Sometimes individuals receive bills for debts they do not owe or are billed for an incorrect amount. In these cases, people aren't usually required to simply pay bills that come to them, regardless of whether they are valid or not. If you need to dispute a debt, you will normally have to notify the creditor or collection agency of your dispute in writing. The process for disputing debts and the steps a company has to take to handle your dispute may depend on the laws in your jurisdiction, however.
If you receive a bill for a debt you do not owe, your first thought may be to contact the company that sent you the bill. This is a reasonable first step, but it may not be enough to get the dispute process started officially. Instead, you will normally have to dispute a bill in writing. In most cases, this involves writing a letter to a collection agency or creditor to state your reasons for disputing the debt and request proof that you owe the specified amount. You’ll usually need to do this as soon as possible; it’s general practice to dispute a debt within 30 days of receiving a bill or collection notice, for example.
When you send a letter to dispute a debt, you may also do well to enclose a copy of the bill or collection letter you received. If you have paid the debt in full and have proof that you have done so, you may include copies of such proof as well. If you have never done business with the company in question or have some other reason for believing the debt to be invalid, include such details in your letter as well. Once you’re satisfied with the letter and any accompanying documents, you may send it through certified mail or a similar service. This will give you proof that the receiving company accepted your letter.
You may also dispute a debt through a credit bureau. If you find errors on your credit report, you may ask the credit bureau to investigate them. If the credit bureau is unable to secure proof of the debt, it will usually remove it from your credit report. While you may write a letter to begin the dispute process, many credit bureaus have online forms you can complete and mail in to dispute a debt. Using a credit bureau's dispute form and following the directions provided by the credit bureau may ensure that the investigation is completed in a timely manner.
In some cases, consumers do not achieve the desired results through regular dispute processes. If this occurs, you may need to seek legal help. There are lawyers who specialize in debt issues who may be able to help you.