A reader asks what she can do to stop aggressive collection calls on an old debt she doesn't owe.
Question: I’m getting really tired of being hassled for an old debt I don’t owe. I keep trying to explain to the debt collectors that I don’t owe the bill they keep trying to say I need to pay. What can I do?
Steve Rhode answers…
In a perfect world you should not have to waste your time dealing with errors like this but sometimes stuff just happens and the biggest mistake you can make is not deal with it.
Being chased for a debt you don’t owe isn’t fun. I should know — it wasn’t long ago that a debt collector contacted me in an attempt to collect an old bridge toll due years ago from another state. Just a few problems, though: I didn’t live in the country at the time, owned no cars in the U.S., and had never owned one like the one they claimed incurred the toll. It took a bunch of back and forth communication and I had to send a certified letter to protect my right. But eventually the matter was resolved and they went away.
When a debt collector contacts you about a debt you don’t owe, the first inclination is to take the issue personally, but don’t. Instead, look at the issue like a really annoying process.
The very first thing you should do when contacted is to ask the debt collector for proof you really owe the debt. You can use one of these five sample letters to ask for more information and protect your rights. You can even ask the debt collector to stop contacting you unless they can show evidence you really owe the debt.
While it is not necessary, it doesn’t hurt to send your letter by some type of traceable means to prove the debt collector received the letter within 30 days of contacting you. I certainly did that in my situation.
When people are first contacted by a debt collector they tend to get agitated and angry and wind up saying too much or the wrong thing. To avoid becoming on of those people, download the free ebook, “Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws,” by Gerri Detweiler and Mary Reed.
Be sure to read the chapter ‘When a Debt Collector Contacts You for the First Time’ to become incredibly smart about what to do. After you read it, you’ll be smarter than 99 percent of most consumers and prepared to handle the debt collector like an expert.
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy. He’s been helping people with personal finance troubles through advice and education since 1994. If you would like to ask a question, visit Get Out of Debt and let Steve help you for free.