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What Is a Debt Validation Letter?

If you’ve been contacted by a debt collection agency about an outstanding debt, you should have received something called a debt validation letter. This legal document outlines a debt the collector claims you owe and your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). 

What Is the Purpose of a Debt Validation Letter?

A debt validation letter is essentially a notice from a debt collector with details about a consumer debt they are trying to recover, including:

  • The name of the creditor you allegedly owe money to
  • The amount they claim is owed
  • A statement about your rights to dispute the debt.

When Should You Receive a Debt Validation Letter?

Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are legally required to send a debt validation letter within five days of their first communication attempt with you, whether that was a phone call, letter, or other contact. So you should receive this letter shortly after initially hearing from the collection agency.

If it’s been more than five days and you haven’t received a validation letter, that could be a red flag that the collector isn’t operating within the law. You may want to push back and request a debt validation notice.

What to Do After You Receive a Debt Validation Letter

Don’t panic if you get one of these letters – read through it carefully and follow these steps:

1. Start by validating that the debt is actually yours. Check that you recognize the original creditor, the amount seems correct, and it’s not a debt you’ve already paid off or had removed from your credit report.

2. If you don’t dispute the debt, you can contact the collector to discuss payment options or arrangements after reviewing the notice.

3. However, if any part of the debt seems inaccurate, you have 30 days from receiving the letter to dispute it in writing. Once you dispute, the collector must stop all communication and collection efforts until they can provide proper verification of the debt. They have 30 days to respond with evidence, or they have to cease collection permanently.

4. Don’t feel like you have to deal with this alone! Contact a Credit & Debt financial coach for guidance.

Tip: Keep copies of all communication with debt collectors for your records in case you need to refer back.

FDCPA Protections for Consumers

The main reason debt collectors are required to send validation letters is because of consumer protection laws under the FDCPA. Among other provisions, the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from engaging in harassment, abuse, misleading statements, or unfair practices when attempting to collect a debt.

Some examples of illegal behavior that would violate the FDCPA include:

  • Calling you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Using profane language or threatening violence
  • Lying about the amount owed or the implications of not paying.

Common Mistakes to Avoid With Debt Validation

While debt validation letters aim to help protect consumers, there are some common pitfalls you should avoid, including:

  • Ignoring the letter entirely. Even if you can’t pay right away, you need to respond appropriately to help preserve your rights.  
  • Accidentally admitting liability for a debt you don’t actually owe or recognize. Tread carefully in communications with collectors.
  • Sending a payment without first validating and verifying the debt is truly yours. 

Debt Validation Letter FAQs

What if I don’t receive a debt validation letter?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires debt collectors to send you a validation letter within five days of their first attempt to contact you. If you haven’t received one after five days, it could be a sign the collector isn’t following the law. You can request a validation letter from them in writing.

How long do I have to dispute a debt?

You have 30 days from receiving the debt validation letter to dispute it in writing. Once you dispute, the collector must stop all collection efforts until they can provide verification of the debt.

What should I include in my dispute letter?

  • Clearly state that you are disputing the debt.
  • Mention details you believe are inaccurate, such as the amount owed or the original creditor.
  • Request written verification of the debt from the collector.

What happens after I dispute the debt?

The collector has 30 days to respond with evidence that you owe the debt. If they can’t verify the debt, they must stop trying to collect it from you.

Bottom Line

Debt validation letters can seem intimidating, but they are simply required notifications of your FDCPA rights. Take them seriously, meet all dispute deadlines if the debt is questionable, and don’t let illegitimate collectors take advantage of you. If the debt is legitimate and you need professional help getting out of debt faster, consider debt management programs offered by Credit & Debt.

Kelly Baker

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Get financial freedom! Talk to a financial coach for free!