How Does Debt Validation Work?
Don’t believe you truly owe a debt? You have the right to force the debt collector to prove you owe the money. Debt validation is your federal right granted under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Before paying a dime to a debt collector, confirm that the debt belongs to you. Debt collectors are legally required to send you a debt validation letter, which outlines what the debt is, how much you owe, and other information.
If you’re still uncertain about the debt you’re being asked to pay, you can send the debt collector a debt verification letter requesting more information. This option is best if you plan to pay the debt in collections. This article will provide more insight into debt validation and how it works.
- What is Debt Validation?
- What is Debt Validation Program?
- Is a Bill Debt Validation?
- Is Debt Validation Legal?
- What is a Debt Validation Letter?
- What is Required For Debt Validation?
- What to do After Debt Validation Letter
- What is Proof of Debt Validation?
- Where to Send Debt Validation Letter
- When to Send a Debt Validation Letter
- How to Respond to a Debt Validation Letter
- How to Dispute a Debt Validation Letter
- How to Get Debt Validation
- When to Use Debt Validation
- How do I Write a Debt Validation Letter Under The FDCPA
- What is The Validation of Debt And Civil Liability?
What is Debt Validation?
Debt validation, or “debt verification”, refers to a consumer’s right to challenge a debt and/or receive written verification of a debt from a debt collector. The right to dispute the debt and receive validation is part of the consumer’s rights under the United States Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and is set out in §809 of that act, which has been codified in Title 15, Section 1692-1692p of the United States Code.
This debt validation procedure was expected to reduce the incidence of debt collectors dunning the wrong person or attempting to collect previously paid debts. To request debt validation, you must send a written request to the debt collector within 30 days of being contacted by the collection agency. The answers to these frequently asked questions about debt validation will help you better understand the process.
What is Debt Validation Program?
Debt validation, or “debt verification,” refers to a consumer’s right to challenge a debt as we mentioned above. However, debt validation programs use these consumer protection laws to force collection agencies to prove that they are maintaining complete and accurate records. After a collection agency fails to prove that they are legally authorized to be collecting on an account it becomes invalidated.
Debt invalidation companies make it easy for consumers to deal with multiple accounts at once and only have to pay one low monthly payment. It does not matter if you live in New York, Pennsylvania, or California; debt validation can be your least expensive path to dealing with unsecured debt. There are some state restrictions, but as of 2021, at least 30 states will qualify for the debt validation program. You must owe at least $7,500 in total unsecured debt to qualify.
Is a Bill Debt Validation?
When debt collectors contact you about the money you may owe, they are required by law to provide you with certain information:
- The name of the creditor you supposedly owe money to.
- The amount you owe.
- That you have the right to dispute the debt, but if you don’t dispute it within 30 days of being contacted, the debt collector can assume it is valid.
- That if you dispute the debt in writing, the debt collector must provide written evidence of the debt.
If debt collectors first contact you by phone, insist that they instead contact you in writing. They are then required to send you a debt validation letter within five days, containing all of that information.
If you believe that you don’t owe the debt described in the debt validation letter, either because it doesn’t belong to you or the statute of limitations has expired, you have 30 days to dispute it, starting from the date you received the required information from the debt collector.
If you dispute it via writing, debt collectors are not allowed to call you or contact you or try to collect payment until they have sent written verification that you owe the debt.
When disputing a debt, make sure you date your letter and send it via certified mail, so you have a record of when the debt collector received it.
If you are requesting additional information, your letter should ask for details on why the debt collector believes you’re responsible for the debt, how old the debt is, and whether the agency is licensed to collect it.
You can also request that the debt collector only communicate with you through your lawyer or specify what contact methods are permitted.
Is Debt Validation Legal?
Collectors are required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to send you a written debt validation notice with information about the debt they’re trying to collect. It must be sent within five days of the first contact.
The debt validation letter includes:
- The amount owed.
- The name of the creditor seeking payment.
- A statement that the debt is assumed valid by the collector unless you dispute it within 30 days of the first contact.
- A statement that if you write to dispute the debt or request more information within 30 days, the debt collector will verify the debt by mail.
