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Tools & Knowledge to Get Debt-Free on Your Own

Debt Self-Help Center

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Betsalel Cohen
UpdatedJul 16, 2024
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    5 min read
Key Takeaways:
  • 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.

We created this Debt Portal to help you solve debt problems, from validation letters to credit repair forms.’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.


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.


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).


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 article Settlement Letter to learn the eight terms and conditions that should appear in a debt settlement letter.


Cease Communication Notice

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


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.

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.


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.


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.


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


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Get rid of your debt faster with debt relief

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Did you know?

Mortgages, credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and auto loans are common types of debts. According to the NY Federal Reserve total household debt as of Q1 2024 was $17.69 trillion. Housing debt totaled $12.82 trillion and non-housing debt was $4.88 trillion.

According to data gathered by from a sample of credit reports, about 26% of people in the US have some kind of debt in collections. The median debt in collections is $1,739. Student loans and auto loans are common types of debt. Of people holding student debt, approximately 8% had student loans in collections. The national Auto/Retail debt delinquency rate was 4%.

Collection and delinquency rates vary by state. For example, in Alaska, 13% have student loan debt. Of those holding student loan debt, 8% are in default. Auto/retail loan delinquency rate is 2%.

To maintain an excellent credit score it is vital to make timely payments. However, there are many circumstances that lead to late payments or debt in collections. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to deal with debt including debt consolidation and debt relief solutions.



ZZeshan, Jul, 2020

I recommend that you do a search online for the name of your state along with the words "Attorney General Consumer Protecton." For example, if you live in Texas, do a search for "Texas Attorney General Consumer Protection." Make sure that you are at the official government site. Call and find out what the usury laws are for your state. 

DDaniel Cohen, Jul, 2020

Zeshan, you didn't respond directly to another comment, so I am not sure what value there is in checking the usury laws. Are you familiar with lenders violating ususry laws? There are often restrictions on usury laws which allow certain products to exceed the usury rate, e.g., payday loans.

AAaronBBB, Jan, 2020

Hi. I see some judgements against me online, but I never received anything from the court or the credit card company. Can they garnish me if they never served me?

DDaniel Cohen, Jan, 2020

Yes, you can be garnished once the judgment has been issued. You could go back to the judge and attempt to assert improper service, saying you were not notified consistent with the law. If the debt is indeed your responsiblity, even should that effort succeed, you wil be sued again. It could be the case that they attempted to serve you and weren't able to find you, then posted the notice they were going to sue you in some forum that the law permits.

jjulie raniya, Mar, 2015

In 2006 I opened a payday type of loan and was approved for $5000. At the time I did not understand the high interest rate but agreed to a monthly payment that would suit my budget. I was in a hole finically at the time and needed something to "dig" me out. I continued to pay $250 per month, on time for the next 6 1/2 years. At the end of 2012 I was in another financial bind and asked the company if I could lower my monthly payment since I had paid faithfully for over 6 years, to which they refused. I explained that I was in a bind and that if they could not lower my payments, would they defer a payment to which they also refused. they left me with no other choice than to close my bank account. After calculating and reviewing bank statements, I have paid this high interest loan well over $20,000, I have received calls from collection agencies on behalf of this company threatening to come to my house, my place of employment and contacting my parents and threatening to come to their house. I have asked many times for them to stop calling my parents, my work, I have also asked for account information via mail to which they refuse. I have been hung up on and yelled at as well. when I opened the account, did not understand finances etc, and made quite a few mistakes along the way but I have always paid things on time until this company came along unwilling to work with me. What should I do? I have proof that I have paid more than 4 times the loan amount.

DDaniel Cohen, Apr, 2015

Julie, from your description, it could be the case that the lender is charging you more interest than is allowed in your state.

I recommend that you do a search online for the name of your state along with the words "Attorney General Consumer Protecton." For example, if you live in Texas, do a search for "Texas Attorney General Consumer Protection." Make sure that you are at the official government site. Call and find out what the usury laws are for your state.

You may need to speak with a lawyer if the lender broke the law. It could also be the case that the state allows loans with terms as onerous as the one you took out. 

Please come back and post what you find out, so others can learn from you.

CCindy, Jun, 2014
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?
BBill, Jun, 2014
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.
AAl, Mar, 2014
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?
BBill, Mar, 2014
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 article Credit Repair to find out how to dispute the error.