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Debt Self-Help Center

Do It Yourself

Updated: Oct 7, 2013

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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153 Comments

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  • CB
    Jun, 2014
    Cindy
    In 2008 I was layed off like millions of people. When my unemployment ran out on March 2011 I was unable to pay my car and all credit card bills. I live in CA and was recently placed on Social Security Disability Insurance. I can barely pay my rent let alone any to a bought debt collector. Do I have to wait for statue of limitations or can they collect from my fixed income?
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Jun, 2014
      Bill
      Your creditors could choose to sue you for defaulting on your accounts. If they did and obtained a judgment against you, your SDI would almost certainly not be subject to garnishment. It is a good idea to make sure you know the date of default on your account and if you are sued after the SOL has passed to go to court and use the SOL as a defense. Never ignore a summons, if one arrives.
      0 Votes

  • AS
    Mar, 2014
    Al
    Hello, I requested a copy of my credit report from all 3 credit bureau's. I am currently paying child support, however, I was unemployed back in 2009 which put me back from paying child support. This is now on my credit report. I've paid and am current with child support. But on the report under payment status it stats, was a collections account, still open. and on another credit bureau it states Closed, Collection Account. How can I request for this type of verbiage to be deleted? And what can I do with the closed account reflecting Closed/collections?
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Mar, 2014
      Bill
      Since you paid off collection accounts, then your credit report should be updated to reflect the new situation. If there is an error then you need to contact the Credit Reporting Agency directly. Read the Bills.com article Credit Repair to find out how to dispute the error.
      0 Votes

  • BW
    Mar, 2014
    BK
    Hi Bill, Love the site! I have a situation involving a Business Loan taken out with Cash Call. The business folded a few months after the loan, and now Cash Call has posted negative info on my personal credit. Oddly enough, after the funds were deposited into the business account, Cash Call would call me 4 times a day. ON the rare occasion that I answered they mentioned that they had no record of the loan paperwork, and wanted me to re-sing the docs. I have refused. The business made several payments on this loan before closing in Nov of 2013. The business was an LLC and closed due to circumstances beyond my control. It left debt remaining with several media company's, along with Cash Call. I was the CEO of the company. Any advice on how to: Clear the Cash Call form my Personal Credit as it was a corporate debt. (expiration has "processed" the dispute without removing it.) Resolve the $50K in other business debt without filing a personal BK.
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Mar, 2014
      Bill
      You may or may not have personal liability for the loan. Consult with a lawyer who has experience in business organizations/corporations to learn if your employer was a corporation. If it was, you may not have liability for the loan. He or she will also review the loan contract to learn what you obligated yourself to.
      0 Votes

  • JW
    Feb, 2014
    Jason
    So I had to surrender my vehicle in 2009. They took it to auction and sold it for $2600.00 They then did a charge off on the account and applied the interest. This was all done in 2009. It was then sold to the collection company. The person I spoke with at the originating bank said that the balance of the sell was not applied to the account until July 2013. Does that count as a payment? Will it reset the SOL? The collection agency is claiming I owe them $9700. I have never received any notice from the collection agency the only reason I know of this is due to a credit check I did
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Feb, 2014
      Bill
      In most states, a voluntary payment resets the statute of limitations clock. The proceeds of the car's sale as the result of a repossession doesn't strike me as a voluntary payment. Consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law experience to learn if my guess is accurate.
      0 Votes

  • CE
    Aug, 2013
    Christina
    I am fresh out of college, and recently pulled my credit report. My credit report noted 1 open account in collections with CER STS REC. I had never received any notices or phone calls about a collection and have no idea how to go about determining what collection agency is trying to collect money from me. Any advice?
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Aug, 2013
      Bill
      This may be related to a medical collection. The collection agent's contact information should appear on one of your credit reports. It may be Central States Recovery in Hutchinson, Kansas.

      When you discover the creator of the mysterious appearance on your credit report or reports (remember, you have three) is a collection agent, be sure to validate the debt. A debt that cannot be validated may not be reported to the consumer credit reporting agencies or be collected.
      0 Votes