The Debt Validation Letter

What is debt validation anyway?

Don’t overthink it…

There are many misconceptions around the debt validation process.  I especially loathe the assumption that a debt validation letter should be choked full of legal language and threats.  It’s simply not necessary to do this – just keep it simple!  The body of the letter should be something like this:

You sent me a letter on November 1, 2011 claiming I owe you a debt.  I don’t think I owe you any debt.  Under §809 FDCPA, I request validation of this debt.”

Debt validation is a procedure invoked by a consumer asking the debt collector to “validate” the debt on which they are seeking often times in response to a debt collection “dunning” letter.  A dunning letter is basically a written demand for payment from a debt collector.  If you read through the letter, you will see a paragraph of text which reads something like the following:

“Unless you notify this office within thirty (30) days after receiving this notice that you dispute
the validity of the debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify
this office in writing within thirty (30) days from receiving this notice that you dispute the validity
of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of
a Judgment and mail you a copy of such Judgment or verification. If you request this office in
writing within thirty (30) days after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name
and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.”

The above paragraph that is found in debt collector’s dunning letters is required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

The full text of the FDCPA can be read here and should be read by anyone dealing with debt collectors.

What else goes in the debt validation letter?

A debt validation letter should be sent in response to receiving a dunning letter within thirty days AND in writing!

If you read further on the dunning notice, you will see another statement that reads, “This is an attempt to collect a debt.  Any information obtained can be used for that purpose.”  You’d better believe any “extra” information you provide them with will be used to collect that debt.  Don’t be a dummy and provide them with information they don’t already have.

1.   When typing your name in the letter, type it exactly as it appears in the dunning letter.  Be cognizant of how your name is written, whether nick name, with or without middle initials, or even misspelled.  Type it the same way.  Giving them another name just helps them locate your assets, your employer, and even more information about you.  Don’t do their job for them.

2.   Did they send the dunning letter to a PO Box or an ex-boyfriend’s house?  It would not be wise of you to give them your new address. However, for the purpose of sending and receiving mail, a PO Box is a good idea.  Otherwise, giving them your new address which they don’t already have might be used to serve you with a lawsuit in the future.

3.   DO NOT provide your date of birth or social security number.  It’s absolutely not necessary.  Why would you ever give that to a debt collector anyway?

4.   DO NOT put your phone number on there unless you are inviting them to robo-call you day and night!  All communications with debt collectors should be in writing.

DO INCLUDE:
1.  Any file # or account # reference in the dunning letter so they can figure out what debt you want validated.
2.  An address that they may respond to, even if it’s a PO Box.
Your debt validation letter should be sent certified mail return receipt requested!  Don’t be a cheapo and try to cut corners.  It costs about $5 to do and is completely and totally worth it if you ever find yourself needing to prove they received that letter.
TIP:  Pretend that your mother, your boss, or hell, even your priest is going to read this letter.  Write it in such a way that does not make you look like an asshole.  It’s not necessary to threaten the debt collector or try to look like you know more about the law than you really do.  Why is this important?  Other than conveying that you are a level headed mature individual capable of adult communications, think about how your letter will look if a jury ever reads it.  If you find yourself suing that debt collector in the future and it becomes necessary to prove that the debt collector received that letter, is a jury going to think you are a responsible citizen or a greedy low life who isn’t mature enough to write letters, much less pay their debts…?

So, you sent the letter now what?

BEWARE!  Some debt collectors and debt collection law firms respond to consumer’s debt validation letters with lawsuits! They assume you’re not going to be easy to get payment from the old fashion way with letters and phone calls, so they go to plan b, serve you with a debt collection lawsuit.  Sometimes a debt validation letter can solicit a completely opposite response from a debt collector including not responding to you altogether and moving on to the next consumer who is much easier to bully into paying.

Don’t expect a meaningful response.  It is not likely that the debt collector will send you anything more than a restatement in whatever letter they sent you before.  Probably something like, “Yep, we verified this debt.  You, John Doe, owe this debt in the amount of $1,000 to ABC Bank who has assigned the debt to XYZ Debt buyer.”

If they don’t respond at all, they can’t continue to collect on the debt, per the FDCPA.  They can’t keep calling, writing you letters, etc without responding to that validation letter.  See why keeping proof that they received it is so important?

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