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How to Dispute and Ask a Debt Collector to Validate a Debt


If you have been contacted by a debt collector that is not the original creditor or representing the original creditor, I think it would be smart to ask the debt collector to validate the debt and prove you actually owe it if there is any doubt on your part you owe the debt.

Many debts were sold to debt buyers that wound up collecting or even suing consumers but never had sufficient information to prove the debt owed was accurate or valid. Asking for debt validation is a smart thing to do.

This process does not have to be complicated or difficult. You don’t need a form letter and in fact you can write the letter out by hand if you want. But I have provided somewhat of a sample letter below.

The hardest part of this process will be taking the letter at a Post Office so you can send it certified, return receipt requested. You must do that. You will need the proof when they received your letter.

When you get the green postcard back showing when they received your debt validation request, put that card in a safe place with all your other important papers. If you kept a copy of the letter you sent, staple the green card to it.

It is important to send this letter within 30 days of you being contacted by the debt collector. Do not delay.

Sample Debt Validation Letter

Debt Collector Name
Street
City, State Zip

The Date Today

Your Name
Street
City, State Zip

(Account: If the collection notice has an account number on it, put it here.)

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to you today to dispute the debt you are trying to collect from me and to request you provide validation the debt is legitimate.

If you have notified the credit reporting agencies of this debt you must notify them promptly that I have disputed the validity of this debt.

I have notified you in writing within the 30-day period and request you cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until you can verify the debt and provide me, by first class mail, the following materials:

  • All documents, including electronic records or images, which bear my signature and which concern the debt being collected;
  • A ledger, account card, account statement copy, or similar record, whether paper or electronic, which reflects the date and amount of payments, credits, balances, and charges concerning the debt, including but not limited to interest, fees, charges or expenses incidental to the principal obligation which the creditor is expressly authorized to collect by the agreement creating the debt or permitted to collect by law;
  • The name and address of the original creditor, if different from the collecting creditor; and
  • A copy of any judgment against me.

      Sincerely,

      Your Name

Now, go to your local Post Office and send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested.

You will need to complete a return receipt card, like the one below, and attach it to the back of your letter before mailing.

Return Receipt

There is an additional charge to send a letter certified and request a return receipt.

And Now You Wait

After you send your letter, just wait for their response.

If they call before they get the letter, there is no reason to be nasty, just let them know you sent the letter and will await their investigation and response by mail.

Unless the collector can prove the debt is valid then there is no reason for you to deal with them anymore.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
  • Albert

    I have old student loan debt that I haven’t made a payment on in 10 years. Is there a way to get that removed off of my credit report?

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org/ Steve Rhode

      If it was a private student loan then it’s just a standard credit report dispute process. Contact each of the credit bureaus.

  • Exhausted and Poor

    What if you have been forced to pay this collector and didn’t know debt validation existed? I am not allowed to mail in a check or anything with Aspire Resources, Inc. and am harassed because I’m poor! I can’t keep paying so if I’ve been harassed into paying can I still send a debt validation letter? I’ve been threatened and can’t make sense of any of the material I’ve been sent nor was I notified of any debt change of hands. I have the same issue with Discover as they claim to have purchased student loans and never sent me a notice. Do I sent them a debt validation letter too?

    What do I do? Just stop paying? I can’t afford all of these payments!

  • Chris M.

    Most of this sample letter is unnecessary and demands information that collection agencies don’t legally have to send you. Debt validation is a simple task: Verify you’re the person they are looking for and the amount owed per the original creditor. For example, if it’s a credit card debt then they need only to send you a copy of your most recent statement from the credit card company and the debt is validated. They don’t have to include a copy of your application with your signature or a list of every charge you’ve put on the card. The only thing they really can’t send as suitable validation is a print out of their screen. Whatever they send must be generated from the original creditor.

    That said, a validation request (aka dispute) is much simpler than what’s posted here. The following sample letter will invoke all of your rights under the FDCPA and prevent the agency from calling you, even if they validate the debt.

    Your Name
    Your Address
    City, State, Zip

    Collection Agency Name
    Their Address
    City, State, Zip

    Re: Account/Reference # or phone number they’ve been calling
    Certified Mail: 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 (if you have the number beforehand)

    Date

    Dear [Collection Agency Name],
    In response to your [telephone call on | dunning notice dated] xx/xx/xx, I dispute this debt in it’s entirety. All telephone calls are inconvenient.

    Regards,
    Your Name

    —–

    Don’t sign the letter – you don’t need to and if they are a shady agency then you probably don’t want them having a copy of your signature anyway. As stated, this much simpler letter invokes all of your rights. The collection agency must stop contacting you until they send you validation and will stop all phone calls, even if they do validate.

