It can be stressful when a creditor or a collections agency calls you on the phone and tells you that you need to pay what you owe. It goes beyond normal stress, though, when you don’t actually think that the debt is yours. Perhaps you think you never had the debt to begin with, or maybe you think you already took care of it and you don’t owe anything else. Either way, what can you do?

The key thing here is to remember that the law itself gives you a right to all information about the debt. You do have a right to ask for this information and verification of what is owed. Do not let a creditor hound you into paying before you have requested this information, and don’t let them tell you that they don’t have to inform you. They’re legally bound to tell you:

— The creditor’s name.– The full amount that you owe.– How you can ask for verification.– How you can enter an official dispute over what they claim you owe.

If you get the information — they either have to tell you during contact or mail you a letter in the next five days — and you still want to dispute the debt, the collections agency or the creditor must then leave you alone while the investigation is carried out. They cannot contact you or harass you. This is true as long as you put in the dispute within 30 days of getting the information you requested.

Don’t let stress and worry get the best of you. Make sure you investigate claims fully and understand your rights under the law in Wisconsin.

Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “What if I believe I do not owe the debt or I want proof of the debt?,” accessed June 30, 2016