- A statement that if you request information about the original creditor within 30 days, the collector must provide it.
If you don’t receive a validation notice within 10 days of the first contact, request one from the debt collector the next time you’re contacted. Ask for the debt collector’s
What is a Debt Validation Letter?
A debt validation letter is what a debt collector sends you to prove that you owe them money. This letter shows you the details of a specific debt, outlines what you owe, who you owe it to, and when they need you to pay.
Legally, a debt collector has to send you a debt verification letter within five days of their first contact with you. And if not, you should ask for one. Why? Because it helps you determine if the debt is actually yours and if there’s anything fishy going on behind the scenes. (And when it comes to debt collectors, fishy is their middle name.) Just because it looks official doesn’t mean it’s your bill to pay.
Remember: when you request your letter, do it in writing and send it by certified mail. But don’t forget to ask for a return receipt. (That way you know they got it!)
What is Required For Debt Validation?
Under the FDCPA, a collector must provide you with information about the debt in its initial communication or within five days after the initial communication, including:
- the amount of the debt
- the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed
- a statement that unless you, within 30 days after receipt of the notice, dispute the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector
- a statement that if you notify the debt collector in writing within the 30-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against you and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to you by the debt collector, and
- a statement that, upon your written request within the 30-day period, the debt collector will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
As of November 30, 2021, the debt verification notice must contain additional information as well. And, while collectors usually send this information in a letter, collectors may provide these disclosures orally in an initial communication.
What to do After Debt Validation Letter
After you have mailed your request, debt collectors should send you any documentation they have that you owe the debt. Or, they may stop all collection efforts if they don’t have enough information to prove you owe it. If they send documentation, review it carefully and compare it to your own records.
If it turns out that you do owe the money, as the debt collector claims, you may be able to negotiate with the collector and make a partial payment or set up a payment plan. If you’re unsure what to do next, and the amount involved is large enough, a debt collection attorney could be of help.
What is Proof of Debt Validation?
The validation letter is the one from the debt collector back to you, the supposed debtor. It is supposed to support its claim with some sort of proof. The FDCPA is a bit vague here, but supporting documentation could consist of, for instance, a copy of a court judgment affirming the debt. If you ask for the name and address of the original creditor, which may be a credit card company, bank, retailer, utility, etc., the validation letter is supposed to include that.
The original verification letter the debtor receives will rarely include any proof that the original creditor has formally assigned the debt to the collection agency. Agencies buy these debts for steep markdowns, commonly pennies on the dollar, hoping that they’ll be able to collect enough to show a profit.
However, they don’t usually arrange to have the creditor formally assign the debt to the collector. Lacking that, they may have little ability to pursue the debt beyond making simple demands. As a general rule, debt collectors want to avoid costly court appearances and, if they don’t have the required documentation, they are even less likely to sue.
A verification letter is a good way to weed out fraudsters and con artists. Scammers rarely respond to a verification demand. Even legitimate debt collectors have to stop contacting you about a debt once they have received the verification letter, at least until they respond with a validation letter.
If you get a validation letter, it may not verify much. Skepticism is in order here. If the letter consists of pages of what sounds like complicated lawyer language, it may well be an attempt to overwhelm you.
If you do get back some solid validation, such as a contract with your signature, that doesn’t mean you must or should pay whatever they’re asking. You can also demand an itemized statement of the amount. It may include attorney’s fees or other charges you never agreed to pay and probably don’t have to pay.
Even if the debt does appear to be valid, well supported and not inflated, you may still not have to pay because of the statutes of limitations on debts. States have varying laws on this, but the term usually runs three to six years. Check with your state attorney general’s office to be sure. If a debt was incurred longer ago than the statute of limitations states, it is probably no longer valid and you won’t have to pay it.
Where to Send Debt Validation Letter
Sending a Debt Validation Letter can be a simple and straightforward process. Here’s how to do it:
Like writing a letter, mailing it is simple but complicated. Mailing a letter is simple. But the devil is in the details. To mail the letter, you need to print the letter and send it in the mail via a trackable method. This means you need to have access to a functional printer, and you need to know how to use the post office.
