How to Demand Validation of a Debt From a Debt Collector


When you are contacted by a debt collector about a personal debt, you have the right to demand that the debt collector verify the debt before taking additional action to collect the debt. A federal law, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) requires that a debt collector inform you of your right to demand verification at the time of its initial contact with you. If the initial contact is not made in writing then, within five days of the initial contact, the debt collector must send you a written notice that describes your rights. Among the rights the debt collector must disclose is your right to demand that the debt collector validate your debt, and that you have thirty days to submit that demand.

Not all bills are subject to the FDCPA's notice requirements. The FDCPA applies to consumer debts, such as money that is owed or is alleged to be owed for normal household and family expenditures, including medical and dental bills, credit card debt, utilities, and car loans. The FDCPA does not apply to business debts, or to debts such as court fines or parking tickets. The FDCPA also does not apply to the original creditor's effort to collect a debt under its own name, instead applying only to collection efforts made under a different business name or through a third party debt collector.

When you receive your initial communication from a debt collector by mail, the inclusion of the following language is a strong indication that the debt is covered by the FDCPA:

This is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose

When initial contact is made by phone, the notice should be similar:

I am a debt collector representing [your creditor]. Information obtained during this communication will be used for the purpose of debt collection."

That warning, commonly known as the mini-Miranda warning, is required by the FDCPA to be included whenever a debt collector initiates contact with a consumer about an alleged debt.

When you receive the required notice from the debt collector, take note of its date. In most cases the date of the notice will be no more than a day or two before you received it. In some cases the date may be much earlier, suggesting that the debt collector may later try to dispute that your demand letter was timely. Whenever possible, send your demand for validation within thirty days of the date of the notice. It is sensible to use a method of delivery that includes delivery confirmation, so that you have an official record that reflects both when you mailed the letter to the debt collector and when it was received.

It is important to demand verification within the thirty day time frame defined by the FDCPA. Although many debt collectors will voluntarily verify a debt after that period expires, the FDCPA does not require them to do so and their failure to verify the debt will not trigger the penalty provisions of the FDCPA.

What Is Validation of a Debt

The FDCPA does not specifically define the steps that a debt collector is required to take in order to validate a debt. At a very minimum, the debt collector must:

  • Cease all collection efforts in relation to the portion of the debt for which validation has been requested;

  • Obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor,

  • Send a copy of the verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, to the consumer.

A debt collector cannot validate a debt by simply reciting information that is already in its files. Proper validation of a debt must come from the original creditor. Depending on the nature of the debt, validation may come in the form of a copy of a loan agreement, a statement of account, or perhaps a simple letter from a creditor confirming the debt. Creditors take the position that validation requirements are minimal.

Demanding Validation of a Debt

You may demand validation of a debt through a simple letter. Make sure that you keep a copy of your demand letter, along with any other correspondence or documentation relating to the debt, for your own records. Those records will be important in the event that you later attempt to prove that the debt collector violated the FDCPA or a similar state law.

Validation Demand Letter

The following letter is an example of a notice to a debt collector demanding validation of a debt:

Your Name
Your Address

Date

Debt Collector's Name
Debt Collector's Address

Subject: Debt Collection Against Your Name
Creditor Name: Creditor
Account No. Account Number

Dear Account Representative,

This letter is in response to your Letter / Phone Call dated Date, concerning the collection of the above referenced account.

I am requesting that you validate of this debt.

With your response, please also provide contact information for the original creditor.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Demanding That a Creditor Stop All Contact

It is possible to combine a letter demanding validation with an instruction that the debt collector cease any contact with you about the debt:

Your Name
Your Address

Date

Debt Collector's Name
Debt Collector's Address

Subject: Debt Collection Against Your Name
Creditor Name: Creditor
Account No. Account Number

Dear Account Representative,

This letter is in response to your Letter / Phone Call dated Date, concerning the collection of the above referenced account.

I am requesting that you validate of this debt.

With your response, please also provide contact information for the original creditor.

Pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 USC 1692c(c), to request to request that you cease all other communication to me about my account Account Number with Creditor.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Your Name

If you demand that a debt collector cease communication about the debt, the debt collector may contact you one more time to indicate that it is stopping further contact, to describe its policies or those of the original creditor following the receipt of an instruction to stop contact, or to notify you that it is taking a permitted action to collect the debt (such as filing a collection lawsuit).

Restrictions on Collection Activity After a Validation Request

A debt collector should not attempt to collect your debt prior to obtaining validation. If the debt collector contacts you and indicates that it is having difficulty with its records or files, and would like your assistance in verifying the debt, you should politely decline to help them: Such a request almost certainly means that they have been unable to obtain validation from the original creditor, and that they are hoping that you will provide them with the information they need to validate the debt and resume collection.

The FDCPA does not require that a creditor respond to your request for validation. A debt collector may instead cease collection activity, without providing any notice to you. A small number of states require under state law that a debt collector respond to a validation request within a defined time frame.

If a debt collector fails to validate a debt and resumes collection activity, your documentation of its failure may support a civil claim against the creditor under the FDCPA, or a basis for a regulatory agency such as your state's attorney general's office, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to take action against the debt collector.

Copyright © 2016 Aaron Larson, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was last reviewed or amended on Jul 29, 2016.