How to Dispute a Debt with a Debt Collector
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
If you live in Montana, this article will help you:
- Learn how to dispute a debt with a debt collector.
- Download a free legal form to dispute the debt.
- Learn what to do next.
The information in this article only applies to third party debt collectors collecting debts for personal, family, or household purposes. A third party debt collector is anyone who regularly collects debts for others. You can’t use this article for business debts or fines. The laws in each state are different. If you live outside of Montana, you’ll want to find legal help in your state.
Within 5 days of contacting you, a debt collector must tell you in writing:
- How much they think you owe,
- The name of the original creditor,
- That you have the right to dispute the debt within 30 days, and
- That if you dispute the debt, the creditor will give written verification of the debt.
If the debt collector did not give you all of this information in writing, you’ll want to read our article on What to do When Contacted about a Debt.
Debt Dispute Letter
After the debt collector gives you the information that you asked for in your Debt Validation Letter, you only have 30 days to dispute the debt. You can dispute a debt over the phone. But, it’s best to get it in writing. You can find a link to our Debt Dispute Letter at the bottom of this article.
You may want to dispute a debt if:
- You do not believe you owe all or even some of the debt; or,
- You want the debt collector to explain why they think you owe the debt.
As an example, you might agree that you owe some debt but think the debt collector has the amount wrong. In this case, it’s a good idea to dispute the debt.
You have the right to make the debt collector explain why they think you owe the debt. You can protect that right by sending a Debt Dispute Letter.
Sending a Debt Dispute Letter does not stop a debt collector from contacting you. They must first respond to your dispute letter by verifying the debt in writing. Keep reading to learn more about next steps you can take.
When the debt collector gets your Debt Dispute Letter, they must stop trying to collect the debt. They have to show that you actually owe the debt and the right amount before they can try to collect the debt again. It is against the law for the debt collector to try to collect the debt before they respond to your letter.
After you send the Debt Dispute Letter, you’ll want to:
- Keep a record of any future contact.
- Get legal help.
Keeping a Record
Keeping a record of any time a debt collector contacts you may be important if you have to go to court. You’ll want to make a note of:
- Date and time of the call.
- If the debt collector called you.
- The name of the debt collection company.
- The name and/or employee number of the person you talked with.
- The account number of the debt you talked about.
- If the debt collector has validated the debt in writing.
- If the debt collector has verified in writing that you actually owe the debt, and the correct amount.
- Any promises that the debt collector made.
- Any threats the debt collector made.
- Any of the other things we talked about earlier that are illegal for a debt collector to do.
You can find a link to our Debt Collector Phone Call Checklist below under Legal Forms to help you keep a record each time a debt collector contacts you.
If you any have questions, it’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer. If the debt collector does not give you the information that you ask for in the Debt Dispute Letter, you’ll want to talk to a lawyer right away.
Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) provides free legal help to eligible clients. Learn more about how to apply for free legal help.