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Get special attention
If your initial letters don't do the trick, you may have to kick your approach up a notch, says Smith-Valentine. Take a few minutes to research online the company reporting the debt. "Direct your next letter to the president's attention at the company's headquarters address," she says, "because you get a different kind of response from the office of the president than you do from customer service," says Smith-Valentine.
Again, she says, send it certified and keep a copy in your files.
A good source of company information on collection companies is the searchable database of the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, says Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for Consumer Action.
Her tip: Try searching by the location rather than the name of the company.
You can also follow up with a phone call after a few weeks.
If you can't seem to get past an officious gatekeeper, call after hours and leave your message directly in the executive's voice mailbox, Sherry says.