Ok, so you’ve been told a debt for which you’re responsible has gone to collections.
However, given the amount of fraud taking place these days and the fact human beings do make mistakes, paying immediately could well turn out to be a mistake. Before accepting ownership of a debt — or agreeing to pay on it in any way — you should always have the collector provide proof of your ownership.
This requires the crafting of a debt validation letter.
Avoid Reanimating Zombie Debt
In most states, as well as the District of Columbia, debt collectors have between three and ten years from the date the debt went delinquent to file a case in court to seek a judgment to force garnishment of your pay, the diversion on your income tax refund, or attachment of your bank accounts to resolve the debt.
However, lots of collection agencies will call people even after this period has passed to try to get money. Some companies specialize in buying old debts for pennies on the dollar for this purpose. However, all they can do is keep harassing you in an effort to get you to pay if the statute of limitations has run out on the debt.
On the other hand though, if they can get you to indicate you are responsible for the debt, the clock starts up again and they can take you to court. Thus, you have to be careful when you’re requesting the debt validation to avoid sounding like you think the debt is yours.
Here, it’s also important to note while they cannot secure a judgment against you, the debt is still owed and they can continue to pursue it.
What a Debt Validation Letter Does
The onus is always upon the collector to prove you owe the money in question. Requesting a debt validation letter will make the collector have to gather and communicate the following information to substantiate their claim.
- The amount of debt owed
- The name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed
- A statement of notice that the debt will be considered valid unless you dispute it within 30 days
- A statement of notice that if you disputes the debt in writing after getting the validation letter, they must obtain verification of the debt and mail it to you
- The name and address of the original creditor if you request it in writing within 30 days
It’s important to note you should only request a debt validation letter if you’re willing to deal with it if it turns out to be yours, either by paying it or implementing some form of credit card debt relief.
Don’t use this as a stalling tactic.
Crafting a Debt Validation Letter
You’ll find a number of boilerplate templates on the ‘net to help you craft an effective debt validation letter. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau provides the best ones we’ve seen, as they have samples to cover a wide variety of circumstances.
Keep in mind you’ll only have 30 days from the date you’re contacted to request the validation information. Moreover, you should always make sure you send the request by certified mail with a return receipt requested. Another plus, you can tell the collections agent to refrain from contacting you until they have proof you’ve received their validation information.
And yes, there are certain situations in which you’ll want to avoid sending this letter. Generally speaking a debt validation letter should only be employed when you’re concerned you’ve been contacted erroneously.