George Simons | December 29, 2022
Summary: When debt collectors contact you about a debt you owe, they must provide specific information about the debt within 5 days of their initial contact. Failure to do so is a violation of federal law under the FDCPA. You have 30 days to dispute a debt by sending a Debt Validation Letter. This document is your best defense against debt collectors because it forces them to prove all their claims, with documentation as evidence. If they do not have the necessary proof, they must cease communications with you until they can validate the debt.
About 70 million Americans have debt in collections each year. And many of them are realizing they can take action against their debt collectors — they can fight back and win!
As consumers battle debt collectors, oftentimes they discover they don't even owe the debts they're being hounded for.
The savviest consumers fight off collectors by sending a Debt Validation Letter. This article will show you how to make and send a Debt Validation Letter and why it can help you get debt collectors off your back once and for all.
Don't like reading? Watch this video instead.
A Debt Validation Letter is a letter a consumer sends to a debt collector to formally request that the collector validates the debt they are trying to collect. It is your first chance to assert your rights before debt collectors. If a debt collector has contacted you about a debt, you should respond with a Debt Validation Letter within 30 days of initial contact.
A Debt Validation Letter is a type of legal demand letter that asserts your rights in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA says:
If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period . . . that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed . . . the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt . . . until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt . . . and a copy of such verification . . . is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.
Within five days of attempting to collect on a debt, the FDCPA requires a collector to provide validation of that debt. It requires the collector to include five points in its communication with you:
So, the debt collector must provide these five points within five days of contacting you about the debt. Then, you have 30 days to send them a Debt Validation Letter if you dispute any aspect of the debt. If the collector doesn't provide these five points within five days, then they've violated the FDCPA and you can sue them for $1,000 or more. If you don't send the letter within 30 days, you can still send it — but it may not be as powerful.
The graphic below illustrates the timeline you should follow when sending a Debt Validation Letter.
Sometimes a Debt Validation Letter is called a debt verification letter or a debt dispute letter. And the letter sent by the debt collector to the consumer to show proof of the debt can be called a Debt Validation Letter. The FDCPA doesn't specify these names, and it uses the words “validate” and “verify” interchangeably. At SoloSuit, we call the letter sent by the consumer to the debt collector the Debt Validation Letter because that's its most common name.
Nearly every time someone is contacted by a debt collector about a debt, they should send the collector a Debt Validation Letter. The letter forces the collector to treat you with respect and to get serious about the matter.
49 percent of all complaints filed with the FTC about debt collectors state the debt collector attempted to collect a debt that wasn't owed. And 53 percent of people who are contacted by a debt collector say they're being contacted about a debt they don't owe or a debt of the wrong amount.
So, lots of people are being hounded by debt collectors for money they don't owe. The Debt Validation Letter is your guardian.
If you don't dispute the debt then “the debt will be assumed valid by the debt collector,” according to the FDCPA. That's not good. By not filing a Debt Validation Letter, you are sacrificing your rights.
A Debt Validation Letter is beneficial in nearly all encounters with a collector.
To understand why a Debt Validation Letter is so important, it's helpful to understand how the debt collection process works. Banks and lenders sell unpaid debts to debt collectors for 1%–10% of the value of the debt. Debt collectors then attempt to collect the debts from consumers. If they are unsuccessful, they may file a lawsuit to collect the debt. Frequently, the sale from the bank to the debt collector is poorly documented. So, the debt collector may be unable to verify they own the debt and unable to verify who owes the debt. If you send them a Debt Validation Letter, it makes it more difficult and more expensive for them to collect the debt. They need to keep their costs low to be profitable. This letter raises their costs, making it more likely they will fold.
In some few cases, it may be a good strategic move to lie low and not send a Debt Validation Letter. This may be a good option if the statute of limitations is nearing expiration. That said, we generally believe this strategy is dubious.
