Free Legal LettersThese FREE Legal Letters are intended only for use by California residents to stop further harassing calls and provide helpful evidence in any future civil lawsuit to compensate for harm done by debt collectors.
The first section contains general suggestions for preparing the letters. Simply click on the triangle to expand that article.
The information on this website by the Consumer Law Office of Robert Stempler, APC is for general information purposes only. Nothing in this section or associated pages, documents, should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information on this website is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
> Overview of Dispute Letters to a Credit Reporting Agency
Overview of Dispute Letters to a Credit Reporting Agency
Your letter (similar to the sample letters on this Web site) should include relevant documentation and communicate:
- The account name and number;
- Why the credit report item is wrong and how the attached documentation proves this;
- How it is hurting you (please be candid);
- If the credit reporting agency investigates and decides to continue reporting the inaccuracy, ask them to send you anything they have that proves the information is accurate and the procedure they used to determine its accuracy;
- Ask them to forward your letter and the attached documents to the furnisher to review.
> Other Sample Letters May Apply
Other sample letters may apply or help you with a particular dispute. Review all the sample letters on this Web page, because you may find more than one letter may apply in your situation, or you may wish to combine the language from separate letters and add your own ideas. A legal letter is not easy to prepare, even for an experienced consumer attorney, so please seek professional help
> Don't Rush
Don't Rush. Errors can cause problems, if an attorney reviews the letter carefully and asks you about it at a deposition or trial. Allow enough time to carefully prepare the letter to a debt collector or credit reporting agency. Proof read the letter for accuracy, completeness, tone, and understandability. Try to make it one page maximum. Ask someone else to read it and correct any unclear language. Avoid legal jargon and words that are not natural in your daily vernacular. Focus on the facts and what the recipient should do to resolve your situation.
> Tone and Content
Tone and Content. A matter-of-fact tone is usually best, because if the case goes to court, then a judge and jury may read your letters. Avoid arguing and asking rhetorical questions (such as, "Why do you feel that you can threaten to garnish my wages?"). If certain conduct has upset your or your family, explain in a matter-of-fact manner the effect on you and your life (for example, "_____ [name] threatened to garnish my wages on______[date], which made me cry, lose sleep, and have poor digestion for several days after). Your letter should NOT: (a) try to explain the law, (b) threaten to sue, or (c) threaten to contact an attorney. Leave open your options, in case you don't follow through with a threat. The person who reads your letter may or may not be the person who upset you, so have a respectful tone and stick to the facts and what you know
> Enclosures are Preferred
Enclosures are Preferred. If you are sending copies of any documentation, mention what you have enclosed in the text of the correspondence, and explain how the documentation supports your position; for example, "a copy of the credit card company's last letter is attached, because it shows that the outstanding balance was $xyz, but you claim that $abc is now due, which seems much higher. Please explain the difference."
> Your Address and Contact Information
Your Address and Contact Information. The final letter should show at the top the sender's name and address where they can be reached. Do NOT use any company name, unless the credit card or other account was listed using that company name, because most consumer laws cover only consumer purchases, not business items and debts. Your phone number listed should be a way you don't mind receiving calls and voice messages. If the recipient is a debt collection agency, failure to show your phone number may help avoid calls, but sometimes that can backfire if they try other means to learn your phone number, after they have verified the debt. Calling third parties and discussing a consumer debt violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but if they don't have any number, they might try calling you at other numbers until they reach you. If you send the sample letter refusing to pay the debt, then they must stop calling you.
> Addresses for Letters Sent to Other Than CRAs
Addresses for Letters Sent to Other Than CRAs. Address your correspondence to the company's address for billing or credit-reporting disputes if available. Otherwise, use the company's address for general correspondence. Avoid using the address where you sent payments, unless that is the only address that you can find. When writing to a retailer, send it to the address where you purchased the product or their corporate office and a copy to any finance company at their address for billing or credit reporting disputes. You may also find a creditor or debt collector's correct address on your credit report. Avoid going online for the address, unless it is the company's own Web site that has the address you wish to use.
