If a debt collector contacts you about a late payment that you believe has been paid off or simply wasn't your bill in the first place, you have 30 days from the time of this accusation to dispute the debt with the collection agency. During this time, a debt collector is not allowed to contact you again until they have provided verification of the debt along with the creditor's information. It is commonplace for a creditor to use multiple debt collectors to collect the same debt, so make sure to send a dispute letter to each one that is certified.
Anytime you communicate with a debt collector, it should be done in writing so that all correspondence is well documented. Any mail being sent that is part of the dispute should be sent certified with delivery confirmation. This sort of evidence is indispensable, especially if your dispute involves liability.
Be sure to send photocopies of all documents supporting your cause; any original documents should be kept in your possession. Using this method of dispute, the collection agency is not allowed a rebuttal without its own authentication of the debt. Also, be prepared to show proof of identity in the event someone else's debt is mistakenly being pinned on you.
If you file a dispute regarding your debt, the collection agency is required to inform the consumer credit bureaus if they decide to report the debt; all areas must be covered when reporting debt.
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