Another benefit of the Debt Validation Letter is that it can make the calls stop. It can do this in two ways. Under FDCPA §809(b), if the letter disputes the debt, “collection activities and communications” must cease. Under FDCPA §805(c), the consumer can request the collector “cease further communication.” In this case, the collector can only contact you to tell you they're going to sue you. In this way, you can use the Debt Validation Letter to raise the stakes, forcing the collector to sue you or get lost. If they sue you, you can use SoloSuit's lawsuit response document to win your case.
Example: Diana receives a letter from a debt collection agency claiming she owes more than $5,000 in old credit card debt. She doesn't remember owing any money on a card, so she decides to send a Debt Validation Letter to the collectors. The collection agency purchased the debt from the original creditor, US Bank. Forturnately for Diana, the collectors cannot find the documentation that proves Diana owed the debt to the original creditor before they purchased it. Because of this, the debt collection agency must cease collection efforts, and Diana is off the hook.
Sending a Debt Validation Letter can be a simple and straightforward process. We've broken it down into two steps for you:
Let's take a minute to explain each step in detail.
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 debt or 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; you can even start with “Whazzup!!!”
Next, lay out the basics.
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.
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.
Like writing the 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.
SoloSuit can take care of all of this for you. Our Debt Validation Letter is the best way to respond to a collection letter. Many debt collectors will simply give up after receiving it. Just answer a few questions online, and we'll create your letter for you.
Out Debt Validation Letter is the best way to respond to a collection letter. Many debt collectors will simply give up after receiving it.
SoloSuit's Debt Validation Letter template allows you customize a letter to your case and debt circumstances. Our Debt Validation Letter has proven to stop debt collectors in their tracks, and the best part about it is it only takes a few minutes to draft online.
Just respond to a few questions regarding your debt, and SoloSuit's software drafts the letter for you. It's really that simple.
If you are on a tight budget, you can use this template, courtesy of SoloSuit:
If a debt collector doesn't validate the debt after receiving your Debt Validaiton Letter, then they have violated the FDCPA. If the debt collector didn't include those five points, mentioned above, in a correspondence within five days of first contacting you, then they violated the FDCPA. You can sue them for $1,000 for each violation. You can also report them to your state's attorney general, the FTC, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Sometimes a debt collector will successfully validate the debt. Even if they do this, you don't have to pay off the debt entirely. You have a few options.
Generally, the first two options are best.
It's not uncommon to receive a medical bill for a balance that you already paid off or for a debt that is so old, you don't even recognize it. Medical institutions are required by law to prove the debt is valid in order to report it to the credit bureaus or take you to court over it.
Additionally, scammers frequently send out mass notifications claiming all the recipients owe money for medical services. Sending a Debt Validation Letter will stop these fraudsters in their tracks.
Basically, these three letters are really the same thing. Sometimes a Debt Validation Letter is called a debt verification letter or a debt dispute letter. The FDCPA doesn't specify these names, and it uses the words “validate” and “verify” interchangeably. At SoloSuit, we call the letter sent by the consumer to the debt collector the Debt Validation Letter because that's what most regular people call it.
Technically speaking, the debt verification letter (also known as the debt dispute letter) is the document sent by the consumer to the debt collector. And the letter sent by the debt collector to consumer to show proof of the debt is the Debt Validation Letter. But like we said, these terms are use interchangeably.
In reality, the correspondence between a debt collector and a consumer is messy. There may be multiple letters, interspersed with phone calls and emails.
Example: Jeremy gets a phone call from a debt collection agency about an old credit card debt with American Express. He's skeptical about the amount they claim he owes. Jeremy sends a Debt Validation Letter (also known as a debt verification letter or debt dispute letter) to the collection agency within 30 days of their first phone call. The collection agency must respond with a Debt Validation Letter that outlines details of the debt or cease collection efforst with Jeremy.
Yes, let's consider an example.
Example: Ariana received a phone call from Eilish Collections, LLC. Her iPhone identified the number as “Scam Likely” but she answered anyway. Eilish tells Ariana, that she owes Eilish $3,000 for a credit card debt with American Express. Ariana hangs up. 7 days later, Ariana receives a letter documenting the amount and the creditor of the debt; it notifies Ariana of her rights under the FDCPA. Ariana doesn't want to pay the debt, so three days later, she mails Eilish a Debt Validation Letter from SoloSuit. Eilish sends a letter stating they made a mistake and are unable to validate the debt.