    Send the letter as outlined by the author: certified mail with a return receipt. If possible, pick these labels up from the post office before you write your letter. This allows you to know the tracking number in advance and you can put it in your letter. This prevents them from trying the “we got a letter but it wasn’t a dispute, it was a promise to pay” approach (it’s happened before).

    The last point I’d like to bring up: if you’re dealing with a sleazy collection agency, don’t volunteer information or tell them how to do their job (like what to send you as validation or proof that they are licensed.) They should already know what they must do after receiving this letter. If they don’t take their next steps properly, then they are digging their own grave and you’ll end up with an FDCPA violation claim against them should you choose to pursue it.

  • Jose Perez

    Hi can a collection agency ask you for your financial status in order to make a payment arrangement. Like giving them information as far as how much does your wife make and list all your finances so they can make some type of arrangement. And how do they calculate the interest rate is it by day or by month?

  • Gene

    I had a problem with phony charges from a past landlord. When I asked for validation, they sent a list of charges, which were vague and nonsense. (Prorate paint, blinds, cleaning $100, empty trash $50, etc.) I asked for justification of these charges, and they ignored me. I asked for the identities of maintenance men and the cleaning person, and for copies of checks issued, and this was ignored.

    They ceased collection attempts, but put a critical note in my credit report. My lawyer was unwilling to pursue a defamation claim, and said that the most they had to do was add “disputed” to the report. I have been turned down for credit twice since, though I am completely out of debt and earn $60,000.

  • genedoug

    I am presently trying to pay a bill to Haband, a mail-order clothing store, for about $150. At first I thought I had paid with my MasterCard, but the record did not show that. Comenity bank is handling the Haband credit card. I received a letter saying I owed $150, and shortly afterward a phone call from Comenity saying the same.

    After checking, I tried to pay on the Haband website, and it said I owed only $19, and would not take more. Email did no more good. I just want to get them the money, and don’t want a delinquent record because I can’t get the money to them.

  • genedoug

    I had a problem with a former landlord over some phony charges. I asked them to say what the charges were for (just globally alluded to) and they sent me a list that was vague and false. (prorate paint, cleaning house for $100 for a 2 bedroom apartment, empty trash $50, about a hundred steps to the dumpster and bad for trash that could be carried in one hand, blinds, etc.) I wrote to them asking them to describe and justify those charges, and they ignored me.

    They ceased contacting me, but gave a negative report to the credit bureau. My attorney was unwilling to pursue a defamation claim. He actually proposed that I settle with them for 50%, even though I had already paid him more than 50% of that, and the claims were 100% fraudulent. (It’s the principle of the thing– I’m unwilling to cooperate with a mugging.) He said the most the bureau has to do is note that the charge is disputed.

    Since then, I have been turned down for credit twice. I would like to get the apartment management in court, but apparently they have to sue me, as I seem to be out of luck in attempting to sue them.

    • genedoug

      Correction: line five– to the dumpster and “back,” not “bad.”

  • kim

    What do you do when they are trying to collect a debt that is over 7 Yrs old.

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

      They can attempt to collect a valid debt till you die. The statute of limitations only controls how long they can sue you for.

  • A Jones

    I sent a letter of validation to a creditor and what I received back was NOT the information I requested. It was a very generic bill with a letter from the creditor saying due to HIPPA, they could not provide me with the documentation I asked for (it’s a hospital bill). What do I do now?

  • Paul

    I would just like to say thank you i was on line and saw your ad and read it about credit cards and third partys .I did what you said and i filed a responce to them .i never got to court !!! Because you were right they sent all there paper work thru the sheriff dept trying to intemdate you but the best part at the end was a letter OF A MOTION TO DISMISS the case. Thank you

    P.S to all out there do it just like Steve says

  • http://www.avoidbk.com/ Jared Strauss

    Steve, I would like to add some insider perspective to your information. When debt buyers or collection agencies are assigned debt, it is generally done by way of an Excel spreadsheet. There is no contract. There are no statements.

    The information generally provided is as follows –

    Personal Information

    Name

    Address

    Home phone

    Work phone – sometimes

    Cell phone

    Social security number

    Date of birth

    Account Information

    Creditor

    Balance

    Account number

    Date of last payment – sometimes with the amount

    Interest rate

    So it’s enough information to communicate and collect from consumers who don’t have a dispute. This system has been in place essentially forever.

    This is also mainly true for debts with large banks.

    Medical, apartment leases, commercial, credit union, and bad check debt often differ from this normal protocol on a fairly consistent basis. It is fairly common for the “Back-up” (industry term for contract, credit app, statements, or affidavit) to either be included or readily available for these classes of accounts.

    The common practice when an account is disputed is to order the Back-Up. When it’s ordered, there could be an 90/10, a 50/50, or a 20/80 chance that it will be obtained. The chance of acquisition is generally dependent on the creditor and the age of the debt.

