A debt collector contacted me about a debt I already paid. What should I do?

Answer: If a debt collector contacts you about a debt you have already paid, you should let them know that you paid the debt. If you choose to, you may provide the debt collector with confirmation of your payments.

Copies of your payments may include cancelled checks or credit card statements. You may also include copies of any correspondence about your settling the debt. But only send copies. Keep the originals.

If you don’t have documentation of your payments or letters saying you’ve paid off the debt, you can contact the creditor to obtain this information. You are not obligated to do so, but you may choose to if you want to make sure the debt collector knows you’ve paid off the debt.

Any debt collector who contacts you claiming you owe payment on a debt is required by law to tell you certain information about the debt. That information must include:

  • The name of the creditor
  • The amount owed
  • That you can dispute the debt and seek verification of the debt
  • That you can request the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor

If it doesn’t provide this information when it first contacts you, the debt collector is required to send you a written notice including that information within five days after first contacting you.

If you believe you have paid off the debt, you can dispute that you owe it. If you dispute all or part of a debt within 30 days of when you receive the required information from the debt collector, the debt collector can't call or contact you until after the debt collector has provided verification of the debt in writing to you.

It is also against the law for a debt collector to use unfair, deceptive or abusive practices in an attempt to collect debt from you.

Tip: Keep proof that you sent your dispute or request for verification to the debt collector.

Make a copy of your letter and send the original to the debt collector. It’s generally a good idea to send the letter by certified mail. Also, if you pay for a “return receipt,” you’ll have proof the debt collector received your letter. You can also fax the verification request to the debt collector and save the fax receipt as proof.

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