> Time to Respond to Debt Collector's Initial Letter
Time to Respond to Debt Collector's Initial Letter. Within 30 days from the date that you received the debt collector's initial letter, you must send a letter of dispute or verification. Because the date of receipt is critical, save the debt collector's envelope and put that date on a calendar or wherever you keep personal notes, so it is recorded. More information on disputing a debt collector's debt is found in the article, Disputing Debt Collection.
> Proof of Delivery is Worth the $5 Postage
Proof of Delivery is Worth the $5 Postage. Certified mail, return receipt requested, is preferred when writing to a debt collector, the seller, and/or a financial entity, because the post office will get proof of delivery (PS Form 3811), provided that you have accurately written your return mailing address on the reverse side. U.S. Certified Mail can be delivered to a post office box, if that is all you know for this company. You can also track certified mail online at USPS.com. Some consumer laws require using U.S. Certified or Registered Mail.
> Upper Case Per Postal Regulations
Upper Case Per Postal Regulations. Postal regulations require that envelopes be addressed in UPPERCASE letters without punctuation, which permits faster delivery times; if you cannot type this or have your computer print the envelope, handwrite it neatly in block, UPPERCASE letters.
> Debt Collector Letter Selection
Debt Collector Letter Selection. Correspondence stating the key details of your dispute, including a copy of any supporting documentation, is preferred over a "cease and desist" letter (see article entitled "Reasons to Avoid the Cease and Desist Letter"). If you are not able to describe a dispute of the debt and cannot make payments, consider the "Refusal to Pay" sample letter. Do not forget that the debt may be unenforceable in court, if the statute of limitations period has expired (see article, Old Debts).
> Fax Only If No Mailing Address is Available
Fax Only If No Mailing Address is Available. Fly-by-night debt collectors might not give you any mailing address. In such cases, try to get their fax number and be sure that the fax machine you use provides a written transmission report showing the actual date and time of transmission, and the fax number dialed. The first page of any fax should be a fax cover sheet showing the recipient's name/company, your call back information, and the number of pages attached. Try to call the company to verify that the fax was received and, if you have addressed the letter to a specific employee, be sure to leave them a brief voice message that you have sent them a fax. Note the fact that you called and left a voice message on your calendar or on a blank sheet of paper.
> Copies Sent to Multiple Recipients
Copies Sent to Multiple Recipients. Though most people send the original letter to the intended recipient and keep a photocopy, if you are sending the correspondence to several companies, it does not matter if you keep the original and send each a copy; use a good photocopier and keep a complete copy, including the attachments, even if it means extra cost for copies. Paying for an extra copy is much cheaper than being unable to prove in court what materials you sent, if you don't keep a copy and the company cannot locate your letter.
> Save Everything, Even Envelopes
Save Everything, Even Envelopes. If the company sends any correspondence, save the envelope and everything inside. If a representative calls you, be sure to ask for their name and write (on a blank, extra sheet of paper or record in a computer file or the phone log form) the date/time and everything that the caller said. Ask questions if you are unclear on any point or if there is anything in your letter that you feel they have not answered, noting their response or refusal to respond. Avoid writing on past correspondence, as that may be evidence that will be needed in court. Put telephone notes on plain paper, a computer file, or on the telephone log form. Save those notes and any calendars that refer to a collection call or other contacts that relate to your legal letters.
> General Information Purposes Only
General Information Purposes Only. This Web site is a legal advertisement by a California law firm (a professional law corporation). Statements and sample letters on this Web site are provided for general information purposes only and are not intended as legal advice or advice of any sort for a specific case or legal matter. If you do not have a signed attorney-client fee agreement with the Consumer Law Office of Robert Stempler, APC ("the Firm"), then until such written fee agreement or contract is provided and signed by both a prospective client and attorney for a particular case, neither Mr. Stempler nor the Firm will represent you nor will they be your attorney in any matter and you remain responsible for retaining your own attorney and for compliance with any and all deadlines and for any statutes of limitations that may pertain to potential claims. Nevertheless, communications with Mr. Stempler by a prospective client on a California legal matter remain confidential and are considered privileged. The Firm and Mr. Stempler are a debt relief agency. The Firm and Mr. Stempler help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.