Dealing With Collection Letters Sent to You by Mistake

a collection letter that has "past due" stamped on it, illustrating a collection letter being sent to a person by mistake.

Many collection agencies cast a wide net when trying to collect on old debts. You may get a letter that was intended for someone else, someone with a similar name. It’s important to deal with this issue promptly.

Tips to Dealing with Mistaken Collection Efforts

  • Never pay a collection agency for a debt you don’t owe. It may sound strange, but it happens. Debt collectors are persistent, and sometimes consumers pay a debt that isn’t theirs just to make the collector go away. This is a bad idea.
  • Don’t give the collection agency any extra personally identifying info. The less they know about you, the better. If you’ve already gotten a collection letter that isn’t yours, then the debt collector is confused, and you shouldn’t add to the confusion by volunteering any additional info.
  • Check your credit report. Just to be safe, order your free annual credit reports to make sure these debts haven’t been erroneously added to your credit record. If a debt that isn’t yours has been reported to your credit, download our free Consumer Guide to Good Credit for full instructions on correcting your credit report. If the false collection letter is the result of identity theft, check out our free Identity Theft Prevention course, right here in the FIT Academy.
  • If the debt referenced in the collection letter isn’t yours, and nothing incorrect has been reported to your credit report, you still should not ignore these collection letters. Write a brief letter to the collection agency informing them of their error. Send a copy of the letter to your State Attorney General, and include a copy of the original collection letter you received.
  • If the collector doesn’t budge and insists that the debt is yours, your next step is to write a debt validation letter. Check out the Consumer Guide to Good Credit for more information about this process.
  • If you determine that the debt is in fact valid, and you need help making regular payments toward it, contact one of our certified credit counselors for a free, confidential counseling session.

Final Thoughts

When dealing with debt collectors, you must respond promptly and dispute any debts that are not yours within 30 days of receiving their letter. If you ignore these collection letters, the collector may pursue legal action against you. You can prevent that by taking quick action to dispute any debts that are not legitimate.

If you need help with credit or debt, or want to learn more about budgeting or personal finance, get started with free, confidential counseling and education right here at

Article written by
Melinda Opperman
Melinda Opperman is an exceptional educator who lives and breathes the creation and implementation of innovative ways to motivate and educate community members and students about financial literacy. Melinda joined in 2003 and has over two decades of experience in the industry.

Take the First Step Towards Financial Freedom!

Subscribe to our newsletter
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.