“The debt collector says I have to give a reason before I can dispute the debt. True?”
“The debt collector says I have to give a reason before I can dispute the debt. Is that true?”
There are some wishful thinking lawyers who defend debt collectors who have tried to make this a requirement but it is not a requirement under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
How do I dispute a debt?
You can do it over the phone and should do this but also I suggest you follow up in writing. Here is a simple dispute letter you can send to a debt collector.
Over the phone you can simply say, “I dispute this debt.”
You don’t have to give a reason but here are few that most people have so feel free to say whichever ones of these apply:
- I dispute you have the right to collect this debt
- I dispute the amount of the debt
- I dispute owing this debt
- Send me proof I owe you the amount you claim I owe
- I already paid this bill — here is the proof — what do you say debt collector?
Make sure any specific reason you give is in addition to the general “I dispute owing this debt” so the debt collector doesn’t think your only dispute is the specific one.
Why should I dispute a debt with a debt collector?
If you don’t, then debt collectors will argue you agree with the debt. This is NOT the law but abusive debt collectors don’t care about the law. They will twist the law to support their purposes.
When you dispute a debt, the debt collector must mark your credit report as “disputed” on their account when they update their reporting. Normally this is done on a monthly basis.
It also lets the debt collector know that you are serious about this matter and you want the debt collector to prove you owe this debt to the collector in the amount the collector claims. The honorable debt collectors will take a look at the debt to make sure they are collecting:
- The right debt
- From the right person
- In the right amount
The dishonorable abusive collectors won’t, but that’s ok because when they violate the law they cannot argue you didn’t give them a chance before you sued. You did.
You disputed the debt and asked them to send you proof.
So no excuses.
What happens after I dispute a debt?
The collector must mark your account as “consumer disputes” on your credit report when they update. And the good ones will investigate and send you proof in writing.
The bad ones?
Well, as mentioned above, they won’t do anything except maybe lie and tell you that your dispute is invalid unless you prove you are innocent.
I had one collector I sued say “You are guilty until proven innocent.”
Wow. I thought we still lived in America….
What if the debt collector refuses to accept my dispute?
Sometimes they will do the “You are guilty until you prove you are innocent” nonsense.
Other times they will say “Your dispute is frivolous and we reject it. So this account is undisputed that you owe the debt.”
- Why are you rejecting my dispute?
- What does it mean “undisputed?”
- Do you have the right to reject my dispute?
- Will you show my credit report as being “disputed” or not?
- Are you going to send me proof of the amount I owe and that I owe it to you?
- What will you do next to me?
Often the debt collector has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) multiple times when it takes this position so you should look into suing the debt collector under this law.
What should I do next?
Document very carefully everything that has happened:
- All phone calls
- All letters
- Pull your credit reports to see what is being reported
Contact a consumer protection attorney who does this type of work. It can hard to figure out who to hire (see our article on the dirty secret of hiring a lawyer) but find a good lawyer to help you.
If you are in Alabama we will be glad to talk with you — call us at 205-879-2447 or use our “contact us” page to send us a message.
PS — There is a sense in which the more specific your dispute, the more obligation the debt collector has to investigate. So if you say, for example, “Hey I paid this off in a settlement last year and here is the amount I paid, a copy of the settlement letter” etc.
Then the debt collector has a great obligation to investigate than if you simply say, “I dispute the debt”.
I would still always say the general dispute but if you have more details, provide them.
If you live in Alabama and have questions, call us — we can help you think through the best route to go very quickly. 205-879-2447