There are times when a person may receive a letter about a debt owed that may not actually belong to them. If this is something that has happened to you, you should first contact the debtor and ask for validation of the claim. You can do this by using a Debt Validation Letter.
What is a Debt Validation Letter?
Not all debt collectors, or the debts they claim you owe, are actually legitimate debts. There are some scams that try to trick people into paying these debts. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a consumer has the right to dispute a claim and must be given proof of the debt by the debtor. A debt validation letter is used to request this information and must be sent within 30 days of receiving the payment demand. When the debt collector receives the debt validation letter, they must stop all attempts to collect the debt until they have issued this proof.
Writing the Letter
There are some key things that you will need to have in your debt validation letter. Start by including the date that you were first contacted about the debt and how that contact was made, for example, “I received a letter from your company on March 12, 20XX”. Also, bear in mind that you are only requesting validation of the debt, not making an offer to repay.
Important: In your request for validation, do not admit to owing the debt or make any reference to making payment. The reason for this is, if the debt is no longer enforceable due to it has passed the statute of limitations, the debt could be re-opened if you make a promise to pay.
As the “debtor,” you do not have to defend yourself in your letter. The main purpose of the letter is to ask the creditor for their credentials and to ask why they think you are responsible for the debt.
An optional step that you can take is to add a Cease and Desist Addendum to your letter. Federal law states that you can tell a collection agency that you do not want to be contacted by them in any way. The creditor must adhere to this or face legal action if they continue to harass a potential debtor.
Once you have written your letter, be sure to sign it.
Sending a Debt Validation Letter
In order for your request to be considered legally served, you need to send it by certified mail using the United States Postal Service. Certified mail requires the creditor to sign for the letter and gives you proof of when they have received it.
Federal law dictates that a creditor has 30 days from the time the debt validation letter was received to investigate the debt and send what they find to the debtor requesting the information. Should the creditor not respond within this 30 day period, the collection of the debt is considered to be no longer valid.
Response from Debt Collector
If the collector has failed to send you a proof of the debt they say you owe, they are not allowed to make any collection attempts in the future, as this violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. However, they are allowed to sell or assign the debt to a new collection agency, and your debt validation request will no longer apply to the news agency. In this case, you would need to make a new debt validation request with the news agency.
If you are sent proof of the debt, be sure that it has not passed the statute of limitations, which is 6 years. If it has not, you can then choose how you want to proceed with the debt. This may mean paying the debt in full or making an arrangement with the collector.
Your Legal Rights
There are many laws that protect debtors from fraudulent debt claims, and you have a right to demand proof from a collector of the debt. This protects you from paying money that you do not really owe, or that you are paying to a collector who has not been authorized to receive payment on that debt.
Keep in mind that a request for debt validation is time-sensitive. You have 30 days from the first initial contact from the collector to make your request in writing. After 30 days, your request for validation may no longer be applicable under the debt collection laws. Making a request for validation over the phone will not protect your rights.
Once you have requested proof of the debt, the collector is required to stop all efforts to collect the debt until they have given you sufficient proof that the debt is yours. This means that they are not allowed to send letters, call you, or list the debt on your credit report.
Sample Letters & Examples
Frequently Asked Questions
A collector can only chase an unsecured debt for up to 6 years. Other debts, such as a mortgage, can be chased for 12 years. The period of limitation begins from the time of your last payment, or the time that you acknowledged the debt.
Statute barred means that your debt still exists after 6 years, but the collector cannot us a County Court Judgment to collect the debt or go through the courts to chase the debt.
Ignoring a debt won’t make it disappear, and a debt collector can file a lawsuit against you, which can then lead to them garnish your wages, or take money from your bank account by law.