delinquency was 12 years ago, the collection agency is violating the FCRA by reporting the debt as current. File a dispute with each of the consumer credit reporting agencies that are publishing this error.
      0 Votes

  • SC
    Jan, 2013
    Sharon
    I had two payday loans:
    • $200: I paid 6 payments of $79 and
    • $300: I paid 6 payments of $105

    I have paid more than the first installment plus the 10% that Florida payday loan law requires but they refuse to stop taking payments out. The $200 loan has collected a total of $474 so far and the $300 one has collected $525. I just changed my checking account and know that now I will be receiving harassing phone calls. What is my next step?

    0 Votes

    • BA
      Jan, 2013
      Bill
      Contact the Florida Attorney General and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and file complaints with both offices. See the Bills.com resources Florida Payday Loans and Payday Loan Laws State By State to learn more, including contact information.
      0 Votes