We’ve found mailing via USPS Priority Mail is usually the best option. It provides a tracking number, arrives quickly, and costs a predictable $7.50. Many people online recommend using USPS Certified Mail with a return receipt. Certified Mail is a huge hassle. It takes forever to prepare, and it takes forever to arrive.
Return receipts seem only like a good way for USPS to make a few extra dollars. There is no evidence they are any more valid in court than a tracking number showing the document has been delivered. Signature requests provide a way for a recipient to impede delivery. We just stick with Priority mail.
Generally, the letter should be mailed to the person most immediately attempting to collect the debt. This may be an attorney or collections firm working for the creditor or bank.
When to Send a Debt Validation Letter
Debt collectors can be aggressive and may attempt to collect on debts that you never owed or no longer owe. Before agreeing to pay anything or even acknowledging that the debt is yours, you should make sure you’ve received certain information and reviewed it. Here’s how that process works.
Within five days of first contacting you, debt collectors are required to send you a debt validation letter if they haven’t already provided the information verbally.
How to Respond to a Debt Validation Letter
If your debt was delinquent and sent to a debt collection agency, you might have received a letter from a debt collector. Communicating with debt collectors, by phone or in writing, can be intimidating.
It’s important to know your rights as a consumer before responding, as the information you share with collectors can and will be used against you if your case is taken to court. How you handle communications with the collections agency is crucial. Here are the first steps you should know when dealing with a collections letter.
1. Assess your payment options
If you have a credit account that you’ve failed to make payments toward, your credit can be negatively impacted. Aside from having difficulty opening new credit accounts or getting approved for a loan, failure to pay off your debt can result in aggressive outreach from debt collectors. Often looking for a promise of repayment, debt collectors are trained to negotiate with debtors in exchange for settling the outstanding balance.
Regardless of your financial ability to repay your debt, refrain from making impulsive promises to debt collectors before confirming that the debt is yours.
2. Ask for a debt validation letter
A debt validation letter is a document that is legally required from debt collectors which states the details of the collection. You can use the debt validation letter to confirm the accuracy and legitimacy of the debt in question. This includes the amount of the debt that’s unpaid, whether the person named on the letter is actually you, and other details regarding the collection that may help you dispute the debt, if needed.
Here’s what a debt validation letter typically includes:
- The dollar amount of the debt
- Original creditor’s name and information
- Statements about the validity and timeline of your debt repayment
- Clear points of contact
- Your right to dispute the collection, as well as instructions and required timeline
The collector must also provide more information about the debt or original creditor if you ask within 30 days of receiving a debt validation letter.
3. Responding to the debt validation letter
Whether you plan to validate, dispute or request more information about the debt reported in the debt validation letter, you have 30 days to do so before the debt collector can legally make assumptions about your ownership of the unpaid debt.
For example, if you fail to dispute your debt within 30 days of receiving a debt validation letter, your debt collector is allowed to assume the debt as valid and is yours.
When it comes to repaying your debt, timing is important. Make sure you read the fine print of your debt validation letter and respond promptly if you need more information.
Knowing your rights
Depending on the state in which you live and the type of debt you owe, there are statutes of limitations in place designed to provide structure and reason to debt collection timelines.
Their primary purpose is to outline the amount of time a creditor or debt collector can legally sue you to pursue payment. Debt is categorized into four different types of agreement:
- Oral agreements
- Written contracts
- Promissory notes
- Open-ended accounts
The statute of limitations that corresponds to your debt is determined based on how your debt was agreed upon. Once the statute of limitations on unpaid debt expires, it’s considered “time-barred” and the collector legally can’t sue or threaten to sue you.
Debt collectors can, however, continue trying to collect the debt. If they do and know that the debt is time-barred, they’re lawfully required to disclose that information upfront. Make sure you know the statute of limitations for the debt, before making promissory statements or making payments to a debt collector.
Certain actions by you, like making a partial payment, can reset the clock on the time-barred debt, thereby allowing the collector to take you to court to collect the full amount due.
