Debt validation is a great tool all consumers have in their possession to use against unfair debt collection.
There are many legitimate collection agencies but there are also some “bad apples” in the bunch. For instance, debt collectors that violate debt collection laws, debt collectors that never send anything in writing, or debt collectors that inflate the amount owed with added fees and charges.
Why debt validation matters
Debt validation forces debt collectors to provide proof written proof the debt is owed by you.
Many times debt collectors are unable to obtain validation. Debt buyers often purchase debts with only basic information about the debtor and the amount owed. There is no contract and no statements.
Debt collectors typically don’t have the means to validate your debt.
According to the FTC debt buyers only validation debts 50% of the time.
The report also states debt buyers were more likely to verify debts that they had obtained from the original creditor (55.7%) than debts they had acquired from other debt buyers (35.9%) and that debt buyers were significantly less likely to report verification of disputed medical, telecommunications, and utility debt, as compared to verification of credit card debt. Debt buyers also were significantly less likely to verify debt that was more than six years old, as compared to debt less than three years old.
Why disputing the debt is important
When requesting debt validation you can also dispute the debt. Section 809(b) of the FDCPA gives consumers the right to dispute the debt. For example, the amount the debt collector is trying to collect is inaccurate. Suppose you had a disputed debt with the original creditor before the debt was sold. Because that disputed debt was never resolved before the debt was sold, the disputed amount owed still exists.
How to request debt validation
Send the collection agency a certified, return receipt letter requesting debt validation and disputing the debt in part or whole, if applicable.
Unfortunately, the FDCPA does not give a time limit in which debt collectors must respond to a validation request. It is not uncommon for consumers to receive a response several months later if they receive a response at all.
In some instances, the debt collector will cease collection efforts and simply go away.
When to request debt validation
- You can request debt validation at any time even though debt collectors may say different. If you have been sent a notice from a debt collector which included the mini Miranda: “This is an attempt to collect a debt and if we do not hear from you within 30 days of this notice, we will assume the debt to be valid” but did not respond within the thirty days, you can still request debt validation.
- If you discover a debt collector has placed a negative item in your credit files, you can request debt validation.
- When debt collector begins calling you out of the blue without ever sending you anything in writing. Get their mailing address and send a request for debt validation.
- If you do not agree with the amount being demanded you should request debt validation.
Request written communication only
When requesting debt validation you can also request the debt collector communicate by U.S. mail only because telephone calls to your employer and home are inconvenient.
You will discover many debt collectors will never send written communication, they only want to deal with you over the telephone in an attempt to intimidate you into paying.
Remember, you do not have to talk on the phone with a debt collector and it is highly recommended that you do not. All communication should be in writing as you want to create a paper trail in case you pursue legal action. You can send a simple validation request.
What if the collector asks you for help validating the debt
Watch out for the debt collector’s response as they may send you a letter requesting you “help” them resolve the matter by you sending any documentation you have to prove the account belongs to you. STOP! Do not comply as it is their responsibility to prove the debt belongs to you. You do not have to provide any documentation. It is their job to prove you owe the debt, not yours.
What happens if the collector does not validate
If a debt collector fails to verify the debt but continues to go after you for payment, you have the right to sue that debt collector in federal or state court.
You may be able to get $1,000 per lawsuit, plus actual damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs. Under some state fair debt collection acts, you can get more than $1,000 in statutory damages.
Send them a certified letter telling them to cease and desist collection efforts and demand they remove unvalidated items from all of your credit reports.
Should the collection agency continue to report the debt on your credit reports it is time to use more leverage such as making complaints to your state’s Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Better Business Bureau. Send copies of the complaints to the collection agency. Some collection agencies will fold at this point and remove the negative item from your credit reports.
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