If you’ve recently received a call or letter from a debt collector stating you owe money, don’t just pass it off and forget about it. Instead, request validation or verification of the debt to make sure it’s legitimate and that you’re the person the collection agency is actually looking for.
What is a debt validation letter?
A debt validation letter is a document that proves a debt is valid, states how much you owe and confirms it’s within the statute of limitations for collection. A collection agency is required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to send a debt validation notice within five days of contacting you by phone or may include it in an initial written notice. From here, you have 30 days to contact the collector and request verification or dispute the debt.
Statement that guarantees you the right to collect information about the original creditor — including its name and address
Can I send a request for debt validation?
Yes, if you receive a phone call or letter from a collection agency and need more information about the debt, you can send a request for validation.
Below is a sample letter for a debt validation request. However, this is intended for demonstration purposes only. Consult an attorney for official legal counsel before sending a debt validation request to a collection agency.
Sample letter for a debt validation request
Your name Your address
Debt collector’s name Debt collector’s address
Re:Your account number
This letter is being sent in response to a [written notice or phone call] on November 2020. This is not a refusal to pay, but a request for debt validation under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). I am requesting that you provide proof that the debt is valid under a contractual obligation and that I am the correct debtor. This is not a request for “verification” or proof of my mailing address, but a request made pursuant to the FDCPA 15 USC 1692g Sec. 809 (b).
Please provide me with the following information:
An agreement with the creditor that authorizes you to collect on this alleged debt
An agreement with my signature that states I have agreed to assume this alleged debt
Valid copies of the alleged debt agreement that states the original principal of the alleged debt as well as fees and interest charges
Complete accounting history of the alleged debt
Any judgments obtained by a creditor regarding this account
Name and address of the alleged creditor
Name and address of the alleged debtor
Name, address and official license for the collection agency attempting to collect this alleged debt
Date the alleged debt became payable, date of the original delinquency and verification that the alleged debt was assigned or sold to the collector
If your office is able to provide the proper documentation as requested, I will require 30 days to investigate the information. During this time, cease and desist all collection activity. If during this validation period any actions are taken that could be considered detrimental to any of my credit reports, I will consult legal counsel in preparation for a lawsuit.
If your office fails to respond to this validation request within 30 days from the date of receipt, all references to this account must be deleted and completely removed from my credit file. A copy of this deletion request needs to be sent to me immediately. Any noncompliance with my request will be considered a waiver of all claims to enforce the debt against me and your implied agreement to compensate me for any court costs and/or attorney fees if I am forced to bring this matter before a judge.
Thank you for your cooperation,
Your signature Your name in print
How to dispute a debt collection
If you’ve been accused of having a debt you do not owe — or suspect a collection letter may be a scam — then it’s critical you send a debt validation letter to dispute the debt. A lender must stop collection activity until it confirms the debt is legitimate.
If the collector is unable to prove your debt or continues to contact you to collect on it, it’s violating federal law. File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and stop communicating with the collector until you can obtain legal advice.
Must read: Don’t procrastinate on your debt validation request
Debt validation letters are time sensitive for you and the collector. Your creditor must send a debt validation notice to you within five days of its initial contact, and if you choose to dispute it, you must send a written response within 30 days. It’s possible to send a response later, but a collector isn’t legally required to respond or stop collection activity.
What is a debt verification letter?
A debt verification letter isn’t as robust as a debt validation letter. When you send it, the original creditor isn’t required to provide any proof or documentation that the debt is legit — just that you’re the intended recipient and the amount you owe is correct.
This type of letter is best used if you believe there is an incorrect negative listing on your credit report and you believe the creditor is looking for a different person. Because this won’t stop collection activity, you may want to opt for a validation letter instead if you intend on disputing the debt.
How to write a debt verification letter
A debt verification letter is less effective than a debt validation letter, but it still serves a purpose. You can send a verification letter to the original creditor that requests confirmation of the debtor’s contact details. This can help you see if you’re the person that actually owes the debt or not.
Sample debt verification letter
Your name Your address
Creditor’s name Creditor’s address
Re: Your account number
This letter reflects my intention to dispute the account referenced above. I have already disputed this account information with the following credit bureaus: [list of credit bureaus you filed a dispute with].
I request that you verify the alleged debt associated with this account.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), I have the right to take legal action against you if you fail to properly verify the account details requested and remove the account from my credit report. You may also be required to compensate me for damage to my reputation as well any attorney fees and court costs accrued during a dispute.
Debt relief companies typically charge a percentage of a customer’s debt or a monthly program fee for their services. And not all companies are transparent about these costs or drawbacks that can negatively affect your credit score. Depending on the company you work with, you might pay other fees for third-party settlement services or setting up new accounts, which can leave you in a worse situation than when you signed up.
Consider alternatives before signing up with a debt relief company:
Payment extensions. Companies you owe may be willing to extend your payment due date or put you on a longer payment plan if you ask.
Nonprofit credit counseling. Look for free debt-management help from nonprofit organizations like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Debt settlement. If you can manage to pay a portion of the bill, offer the collection agency a one-time payment as a settlement. Collection agencies are often willing to accept a lower payment on your debt to close the account.
Sending a debt validation letter to a collection agency can help you confirm the debt is legitimate and that you’re not falling victim to a scam. And if you notice an incorrect mark on your credit report, a debt verification letter is a good way to ensure you’re actually the person that owes the debt in question.
It varies by state, the type of contract you made and the type of debt you owe. Typically, it may last as little as three years and as long as 10 years, though some states may have longer periods. Read our guide on the statute of limitations for debt to learn about your state’s laws.
You may request a debt validation letter by phone or mail if you aren’t sent a validation notice within five days of first contact. However, if you received a notification of debt in the mail, check it carefully — a validation notice may be hidden in the fine print.
Provided the debt collection agency you’re dealing with is legit, a debt validation letter should be very effective in stopping collection activity and giving you time to review the legal details about an alleged debt before you start paying.
If a debt collector isn’t legit and continues to contact you, attempt collections, harm your credit report or fails to provide valid documentation of your debt, you’ll likely have legal grounds to sue. Consult a legal professional to learn more about your options.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends speaking with the debt collector at least once to attempt to resolve the situation, even if you don’t believe you owe the debt or are unable to pay it immediately.
After this, you can request that the debt collector not contact you again by sending a cease-and-desist notice in writing — noting that you don’t claim to owe anything until the collector can validate the alleged debt. If it continues to contact you, you may have legal grounds to file a lawsuit.
As with many parts of the debt process, speak with an attorney if you aren’t sure what your next step should be or if you don’t know what to include in a cease-and-desist notice.
Kellye Guinan is a writer and editor with Finder and has years of experience in academic writing and research. Between her passion for books and her love of language, she works on creating stories and volunteering her time on worthy causes. She lives in the woods and likes to find new bug friends in between reading just a little too much nonfiction.
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