Sarah Edwards | November 02, 2022
Summary: When you are contacted by a debt collector for the first time, formally requesting a debt validation can help you protect yourself from aggressive collectors and avoid a lawsuit. Send a Debt Validation Letter to your collector within 30 days of their initial contact, and they must prove the debt is valid before the continue their collection efforts.
If you’ve received a letter from a debt collection agency, you’re likely wondering what to do. Debt collection letters are often unexpected, and many consumers don’t recognize what the debt pertains to or if it’s even theirs.
Sometimes debt collection agencies use negative language in their communications, which can leave consumers fearful of what will happen if they don’t pay the agency.
Your first step following receipt of a letter from a debt collection agency should be to send a Debt Validation Letter. This letter challenges the collection company to provide clear-cut evidence of the debt and prove it belongs to you. You should send your letter within 30 days of notification that a debt is in collections.
Once the debt collection agency receives your Debt Validation Letter, they must send the appropriate documentation concerning the debt. They must prove that they now own your debt and provide specific details, such as your account statements and the amount due according to their records.
If a debt collection agency can’t validate your debt with the proper supporting evidence, it’s likely you won’t hear from them again. They will cease all collections activities and cannot report any negative information to the credit reporting bureaus.
Make your own Debt Validation Letter in minutes with SoloSuit.
Sending a Debt Validation Letter is crucial if you intend to protect your rights against a collection agency. The FDCPA requires all debt collection agencies to give their clients 30 days to dispute or validate a debt from the time they make first contact with the consumer.
If a consumer fails to send a Debt Validation Letter, the collection agency will use all the tools at their disposal to collect money. They’ll call you at home and work, send you letters, contact you via email, and potentially reach out via your social media accounts.
When weeks go by and you don’t respond to their efforts, they may try to sue you in court. If the court rules in their favor, a debt collector can garnish your wages, freeze your bank account, and seize your property.
Sending a Debt Validation Letter stops all collection activity immediately. The debt collector must provide the necessary information proving that you owe the debt. If they can’t come up with the evidence, they will stop contacting you and dismiss the claims against you.
According to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) survey, 53% of consumers receive debt collection letters concerning debt they don’t believe they owe.
No one wants to pay money for debts that aren’t theirs. It’s not fair and creates an unwanted burden on the consumer. They must then prove they don’t owe the debt or risk adverse credit reporting and a potential lawsuit.
The graphic below illustrates the timeline of when is best to send a Debt Validation Letter to collectors:
When writing your Debt Validation Letter, remember the purpose of the communication. A Debt Validation Letter tells the debt collection agency to either prove you owe the debt or cease their collection efforts. You’ll want to ask for all of the following information:
Even if the debt collector can validate the debt, you can request that they stop communicating with you unless they intend to sue you.
Suppose the debt collection agency has broken any FDCPA rules, like repeatedly calling you at odd hours or harassing you at work. In that case, you can threaten legal action against them in your Debt Validation Letter.
The sooner you send a Debt Validation Letter to the debt collection agency the better. The FDCPA provides all consumers 30 days to ask for further verification of debt before a debt collection agency can pursue further legal activity.
Writing a Debt Validation Letter is more simple than you might expect.
You should start like any other business letter: with the contact info for both parties (you and the collector). Next, address them and lay out the basics, including:
Check out this video to learn more about how to write a Debt Validation Letter:
The best and easiest way to write a Debt Validation Letter is to use SoloSuit. All you have to do is respond to a few questions about your debt and the letter will be automatically generated for you that is customized to your case and circumstances. That's it. It's really that simple. Alternatively, here is a Debt Validation Letter template:
Debt Validation Letter template
A debt collection agency may or may not decide to respond to your letter. Some debt collection agencies won’t have the information they need to validate your debt per FDCPA regulations. If they can’t prove you owe the debt, you won’t hear from them again.
Other debt collection agencies will have the details necessary to pursue collection activities against you. If they send you the required information to validate your debt, they can continue contacting you unless you explicitly ask them to stop. If you ask them to stop reaching out to you, you should hear from them only if they decide to file a lawsuit against you.
If the debt collection agency proves you owe the debt, you have a decision to make. You can pay off the amount in full, offer a settlement for a partial amount, or do nothing.
If your debt is old enough to go to collections, chances are that the original creditor has reported it negatively to the credit reporting agencies. You’ve likely already suffered a decreased credit score from the account. Thus, even if you pay the debt in full, it’s unlikely to significantly help your credit.
However, sometimes paying the debt in full makes sense. Some creditors won’t accept a reduced payoff for outstanding obligations. In that case, you’ll need to either set up a payment arrangement you can stick with or pay the debt in its entirety.
You can offer to settle outstanding debts by providing a one-time lump-sum payment. Since debt collection agencies usually purchase debts for a fraction of the original cost, they’re typically willing to accept a payoff that is less than the initial value of the debt.
Start your negotiation low if you decide to offer a settlement to eliminate the debt. You can begin as low as 15% of the value of the original debt.
Depending on the extenuating circumstances of the debt, like its age and value, the debt collection agency may accept your offer or counter you. In many cases, debt collection agencies will accept 50% of the original value of your debt to settle the matter, but they may go lower.
To learn more about how to reach a debt settlement, check out this video:
If the debt collection agency validates your debt and you don’t take any further action, they may try to sue you. As long as the statute of limitations hasn’t expired, they will be within their rights to do so. Thus, if you have a debt that hasn’t passed the statute of limitations, you may receive a court Summons in the weeks following debt validation.
Yes, you may dispute your debt even if the collection agency validates it. However, if you decide to do so, you’ll need a credible excuse. Once the debt collection agency proves you owe the debt, your defenses are fewer.
A few potential defenses are:
Obviously, identity theft victims shouldn’t have to pay debts they didn’t take out. To prove identity theft, send evidence of your claim to the debt collector. You should have copies you made of your report to the FTC and local law enforcement concerning identity theft.
If the statute of limitations expired on the debt, then the debt collection agency can’t take legal action against you. However, they can continue negatively reporting your account to credit bureaus, send you letters, and call you.
If you’re an authorized user on the account, you didn’t sign the initial credit agreement. Thus, you shouldn’t be responsible for paying off the charge.
Finally, you may dispute an account by advising you don’t have a business relationship with the debt collection agency. This is a true statement if the original credit arrangement was between you and another creditor.
However, the debt collection agency will likely argue that they became the account owner after the original creditor transferred it to them.
Yes, you can still send a Debt Validation Letter after 30 days. However, you may give up some of the protections afforded to you by the FDCPA. After 30 days, the debt collector can assume that their collection notice is valid and use all available options to collect the debt from you.
Instead of being fearful of the debt collection notice and not responding, send the Debt Validation Letter as quickly as possible. Doing so puts the burden of proof on the debt collection agency. They’ll need to come up with the evidence to prove that you owe the debt.
Many debt collection agencies will simply let the debt go, especially if it looks like a lot of legwork is involved in collecting anything from you. However, you won’t know whether you’ll get lucky or not unless you choose to challenge the collection agency.
Make a Debt Validation Letter in minutes with SoloSuit.
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