Disclaimer: Pacific Debt, Inc. is not a law firm and this article should not be construed as legal advice. Only a licensed attorney in your state can provide legal advice.
In many of our previous articles concerning creditors and collections agencies, we have discussed the need to prove that any debt in question is actually yours and that the debt is not older than your state’s statute of limitations. All this information can be summed up in a debt validation letter, also called a debt collection letter. Under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices (FDCPA), the debt collector must send a debt validation letter within 5 days of the first contact. However, sending a debt validation letter to a creditor may put you at a disadvantageous position if you want to settle your debt.
What Can a Debt Validation or Debt Collection Letter Tell You?
Debt is bought and sold like any other commodity and there are also scammers who will create false debts in the hopes of making easy money. A debt validation letter will allow you to decide if the debt is valid and not falling outside the statute of limitations for collections.
Debt collectors are only required to give out the name of the original creditor, the balance owed, and the name of the debtor. This information may make it easier for you to determine if you actually owe the debt, if it is nearing or past the statute of limitations date, or if there is an error in the amount.
Debt Validations Letter from Debt Collectors To You
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 first contact. If they refuse to send a debt validation letter, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against them.
The debt validation letter should include:
- the amount owed
- the creditor’s name
- a statement declaring that the debt is considered valid unless you dispute it with 30 days of the first contact
- a statement that, within the 30 day time frame, the debt collector will respond by mail if you write to dispute the debt or request more information
- A statement that, within the 30 day time frame, that the original creditor must provide information about the debt, when requested
Debt Validation Letter from You to the Debt Collector
If you have been contacted by a debt collector, you may want to send a debt validation letter to request more information on the debt. There are pros and cons of sending the letter that we will discuss in the next section. Your debt validation letter should include the following requests:
- Why does the debt collector think you owe the debt?
- A copy of the original contract or other documentation
- A copy of the last billing statement
- The amount owed when the debt was purchased
- The date of last payment
- The age of the debt
- The authority to collect the debt (must be licensed in your state)
Remember to always send a debt validation request by certified mail with a return receipt requested.
When Should You Send a Debt Validation Letter?
Sending a debt validation letter can focus the collection agency’s attention on you, so you may not want to send one instantly. If you are contacted by a debt collector, you should ask for the creditor’s contact information and then follow up on this first. The original creditor should be able to confirm that a collection agency or debt buyer is involved. Once you have this information, you should be able to determine if it is your debt and what you want to do about it.
These are some situations where a debt validation letter may work in your favor.
- A particularly aggressive debt collector
- A debt validation letter will force a short pause in their efforts or may deter someone with a shaky claim to collect your debt
- You intend to pay the debt in full
- The debt appears to be invalid (not yours)
- The debt is less than $1000
- It is credit card debt
- The debt is under 3 years old
Before sending a debt validation letter, think about the message you are sending. The debt collector now knows that you have a reason to want to pay off your debt. They will have to gather all the documentation you requested and they now might have enough information to bring a lawsuit against you. And since 80% of lawsuits are ignored and settled in the debt collector’s favor, they’ll probably win!
If the debt is valid, try verbally negotiating with the debt collector. You may be able to settle on a payment amount without giving the debt collector information about yourself that will make reaching an agreement impossible.
When NOT to Send A Debt Validation Letter
There are also very good reasons to not send a debt validation letter. These include:
- If the debt is nearing the statute of limitations date
- consider allowing it to age past the statute date
- acknowledging the debt can reset the statute of limitations clock
- If it is older than the statute of limitations, you no longer owe the money
- The debt has passed through many hands
- It is medical, telecommunications, or utility debt
- The debt is over 6 years old or older than your state’s statute of limitations
- You are disputing the amount
- Send a debt dispute letter to the credit reporting agencies. This will not give the collection agency ammunition to use against you. Debt validation can affect your credit score if the unresolved debt stays on your credit report. Old debt will have been expunged from your credit report anyway.
Sample Debt Validation Letter
If you have decided that a debt validation letter is in your favor, we have included a sample debt validation letter for you to copy and paste. This letter is copied from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
[Your return address]
[Debt collector name]
[Debt collector Address]
Re: [Account number for the debt]
Dear [Debt collector name]:
I am responding to your contact about a debt you are trying to collect. You contacted me by
[phone/mail], on [date] and identified the debt as [any information they gave you about the debt]. Please supply the information below so that I can be fully informed:
Why you think I owe the debt and to whom I owe it, including:
• The name and address of the creditor to whom the debt is currently owed, the account number used by that creditor, and the amount owed.
• If this debt started with a different creditor, provide the name and address of the original creditor, the account number used by that creditor, and the amount owed to that creditor at the time it was transferred. When you identify the original creditor, please provide any other
name by which I might know them, if that is different from the official name. In addition, tell me when the current creditor obtained the debt and who the current creditor obtained it from.
• Provide verification and documentation that there is a valid basis for claiming that I am required to pay the debt to the current creditor. For example, can you provide a copy of the written agreement that created my original requirement to pay?
• If you are asking that I pay a debt that somebody else is or was required to pay, identify that person. Provide verification and documentation about why this is a debt that I am required to pay.
The amount and age of the debt, including:
• A copy of the last billing statement sent to me by the original creditor.
• State the amount of the debt when you obtained it, and when that was.
• If there has been any additional interest, fees or charges added since the last billing statement from the original creditor, provide an itemization showing the dates and amount of each added amount. In addition, explain how the added interest, fees or other charges are expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or are permitted by law.
• If there have been any payments or other reductions since the last billing statement from the original creditor, provide an itemization showing the dates and amount of each of them.
• If there have been any other changes or adjustments since the last billing statement from the original creditor, please provide full verification and documentation of the amount you are trying to collect. Explain how that amount was calculated. In addition, explain how the other changes or adjustments are expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.
• Tell me when the creditor claims this debt became due and when it became delinquent.
• Identify the date of the last payment made on this account.
• Have you made a determination that this debt is within the statute of limitations applicable to it? Tell me when you think the statute of limitations expires for this debt, and how you determined that.
Details about your authority to collect this debt.
• I would like more information about your firm before I discuss the debt with you. Does your firm have a debt collection license from my state? If not, say why not. If so, provide the date of the license, the name on the license, the license number, and the name, address and telephone number of the state agency issuing the license.
• If you are contacting me from a place outside my state, does your firm have a debt collection license from that place? If so, provide the date of the license, the name on the license, the license number, and the name, address and telephone number of the state agency issuing the license.
I have asked for this information because I have some questions. I need to hear from you to make an informed decision about your claim that I owe this money. I am open to communicating with you for this purpose. In order to make sure that I am not put at any disadvantage, in the meantime please treat this debt as being in dispute and under discussion between us.
In addition to providing the information requested above, please let me know whether you are prepared to accept less than the balance you are claiming is owed. If so, please tell me in writing your offer with the amount you will accept to fully resolve the account.
Thank you for your cooperation. Sincerely,
Before You Send The Letter
As a debt settlement company, Pacific Debt, Inc is experienced in negotiating with creditors and debt collection agencies and in settling debt. Before you send a debt validation letter to a debtor collector, you may want to speak with one of their award winning debt specialists. They can help you to understand more about your options based on your unique situation.
Pacific Debt, Inc
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Disclaimer: Pacific Debt, Inc. is not a law firm and this article should not be construed as legal advice. Only a licensed attorney in your state can provide legal advice