“Is This for Real?” Why Debt Validation is an Important Step
Whether you are in debt, recently out of debt or never had any debt, if a collector contacts you to say you owe an old credit card debt or some other unsecured debt and you aren’t sure they are right, it’s not a bad idea to consider sending a debt validation letter. But there are some other steps to take first, like racking your brain and looking through your records to see if they actually might be right. You might even request a copy of your credit report to see if that debt appears there. If it does, and you don’t think it’s valid, dispute it with the credit reporting company.
If you believe the debt is not legit, you can—and should—send a debt validation letter to the creditor. After all, you and your creditor could discover there’s been a mistake and they’re going after the wrong person. Or it could reveal that you’re a victim of fraud or identity theft, both of which would need to be investigated and resolved as soon as possible so it doesn’t affect your credit negatively.
If you send a debt validation letter, make sure you do it within 30 days of being contacted by the collector. The letter doesn’t have to be written by a lawyer. You can write it yourself and ask them for:
- Copies of any documents you signed with them
- All account statements with details of charges and payments you made (including dates and amounts)
- A detailed listing of fees they may have charged on top of that to show how they arrived at the amount they say you owe.
Be sure you send this letter by certified mail or some other method that can be tracked so you have proof that you did, in fact, send it when you said you did. This may become important later, because if the creditor doesn’t send you proof of what you’re asking for and the debt still appears on your credit report, you will need to send them a copy of your original letter and tell them that if they don’t remove the debt from your credit report your next step will be legal action.
If they do provide proof that you owe the debt, well…chances are you’ll be on the hook for it. In most cases, if you legitimately do not believe this debt is yours, say so in the letter. Tell them you don’t recall incurring this debt and ask politely if they can send you the documentation to help you remember. You must be very careful when you’re asking for debt validation because if your creditor suspects you’re doing this just to buy time, this might motivate them to dig in their heels and get more aggressive about collecting on that debt. Be very careful my friends.