Do not pay. Do not claim a debt that is not yours or make a payment on a bill just to make the collector "go away." Even just one payment can indicate that you are accepting the full responsibility of the debt.

Contest errors. If no debt is confirmed, contact any involved parties to clear up inaccuracies on your credit report. Write a detailed letter and include supporting documents to prove your case. The FTC provides additional resources for reporting errors.

BBB recommends doing the following for debt you do owe:

Know your responsibilities. It is not against the law for a debt collector or creditor to contact you regarding unpaid debts. Try working with them to resolve issues. Discuss developing a payment plan and request obligations in writing.

Complain about abusive practices. Report harassment, threats and other violations of federal telemarketing laws to the FTC. File a BBB complaint if you believe a debt collector is acting unethically. Review the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which sets standards for collection agencies and prohibits abusive tactics.

Stop collector calls. According to federal law, a debt collector cannot continue to contact you if you tell them to stop. Write a letter stating not to contact you anymore. Save a copy of the letter then send the original via certified mail and request a return receipt. If a debt is owed, the collector or creditor can still take legal action to collect funds and may contact you to inform you of their action.