In this example, Eilish violated the FDCPA by not providing information about the debt within five days. Ariana did the right thing by responding with the Debt Validation Letter. And in the end, Ariana got off the hook.
Here are two important steps to follow after sending a Debt Validation Letter.
If you don't dispute the debt then “the debt will be assumed valid by the debt collector,” according to the FDCPA. That's not good. By not filing a Debt Validation Letter, you are sacrificing your rights.
It's like a pesky ex-boyfriend who thinks if he texts you “I love you” and you don't respond, that means you love him to. And then he keeps texting you. Forever.
The FDCPA states the consumer must notify the collector “within thirty days.” It doesn't say what happens if the letter is sent after the 30 days. As far as we know, the letter can still have some sway, but it won't be as powerful.
The FDCPA also states “the failure of a consumer to dispute the validity of a debt” doesn't constitute “an admission of liability” for any future lawsuits. So, if you don't send a Debt Validation Letter, you can still win a later lawsuit, and in that lawsuit, it is still up to the collector to prove you owe the debt.
Here are the sections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that cover Debt Validation Letters.
Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, 15 USC 1692g §809(a) states:
(a) Notice of debt; contents
Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing --
(1) the amount of the debt;
(2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed;
(3) a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector;
(4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-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 the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector; and
(5) a statement that, upon the consumer's written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
As we explained above, these are the five pieces of information that a debt collector must provide in order to validate a debt. Failure to provide this information is considered a violation of federal law.
And again, for your reference, these are the five crucial a debt collector must include in order to validate a debt within five days of contacting the debtor:
Next, Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, 15 USC 1692g §809(b-e) goes on to say:
(b) Disputed debts
If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) of this section that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector. Collection activities and communications that do not otherwise violate this subchapter may continue during the 30-day period referred to in subsection (a) unless the consumer has notified the debt collector in writing that the debt, or any portion of the debt, is disputed or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor. Any collection activities and communication during the 30-day period may not overshadow or be inconsistent with the disclosure of the consumer's right to dispute the debt or request the name and address of the original creditor.
(c) Admission of liability
The failure of a consumer to dispute the validity of a debt under this section may not be construed by any court as an admission of liability by the consumer.
(d) Legal pleadings
A communication in the form of a formal pleading in a civil action shall not be treated as an initial communication for purposes of subsection (a).
(e) Notice provisions
The sending or delivery of any form or notice which does not relate to the collection of a debt and is expressly required by title 26, title V of Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act [15 U.S.C. 6801 et seq.], or any provision of Federal or State law relating to notice of data security breach or privacy, or any regulation prescribed under any such provision of law, shall not be treated as an initial communication in connection with debt collection for purposes of this section.
Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, 15 USC 1692g §805(c) states:
(c) Ceasing communication
If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except --
(1) to advise the consumer that the debt collector's further efforts are being terminated;
(2) to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or
(3) where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy.
If such notice from the consumer is made by mail, notification shall be complete upon receipt.
In other words, after you send a Debt Validation Letter, the debt collector can only contact you for one of the following reasons:
Yes, they do. When a debt collector receives a Debt Validation Letter, they are legally required to provide validation of the debt. Debt Validation Letter's work best when they include a cease and desist clause that forces a lawsuit. This increases the cost of collection and makes it more likely the collector will drop the case.
Even if a collection agency never contacted you, a debt can still end up on your credit report or you still might be sued for the debt. Sometimes people don't hear about the debt until they are sued for it. If you're sued for a debt, you can use SoloSuit to respond to the lawsuit. If you have a debt on your credit report, you can dispute it with the credit bureaus.
This flowchart shows the potential paths a debt collection lawsuit can take:
If you receive a letter from a collection agency, you should respond with a Debt Validaiton Letter, requesting they show proof the debt is valid. You need to do this within 30 days.
SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.
You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.
SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.
Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.
You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now are are just look for support, we're here for you.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.
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