Summary: Think you're not responsible for a past due debt? Find out what to do about a disputed debt.
If a debt collector contacts you about a debt you're unsure about, you have the right to dispute it and ask the collector to verify that you owe the debt. You can dispute a debt if:
- you believe you don't owe the debt or the debt isn't yours;
- the amount claimed by the debt collector is incorrect;
- the collection account isn't yours;
- the debt is older than seven years.
However, disputing a debt doesn't mean that the debt collector will forget about it. At least, the debt collection agency will try to prove that you owe what they claim you do. Therefore, as discussed in this article, you need to know what to do next after disputing a debt.
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Disputing a debt claim by a collection agency
Normally, the debt collector is required by law to provide you with specific information about the debt when they first contact you. They'll also be required to send you a written notice with that information if they don't provide it initially within five days of contacting you. The information includes:
- the original creditor's name;
- the amount you supposedly owe;
- a clause stating that:
- you can dispute the debt within 30 days;
- in case of a dispute within the stated time, the debt collector will verify that you owe the debt
- the debt will be assumed to be valid if there's no dispute within the stated time.
If you identify any inaccuracy in the information about your debt, you can write a dispute letter directly to the collection agency. This should be done within 30 days after the initial communication from the collection agency.
In the letter, remember to include your personal identification information and the creditor. Then, request the collection agency for validation. You should also request the agency not to report the debt until the dispute is resolved.
The debt collection agency should prove that you owe the debt and that every information is correct by providing supporting documents. Once they receive the dispute letter, they have up to 30 days to respond with every information you requested.
Meanwhile, you should also send another letter to the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) informing them that the debt is in dispute.
The debt collection agency will stop collection efforts until they respond to the dispute letter validating the debt.
As you await feedback from the debt collection agency:
- avoid discussing the debt or any official communication about it over the phone. It's best to write a letter if you must make any official communication about the debt.
- don't ignore letters and court summons from the debt collector even if you dispute the debt; you can use SoloSuit to file your answer in three simple steps.
- avoid hiding or transferring your assets and money to a family members account during this time.
- don't make any payments to the debt account until the dispute is resolved.
- check your credit report to verify that the records are up to date and that the debt in dispute hasn't been reported.
- collect all evidence to back up your dispute claims just in case you need them during a court summons.
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Disputing a debt on a credit report
If your credit report has inaccurate records of your debt accounts, you can also dispute that information and have it removed from the report. You'll find the steps on how to dispute such information in your credit report.
Alternatively, you can do this on the credit bureau websites. The credit bureau will investigate the debt's validity and update any information as required. All three credit bureaus will do the same, but you may file the dispute with all three agencies at once if you wish to expedite the process.
If it turns out that you owe the debt, the collector will continue contacting you and requesting payment. Understanding your rights as protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) will help you stop unfair debt collection practices such as threats and the use of profane language. For example, you can write to the debt collection agency requesting that they stop calling you about the debt.
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Responding to a debt collection suit
The debt collection agency may proceed to file a complaint against you if other debt collection methods fail to yield positive results. When that happens, you'll need to file an Answer to the lawsuit to avoid a default judgment that may allow the collector to garnish your wages or place a lien on your property.
Stating the right affirmative defenses in your Answer can increase your chances of winning the lawsuit. Some of these defenses include:
- the statute of limitation on the debt has expired;
- the debt was partially or fully paid;
- you don't owe the debt;
- the debt was a result of identity theft or mistaken identity.
Each state has its own guidelines on responding to a debt collection suit, including the deadline for filing an Answer. This is a legal document the defendant uses to respond to claims raised by the plaintiff in the summons and complaints.
Some courts in different states provide an Answer Form to be completed and filed, while others allow the defendant to create their own document. The challenge with using the latter is ensuring that your document has all the required information. This includes:
- your name and contact information;
- the case or cause number;
- the amount you supposedly owe;
- details about the court where the complaint was filed;
- information about the plaintiff, including their name and address.
You may find it difficult to grasp all this information amid the stress brought by debts and lawsuits. However, SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to such complaints in three simple steps.
First, all you need to do is answer the provided questions. The web application will then generate an answer document based on the answers you've provided. Next, an attorney will review the document before delivering it to the court where the lawsuit was filed and a copy sent to the complainant at a small fee.
What is SoloSuit?
SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.
How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.
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"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James
>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate
>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance
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