How to Dispute a Debt Validation Letter
Debt collectors rely on an array of information sources in their attempts to collect. To successfully dispute their claim(s), the consumer must be methodical and thorough.
“The first step,” says Michael Cummins, finance director for InsuranceGeek, “is to gather all of your information and evidence related to the debt. This includes any letters or documentation you’ve received from the creditor, as well as proof that the debt is not yours. If you have any witnesses who can testify to the fact that you don’t owe the debt, you should also gather their testimony.”
Luckily, seeing to the details is not rocket science. Here’s what you do:
- Do not discuss the debt with anyone who calls, texts, emails, or otherwise contacts you. Saying the wrong thing can work against you.
- Get the collector’s info, meaning name, address, and phone number. Collectors who won’t provide information are oftentimes scammers.
- During the first phone call or within five days, you are legally entitled to the details of the alleged debt: amount, the current owner of the debt, and information necessary to contact the original creditor. Make a note of that if it doesn’t come in five days.
- Immediately request a copy of your credit report from the three major reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). Credit agencies are obligated, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), to provide you information regarding your file and credit score.
- Comb through each report to identify errors.
- Complete a credit bureau dispute form.
- Print your credit report, highlighting errors.
- Submit your dispute to the credit agency, by uploading or sending via certified mail (return receipt requested).
Taking these steps will begin the process of eliminating the erroneous claim against you.
How to Get Debt Validation
To request verification, send a letter to the collection agency stating that you dispute the validity of the debt and that you want documentation verifying the debt. Also, request the name and address of the original creditor. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides a sample debt validation letter (click on the “I need more information about this debt” letter on the CFPB website) that you can tailor to your particular situation.
- speak to the consumer in person or by phone or
- mail a letter or send an electronic message, like an email, about the debt to the consumer and then wait a “reasonable period of time” (at least 14 consecutive days) to see if a notice of undeliverability comes back.
When to Use Debt Validation
Debt validation can be extremely effective. If the debt collector is unable to validate your debt, you can request for the debt to be removed. Without validation, your credit report could be filled with multiple debts that don’t belong to you.
A debt validation program also helps you decide on the best moves to make regarding your debt, including waiting for the statute of limitations, requesting a debt settlement, or simply paying your debt in full. By following the proper process outlined in this article, you may benefit from debt invalidation and proving that you don’t owe any debt.
How do I Write a Debt Validation Letter Under The FDCPA
Writing a Debt Validation Letter is simple, but complicated. A Debt Validation Letter is a type of legal demand letter. A legal demand letter is a letter that demands the recipient take or stop a certain action; it usually cites some law to make it sound more legit.
In this case, a Debt Validation Letter is requesting the debt collector to either stop collecting the debtor to take the action of validating the debt. Keep that in mind while drafting the letter.
Begin writing the letter by adding the contact information for you and for the debt collector. After that, you can start the letter however you want.
Next, layout the basics.
- Specify how you were contacted.
- Provide info to help the collector identify the debt.
The bulk of the letter will be your requests. And there can be a lot of them — SoloSuit’s Debt Validation Letter is three pages long.
Here are some requests you can make of the collector.
- Don’t contact me except to validate the debt.
- Report to the credit bureaus that the debt is disputed.
- Provide all of this information
- Proof I owe the debt
- The amount of the debt
- The age of the debt
- Your ownership of the debt
- Your debt collector license, or right to collect on the debt in my state
- A calculation of whether the statute of limitations has expired for collecting the debt.
- The last action was taken on the account
- If you validate the debt, cease contacting me for any reason other than to tell me you’re suing me.
You can close by threatening legal action — legal action for the debt collector violating the FDCPA or for harassing you. Threatening legal action is nearly always a good move.
If you send the letter within 30 days of the first contact, the debt collector must stop trying to collect payment until it verifies that the debt is yours. You can still send a verification letter after the 30-day mark, but the debt will be assumed valid and the collector can continue to seek payment while it responds to your letter.
It’s a violation of the collection practices act for a debt collector to refuse to send a validation notice or fail to respond to your verification letter. If you encounter such behavior, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.