Debt collectors must prove they have a legal right to collect a debt from you. Requesting debt validation comes with various benefits. It can even lead to getting the collection account completely removed from your credit report.
Find out everything you need to know about debt validation so you can get started today.
What is debt validation?
Debt validation entails demanding that a debt collector prove that you owe what they claim. If a debt collector contacts you about a debt, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) allows you to request debt validation.
Debt collectors must stop all collection efforts once you send them a debt validation letter (also called a debt verification letter). This includes reporting and verifying, until they supply proper debt validation.
Although no time limit is specified for them to validate, they cannot continue collecting until they provide such information. Sometimes, collection agencies will stop collection activities and return the account to the original creditor rather than validate it. This is perfectly legal. Regardless, being unable to communicate with you gives the debt collector plenty of incentive to resolve the debt validation notice.
Proof That You Owe the Debt
Often, a debt collector may not have the appropriate records it needs to collect debt from you legally. Or perhaps you already settled the collection, but the collection agency is harassing you anyway. Or maybe they’ve accused you of owing on a debt you don’t actually owe. It’s also possible that the amount owed is incorrect.
Validating a debt can address all of these reasons so that you aren’t subject to incorrect collections.
Why is debt validation important?
Understanding the role of a debt collector may seem complicated, but it’s really not. So let’s break it down into a real-life example to fully grasp the importance of debt collection.
Say that Sarah borrowed some money from John. Later, she gets a call from Laura demanding a thousand dollars in payment of Sarah’s debt to John.
How can Sarah be sure that she really owes Laura a thousand dollars, rather than John? Furthermore, how can Sarah be sure that her debt to John will be satisfied if she pays Laura?
Reasons to Ask for Debt Validation
A request for debt validation helps confirm all these things. First, you’ll know that the original creditor legally authorizes the debt collector to collect money from you.
You can also check to make sure that all past payments have been applied and check the accuracy of any fees applied to the debt.
Finally, you get to make sure that you actually owe the debt that they say you do.
If you fail to validate all of these points, you risk paying a debt you don’t actually owe or even paying someone who shouldn’t be taking your money. It’s a safe way for any consumer to protect themselves from countless scammers and unscrupulous debt collection agencies.
Your Legal Rights
For these reasons, the FDCPA entitles you as a consumer to request debt verification and validate a debt when a debt collector demands money from you.
If they can’t validate the debt, the credit bureau cannot list it as a negative mark on your credit report. With debt validation, you’re requesting that the debt collector proves they have the legal right to collect the money.
It also confirms that you agreed to pay the debt and the amount owed is accurate. You can file a complaint against any debt collector who refuses to follow these steps. You can report them to your state’s attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for violating the law.
3 Steps to Validating Your Debt
Step 1: Request Debt Validation
Within 30 days of initial communication, send a debt validation letter to the collection agency via certified mail. You can ask who the original creditor is and request documentation proving that it belongs to you, such as the original loan agreement. Check out our sample debt validation letters.
If you send the demands via certified mail, return receipt requested, you will receive a confirmation (“green card”) that the debt collector received your demands. You should also keep a copy of the debt validation letter on file.
This can help bolster your case in the event you need to sue the debt collector. A debt collector must cease collection efforts once they receive this debt validation notice until they supply the information you requested.
Step 2: Follow Up if Needed
If you don’t hear back from them, send them another letter stating that in accordance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), you will not pay the debt. Include a copy of the original debt validation letter and a copy of the receipt.
At this time, according to FDCPA guidelines, the debt collection agency must stop contacting you and may not sue you.
Step 3: Send a Notice of Failure to Validate
If the debt collector has failed to verify the debt and has sent a notice of the debt to a consumer reporting agency, they must remove the notice.
If not, send a notice of the failure of debt validation to each consumer reporting agency that lists the debt. Unless the credit reporting agency can verify the debt, they should remove it from your credit report.
What to Do if the Debt Collector Validates the Debt
If the debt collector sends you proof they have the right to collect on the debt, the debt is yours, and the amount is accurate, then the debt is validated. They can continue their attempts to collect.
