Most of the phone calls that we receive are an enjoyable experience. But occasionally, bad news comes in the form of a call from a debt collector. What you do or do not do at that moment can affect you financially for years. We’ll talk about the right steps to take and how to request a validation of debt letter.
Validation of Debt Letter
So, exactly what is a validation of debt letter? Per the federal government and the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act), any debt collector that contacts you must supply you with a written validation of debt letter within the five days following the initial contact. You may find that you have to request it if they do not. The federal guidelines for the content of the letter are:
- Amount of debt
- Company or institution debt is owed to
- Section that states you have thirty days for dispute of the debt
- Section stating that in the case of a dispute, you will receive a verification of debt or the judgment
- Section that states you can request the contact information of the creditor by letter
Should you file a written dispute, debt collection attempts must cease until the agency has mailed the verification of debt or the judgment. Otherwise, they have the right to assume you owe the debt, and can continue collection attempts. An important point to note: not filing a dispute is not the equivalent of admission of owing the debt.
Requesting a Validation of Debt Letter
The first step you should take when you are contacted by a debt collector is to determine that you are speaking to a legitimate agency. A mistake many people make is to quickly agree or assume that the debt is actually theirs. Experts caution against immediately claiming ownership of any debt. Collect all information on the agency including company name, address and phone information, then prepare your request for the validation of debt letter, following these guidelines:
- Send the letter by certified mail with return receipt
- Include the account number that was given to you.
- Include the date and method of contact
- Include a short statement requesting the validation of debt letter
It’s important that you understand that federal law does not give the collection agency a time limitation to send the letter as requested. It may take some time for you to receive it. However, if they don’t have adequate information to prove that you owe the debt, it may not be sent. Stay vigilant and on top of the situation until it is resolved.
For Debt that Isn’t Yours
Keep in mind that you are under time limitations when dealing with debt collection attempts. Whether you receive the validation of debt letter or not, if you are firmly sure that you do not own the debt, file a dispute promptly. In order to have a debt expunged from a credit report, you must take this first step. This is the most time sensitive step. You must send the dispute in a written letter within the first thirty days of contact. This process may take several weeks, or it may take several years. Starting immediately will save you some frustration and grief down the road.
If the Debt is Yours
If you are certain that the debt is something you owe, you could be searching for the best steps to take. First of all, be assured that you can reach a resolution and protect yourself financially. You will need to gather some vital information.
- Confirmation of who you will be paying the debt to. You will need all contact information for the agency that contacted you, and then you will need to phone them back to determine their legitimacy and if they have your information or if it has been forwarded to another agency.
- Determine if your debt is still in the collectable time frame, or if the statute of limitations has passed. If it is outside the time frame, you should send a cease and desist letter.
- If you are able to pay the amount owed and have the intent, request a payment plan or restoration of the debt to a current status.
- If you don’t have the resources to pay the amount in full, attempt to negotiate for a settlement. A word of caution: this will only be effective if you can pay the full settlement immediately. Otherwise, try to delay until you can save an amount to apply toward the debt. Be certain that you obtain the settlement terms in written form to avoid issues later.
- In the case of inability to pay at all, consider consulting with a bankruptcy lawyer. This may be your best option over debt management and consolidation services.
By following these steps and assuring that you receive a validation of debt letter, you will tackle the problem head on and avoid unnecessary stress and financial issues in the future.