If you're sued for credit card debt, it's not sufficient for the debt buyer to simply assert that you owe them money. The company has to provide proof. Although there's no specific statute itemizing what does and does not constitute proof, court rulings have established some guidelines. Ultimately, though, the question comes down to who the judge or jury believes. If your evidence outweighs the debt buyer's evidence, you'll likely win the suit.
Proper Debt Verification
Courts historically have ruled that evidence of previous payments accompanied by specific account information is sufficient to prove a debt. The debt company, then, could provide a ledger itemizing your charges and payments, a copy of a check written from your bank account or a statement from the original creditor itemizing your payment history and account information.
Improper Debt Verification
Mere assertions from the original creditor or the debt buyer are insufficient. Consequently, the initial account number, an affidavit or a printout from the debt collection company won't prove you owe the debt. Similarly, a history of collection attempts, a stack of demand letters or bills sent to you by the debt buyer are insufficient.
Questioning Evidence Veracity
Even if the debt buyer provides evidence that courts generally consider acceptable, you still can contest that evidence. For example, if you have proof that your identity was stolen or that it was impossible for you to have made a specific transaction, you can counter the debt buyer's claim. You also can call into question the veracity of the evidence itself by cross-examining witnesses if you suspect the evidence was forged. If the debt buyer provides documents without offering someone who can testify to the documents' validity, this is hearsay. If you object, the court won't admit the evidence.
Providing Your Own Evidence
You also can provide your own evidence countering the debt collector's claim. Evidence that you attempted to close the account, that you lost your card and contacted the original creditor or that you filed a police report for a stolen card can help. You also can prove that the debt is outside your state's statute of limitations. In this case, you can't be sued even if the debt is yours.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.