Is a collection agency pestering you about a debt you don’t think you owe? You can either pick up the phone and give them a tongue lashing, demand more information, or ignore the calls altogether. Or, you can take the high road and send them a debt validation letter.
How Do Debt Validation Letters Work?
A debt validation letter is a written request sent to the creditor or collection agency by the consumer requesting that they prove they can legally collect on the debt. In other words, you are asking that they provide evidence that the debt is valid, belongs to you, and is not outside of the timeframe, or statute of limitations, in which they can collect the outstanding balance owed.
The burden of proof is on the creditor or collection agency to substantiate their claim when you submit a debt validation letter. But if they fail to respond to your letter, you can follow it up with a dispute letter to the credit bureaus requesting that the account be removed from your credit report.
Are Debt Validation Letters Effective?
The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires that debt collectors send you a written notice validating their rights to collect on the debt. This should be done within five days of the initial contact they have with you.
But if you never received it, you shouldn’t have a problem receiving a response this time around as they debt collector is aware that not responding could result in them forfeiting their opportunity to collect on the debt altogether if you take it up a notch and notify the credit bureaus. Furthermore, they are in direct violation of the FDCPA for not responding and could face harsh penalties.
Writing a Debt Validation Letter
You can’t just draft up a letter demanding that collection agency prove that you owe them. Instead, you want to use a professional tone and include the following information:
- Your name and address
- The date of initial contact made by the collection agency (if applicable)
- A request for more detailed information, including the name of the original creditor and supporting documentation to prove you actually owe the debt
- The most recent billing statement the collection agency received from the original creditor
- A copy of the original contract between yourself and the original creditor
Also, refrain from mentioning any intentions to repay the debt. And be sure not to offer any language that suggests you owe the debt.
Where to Send Debt Validation Letters
Since you’re technically not disputing the debt, your letter should not be mailed to the credit bureau. Instead, you’ll want to send it directly to the collection agency via certified mail with a return receipt. This way, you’ll have proof of when the letter arrived and can start the countdown to receiving a response.
And as mentioned earlier, in the event they don’t respond, you can file a formal dispute with the credit bureaus. In the dispute letter, you can cite the collection agency’s failure to respond to your request as grounds for removal of the collection account from your credit report.
Some Important Tips
- Don’t bother if the statute of limitations for collection is almost up. Remember, the impact on your credit score will diminish as the collection account ages. And even if there’s some time left for it to be reported, you won’t have to worry about the debt collector chasing you down after the statute of limitations has passed. But if you go forward with the debt validation letter, you could awaken the sleeping beast.
- Use the letter to your advantage to buy time. Has the debt collector contacted you for the first time regarding the account recently? If you respond in writing using a debt validation letter within 30 days, all collection efforts must come to a halt until they can provide proof that the debt is yours and they have the right to collect on it.
- Debt validation letters may also be effective for credit repair if the account has been passed from agency to agency. This usually means that documentation has slipped through the cracks and they won’t be able to prove you owe them.
But if you don’t receive a formal response, don’t hesitate to file a formal dispute to have the item removed from your credit report. It also doesn’t hurt to file a formal grievance with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is sure to get the collection agency’s attention and could result in hefty fines and penalties.
Sample Debt Validation Letter
(Debt collector’s name)
(Debt collector’s address)
Re: (Account number provided by the debt collector, if applicable)
To whom it may concern:
This letter is in reference to an attempt by your company to collect a debt. The date of initial contact was (insert date here), and you reached out via (phone or mail) inquiring about (insert details provided by the debt collector to you about the debt).
In order to fully understand your request, I’m asking that you provide me with a written response that includes the following:
- Information pertaining to the creditor that the debt is owed, including their name, physical address, and phone number. If there are multiple creditors or collection agencies associated with the debt, please provide their information as well.
- The total amount that is owed to the creditor, including a detailed breakdown of any applicable charges that have been incurred since you initially received the debt.
- A photocopy of the last billing statement the creditor sent to me before the debt was turned over to collections.
- The outstanding balance when you received the debt, and the date you initially received the debt.
- Proof that I owe the debt and that you have the legal right to collect on it. This could include the original contract from the creditor with a signature or any other documentation from the creditor that proves I owe the debt.
- Proof that the debt is still within the statute of limitations and the method you use to make this determination.
- A photocopy of the agreement
- Proof that you are licensed to collect debt in my state of residence. Please provide a copy of your license or the name on the license, date it was issued, along with the applicable address and phone number that corresponds with the license. I also ask that you provide information on the agency that issued the license. And if not, why you feel that you can initiate debt collection efforts.
By providing me with this information, I’ll be able to make an informed decision regarding the outstanding debt and your claim that I’m liable and owe it.
I’m also interested in knowing how much you are willing to accept in exchange for settlement of the debt that you claim I owe. Please provide this information in writing when responding to this letter.
Thanks in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.
(Name- refrain from typing your signature)