Has a debt collector ever contacted you about a debt that you were not sure was yours, or that you believed was demanding more than you owed? Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a federal law regulating debt collectors, you can request the debt collector to send proof of the debt. This process is called debt validation.
The Debt Validation Period
Within five days of its first communication to you, the debt collector is responsible for sending you a debt validation notice. This notice should be in writing letter letting you know you have the right to dispute the validity of the debt within 30 days. The FDCPA allows the collector to include the debt validation notice in the initial communication.
As an example, if the debt collector’s first communication with you is by phone, you should receive a debt validation letter from them within five days thereafter. If the first communication is by letter, that letter might, and often does, already include the debt validation notice; otherwise, you should soon get another letter including the notice.
If you don’t dispute the debt in writing within 30 days, the debt collector has the right to “assume the debt is valid.” If you dispute the debt within 30 days, the debt collector must stop its attempts to collect the debt from you until it provides your validation.
Submitting a Validation Request
For debt validation, your request must be submitted in writing. You can dispute the entire debt, part of the debt, and you can request the name of the original creditor. After receiving your dispute, the debt collector cannot contact you until it has provided you with the requested information.
Your debt validation letter must be sent in writing. Consumers often send the letter via certified mail with return receipt requested. This way, you have proof of the letter’s mailing and receipt by the debt collector. If you have to file a lawsuit against the debt collector, the certified and return receipts will help strengthen your case.
There are many claims on the Internet concerning the content of these letters. Many of the letters supplied by others, especially non-lawyers, are defective. They say things that you should not say. The letter we supply (above) contains all the information you need to obtain verification of the alleged debt. In our opinion, it is a mistake to include more information than what we supply in our letter. Our letter is simple, to the point, and it conforms with the law. Further, unlike the other letters on the Internet, our letter does not open the debt collectors up to certain defense later. Do not get complex. Do not think you have thought of a piece of information you want to include. Simply use the letter we have provided.
The Collector’s Response
After receiving your dispute, the collection agency must send you proof that it owns or has been assigned the debt by the original creditor. Verification that you owe the debt and the amount of the debt needs to include documentation from original creditor (however, it is the debt collector who sends it to you). It is not enough for the collection agency to simply send you a printout of the amount owed.
If the debt collector does not verify the debt within 30 days, it is not allowed to continue collecting the debt from you nor can it list the debt on your credit report. Should the debt collector list the debt on your credit report, you should dispute the debt with the credit bureau. Sending the credit bureau a copy of your debt validation letter along with the certified and return receipts will help get the account removed from your credit report.