Check the statute of limitations in your state to make sure that the debt hasn’t expired. If it has, the debt collector may not sue you for the debt. You can send an expired SOL notification letter to make them stop their collection attempts. If the debt has not expired, you must take other steps if you wish to dispute it.
Paying the Debt or Negotiating Settlement
There are a few different ways to handle verified debt. First, you can pay it in full if that’s a realistic possibility for you. You can also negotiate a settlement, where you agree to pay only a portion of the debt.
If the collection is listed on your credit report, you can also request a ‘pay for delete’. This can get the item removed from your credit report once you pay off what you owe.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore the problem. Do your best to come up with a solution so you can get your finances under control. Simply ignoring the issue won’t make it go away.
What should you include in your debt validation letter?
Debt validation letters don’t have to be fancy or complicated, but it should include a few essentials. First, never admit that the debt is yours or that you intend to pay it because this can reset the statute of limitations.
Let them know that you requested debt validation when you received original notice of the debt collector’s intention to collect. For example, you’d mention the date of a letter or the date and time of a phone call.
Other Tips for Dealing with Debt Collectors
When dealing with collection agencies, it is good to remember that most states require them to be licensed. Therefore, you should check if your state requires a license. If so, check to see if the collection agency is licensed.
Consumers should also note the requirement to validate debts only applies when the debt has been assigned. Original creditors are not required to validate a debt if they provided the service or loaned the money.
Note: You do NOT have the legal right to validation under the FDCPA when dealing with an original creditor.
They may choose to validate the debt if you request it, but they are not required to do so. However, there are still other ways of disputing the debt in these situations.
Filing a Dispute with the Original Creditor
You also have the right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to dispute the debt directly with an original creditor. You can dispute any information on your credit report that you believe is incorrect.
Once they have received your debt dispute letter, they must investigate the reported info. They must also notify the credit reporting agencies that the account is in dispute.
Filing a Dispute with the Credit Bureaus
The FCRA also allows you to dispute a collection account with the credit bureau if you deem the account to be questionable or unverifiable.
For more information on removing collections from your credit report, check out our guide:
Other Legal Rights
You may also have additional rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and your state’s laws.
Additionally, if you demand debt validation from a creditor who is listing a derogatory item on your credit report, they need to note that account as “disputed by consumer” (or similar language).
They may NOT place a new listing or verify a current listing with the credit reporting agency until they have provided you with validation. Therefore, it’s smart to familiarize yourself with these laws so you can stand up for yourself when the time comes.
Debt Validation FAQs
How does debt validation work?
Debt validation is a process in which you, as a consumer, can challenge a debt collector’s claim of a debt you owe. The process begins when you send the debt collector a letter asking them to validate the debt. This letter should include your full name, address, and the amount of the debt in question.
When the debt collector receives your request, they must provide proof that you actually owe the debt. This includes the original creditor’s name, the amount owed, and the date the debt was incurred. The debt collector must also provide documentation that they have the legal right to collect the debt.
If the debt collector is unable to provide this information, you can dispute the debt. This means that you do not have to pay the debt unless the debt collector can prove that you owe it.
If the debt is validated, then you must decide how to proceed. You may wish to negotiate with the debt collector on a payment plan or try to settle the debt in full. If the debt is too large or you are unable to pay the debt in full, you may wish to consider debt relief options.
What does it mean to validate your debt?
Validation of debt is the process of verifying that a debt is legitimate and verifying the amount owed. It is important to validate your debt because it ensures that you are only paying what you owe and that the debt is valid.
How long does debt validation take?
Debt validation typically takes anywhere from 30 to 90 days. During this time, the debt collector must provide evidence that you owe the debt, such as a copy of the original contract or agreement you signed.
You should also receive a letter from the debt collector stating the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and your right to dispute the debt. The debt collector is required to stop all collection activity until the validation process is complete.
What is the statute of limitations on debt collection?
The statute of limitations on debt collection varies by state, ranging from three to 10 years. The clock usually begins ticking from the date of the last payment. So, it’s important to know when you last paid a debt before it goes into collections.
After the statute of limitations has expired, creditors and collectors may no longer sue you for payment. However, they may still contact you and try to collect the debt.