    The time for acquisition generally varies as well. Its range can be from anywhere from a few days to possibly as long as 6 months, and sometimes longer.

    The reason why lawsuits are fairly uncommon when consumers go through the typical collection cycle, as opposed to hiring a long-term debt settlement company or requesting validation on valid debts, is because the validation isn’t readily available.

    It is a COMMON practice for an agency or debt buyer to become much more aggressive once they acquire the Back-up. That aggressiveness can lead to them being less negotiable in respect to settlements, or even monthly payment plans. And if resolution can’t be found, it is also COMMON practice for them to become aggressive with litigation.

    When consumers dispute a valid debt they are likely to arm their creditors with the information they need to get nasty. It’s no different than Israel handing over a nuke to Iran.

    Steve, you’ve never been on that side of the fence so you would have no way of knowing, but disputing valid debts is a very bad idea.

    The only time I would ever recommend it, is when the accounts have exceeded statute of limitations.

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

      I agree, I modified the first sentence to now read “If you have been contacted by a debt collector that is not the original creditor [or representing the original creditor]”

      These days the waters on secondary owners of debt has become so murky that if the consumer does not recognize the debt that they should ask for clarification.

      I would agree that disputing valid debt someone recognizes as a stall tactic is not a wise thing to do.

      But disputing a debt from foreign caller that is threatening you with jail time is.

      • http://www.avoidbk.com/ Jared Strauss

        I agree on the murkiness. If consumers suspect that it COULD be a debt they owe, but don’t recognize the name, it is in their best interest to inquire on the chain of title.

        This can be done verbally by asking the debt collector who their client is and for their contact information. Then consumers should call the agencies’ client and inquire on who the original creditor was. Then, once they are provided that information, they should call the original creditor to confirm who they sold or placed the account with.

        And in respect to threatening jail time, no doubt. I’d also recommend they tape record those conversations, providing that they’re able to per their state law, and call an attorney along with filing AG (both in their state and the state the agency is located in), FTC and BBB complaints.

      • Oppressed in Poverty

        What would one do with a company, Aspire Resources, Inc. for example keeps threatening and calling for payments? I never knew about debt validation and assumed I was just going to be thrown in jail for being poor, as women in the South have NO RIGHTS. I can’t find a real job and I’ll lose my current job due to harassment and now unreliable transportation. I was never given notice and can’t keep up payments. I work in OK but barely live in TX. Do I have any rights? I keep getting told I have none and will kill myself if this keeps up much longer.

        In addition I have a set of loans supposedly sold to Discover but received no notice of this. I keep getting harassing calls from them too. Can I demand debt validation then negotiate a lower settlement? I am DESPERATE and have already tried to kill myself over this. PLEASE help.

    • Mac

      Mr Jared Strauss,
      You’ve displayed an insight I appreciate; if You have time I’d like Your opinion to this question…
      I/We live in Louisiana (a community property state),my current wife received her college education during a previous marriage during which time the student loan was taken. I’ve been making payments for 10 years thus far – She has a medical condition which will drastically shorten her life expectancy under the best of circumstances. This student loan will likely not be paid off prior to her death…
      Will I be liable for the balance upon her death (provided I don’t predecease her), I didn’t take out the loan, but have made payments from our joint checking account since we were married. Are there any measures I could take to insulate myself from such responsibility if Your answer is to the affirmative…???
      What say You…???

      • dje3

        Mac,
        I have lived in community property states before. I can tell you that assets (liabilities) that were owned BEFORE the marriage are the property of that person and do not become mixed property unless intended to become so. I doubt that your actions to show good will and honesty in helping your wife make the payments creates an intent to make the liability joint and several.

        This could also depend upong whether you accepted say an inheritance (which in most cases is not community property either) and made it community property etc.

        As far as I know such a dept as student loans can not be assigned to anyone who did not sign as a borrower or guarantor (say a parent or current spouse). They belong to the person who signed for and/or used the money.

        My advice is seek a professional opinion (attorney) and in writing, give all the circumstance you can, include inheritances recieved on her side and where the money went etc. If you are not responsible and your wife unable to work…I would cease to pay that debt at all. Contact the lender and let them know she is terminally ill or disabled and unable to repay the debt. Have her tell them that SHE can no longer pay the bill. Do not send the lender any actual medical records unless they agree in writing in advance to drop all collection upon reciept of medical records showing terminal disease. Do not discuss how much time your wife has or does not have, if she is unable to work that is the real issue.

        Try not to have your attorney send the first letter, it braces them for legal postioning and the costs will get enormous. Start with simple letter…if it escalates then it does. You want them to see that you are not fighting them that there is little you can do.

        Lenders can usually get paid thorugh thier insurance policy on the loan. As soon as it is paid by the insurance, the debt wll be settled and you done. The insurance could subrogate, but to what end? They wont spend money suing over an uncollectable debt.

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