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A debt validation letter outlines information about a debt you supposedly owe. It includes details about when the debt was accrued, the total amount, where the funds came from, and other details.
Creditors are legally required to provide this letter when attempting to collect a debt. This gives the person an opportunity to challenge invalid debts by sending a verification letter. If you are contacted by a debt collector, do not agree to repay the debt until you receive and review the validation letter.
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act is designed to protect consumers from illegal debt collection practices. Under this federal law, debt collections must send you a validation letter in writing within five days of the first time they contact you about a debt. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act also bars debt collectors from contacting you in harassing, threatening, or abusive ways.
This letter must include the following information to satisfy legal requirements:
If you are contacted by a creditor and this contact is not followed by a validation letter, request this letter if the debt collector contacts you again about this debt. You should also ask for an address where you can send the verification letter if you need more information.
Even if you think the debt is valid and plan to seek a payment arrangement, you should still request a validation letter. This confirms that you are paying the correct amount to the correct collector.
If you receive a validation letter and the amount is wrong or you did not accrue the debt in question, you must dispute the debt in writing with a verification letter. If you do not take this step, the debt collector is legally allowed to continue pursuing you for the debt even if you don’t think it actually belongs to you.
After you send the verification letter, the debt collector must send you proof of the debt, such as a judgment, bill, or promissory note. If they fail to do so, they are legally prohibited from taking further steps to collect on that debt.
Because you only have 30 days to respond to a validation letter, you should save copies of all information you receive about the debt. When you send your verification letter, use certified mail and request delivery confirmation with a return receipt. This provides proof that your letter was received by the debt collector within the allotted dispute window.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides sample debt verification letters that you can use, or you can write your own letter. If you take the latter approach, make sure your correspondence specifically requests the following information:
Even though you request this information, debt collectors are not legally required to answer all your questions. However, they must respond with information about the balance, the original creditor, and the name of the person who accrued the original debt. Until they do so, they are legally barred from continuing collections activities.
After receiving the response to your debt verification letter, you can dispute the debt with the three major credit bureaus if you believe the information provided is invalid or if the debt collector was unable to provide proof that the debt is yours.
If you are in the process of repairing your credit, you may be tempted to send debt verification letters in the process of disputing old debts. Avoid doing this unless you are sure the debts in question are invalid. If the creditor is able to verify the debt, collection activities will likely resume.
Most debts are subject to a statute of limitations. This is the amount of time the creditor has to collect a debt and varies by the state where you live and the type of debt.
The statute of limitations can be as short as three years and as long as 15 years. If a debt collector is attempting to collect a debt for which the statute of limitations has already passed, avoid acknowledging that the debt is yours or sending a verification letter. In some states, doing so can restart the clock and increase the amount of time the creditor has to collect. After the statute of limitations expires, you are no longer legally responsible for the debt and cannot be sued to collect.
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