Debt validation is an important tool in avoiding a lawsuit from a collection agency over a debt. Lack of proper validation gives you grounds to have the debt removed from your credit report and successfully fight a lawsuit, should one be levied against you. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, allows consumers to request a debt validation at any time. You are only allowed to request debt validation from a third party debt collector. If your debt is still owned by the original creditor, even if it has been assigned to the collections department, debt validation cannot help you.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Validating your debt is an important tool that can help you possibly avoid a lawsuit with a collection agency. You can validate your debt by sending an official validation letter requesting written proof of your debt to the collector in question. This letter should be sent as Certified Mail.
Explore the 30-Day Notice
Disregard the notice on your credit report giving you 30 days to dispute the debt before the debt will be considered valid. This does not mean that the debt will be considered valid by the credit bureaus and the courts if you do not file a timely dispute. It simply means that the collection agency will wait 30 days for a response from you and if one does not arrive, the agency will assume that the debt is valid and begin collection activity in earnest. You may legally dispute a debt at any time.
Prepare a Letter
Type up your debt validation letter. In your letter, request written proof that the debt belongs to you, the name of the original creditor, and proof that the collection agency is licensed to collect in your state. Do not state that you are refusing to pay the debt. This will be interpreted as an acknowledgment that the debt belongs to you and kept in a file to be used in court if the collection agency ever decides to sue you.
Don't Volunteer Information
Avoid including identifying information such as your Social Security number or signature in your debt validation letter. Collection agencies commonly have no information on a debtor outside of the debtor’s name and address. Any information you volunteer that the collection agency does not already have will be used to validate the debt — whether it is yours or not. Including a signature is particularly dangerous, since signatures can easily be moved to other documents.
Send Your Letter
Send your validation letter by Certified Mail: Return Receipt Requested. You will be asked to fill out a small green card with your name and address. The recipient will have to sign for the letter. The signature and date are recorded on the card, which is then sent back to you. Keep your receipt as proof that your debt validation letter was delivered in the event you do not receive a response.
Wait for a Response
According to the FDCPA, a collection agency must validate your debt before resuming collection activity. Collection activity includes, but is not limited to: sending letters, calling you on the telephone, and updating your credit file.
Evaluate the Response
Evaluate the validation if and when it arrives. The majority of collection agencies will simply mail you a printout containing your name and the amount of the debt. This does not constitute validation, since any name and amount may be typed out and mailed to a debtor. If this occurs, you must send a second validation letter requesting proper proof in the form of copies of your signed contract with the original creditor, or the collection agency’s contract with the original creditor to collect on the debt.