A post recently went viral on Reddit alerting people to the absolute necessity of getting a debt validation letter. The Redditer wrote: “I got a call from someone who claimed that I owed money. I asked for a validation letter and was told ‘we’ll send one right out.’ I never got a letter and I never heard from them again. I always ask now.” Another person advised re the debt validation letter: “If they keep calling after you mail them asking for debt verification, then they are breaking the law.”
The point of these viral Reddit posts: These debt collectors might not be completely operating on the up and up. Or there might an internal mix up — errors are much more common than people realize.
So, what is a debt verification letter exactly? And what is a debt validation letter?
They are both absolutely key if you have a debt that has gone into collections. You don’t want to fall victim to a scam or pay a debt that you don’t actually owe. There’s also a statute of limitations on debt, so why pay if the clock has run out?
Let’s dive into it.
What’s a debt validation letter?
Debt collectors are required by law, specifically the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, to send a written debt validation letter with information about your debt. They are required to send this information to you within five days of making contact with you. If you don’t receive the letter within 10 days, make sure to ask for it again when the debt collector reaches out to you.
The letter is required to include:
- How much money you owe
- The creditor who is seeking payment
- A statement that you are accepting the debt as valid if you don’t dispute it within 30 days of the first contact
- A statement that the collector will verify the debt by mail if you do dispute it within that 30 days
- A statement that the collector must provide information if requested within 30 days
Per a Redditer, and advice to certainly keep in mind: “Remember, asking for a debt validation letter is not you disputing the debt. You should never feel bad about it. It’s just verification that the person attempting to collect is the person who is owed. Debt can be bought and sold, you don’t want to pay a debt and later find out you paid the wrong person. Never, ever feel bad about asking for one. I’ve had to talk a few people into doing it because they felt guilty. ‘Well I know I owe the money.’ It’s not about what you owe, it’s about verifying you are paying the right person.”
What’s a debt verification letter?
Now, you might receive a debt validation letter that is confusing. Or you might never receive a debt validation letter even if you have asked for one. That’s when you need to take the next step, and that step is writing a debt verification letter, a letter to request that the debt is in fact yours.
This is your best bet when you are facing a difficult and aggressive debt collector as doing this can actually pause the collection efforts, or you might simply need to verify the debt is yours.
Here is a sample letter put together by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
A lot of people suggest that this debt verification letter is sent by certified mail so that the debt collector can’t claim that they never received it.
And yes, while you can ask for a lot of details in your debt verification letter (and should) the collector is only responsible for providing you with the original creditor, the balance owed and the name of the person who owes the debt. Once they’ve provided that information they can act on collecting the debt.
What should you do next?
Most debt collectors are going to comply with your requests, after all, it’s the law. But there are some bad seeds out there. If a collector refuses to send a validation letter or to respond to your verification letter you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.