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Using Debt Validation and Debt Verification Letters

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In a Nutshell

Despite the similar-sounding names, these are two different types of letters. It’s easy to get them confused, so you need to make sure you’re using the terms properly to take full advantage of your legal rights.

Written by Attorney Curtis Lee
Updated August 16, 2021

When it comes to dealing with debt collectors and debt collection agencies, you’re likely to come across two important types of documents. These include debt verification and debt validation letters. These sound similar but are different in how they apply to the debt collection process and your rights as a borrower. To take full advantage of the legal protections offered by either document, you’ll need to understand the difference between the two and how they work. 

Validation Request vs. Debt Verification 

Despite the similar-sounding names, these are two different types of letters. It’s easy to get them confused, so you need to make sure you’re using the terms properly to take full advantage of your legal rights.

Debt Validation Letter 

The purpose of the debt validation letter is to give you basic information about a debt someone is trying to collect from you. One of the key ways to tell the difference between debt validation and verification letters is that a debt collector sends you a debt validation letter. In contrast, you send a debt collector a debt verification letter. The debt validation letter is often sent within five days of the debt collector’s first contact with you. If you don’t receive one within 10 days of first contact, you should ask for one the next time the debt collector or collection agency contacts you.

If the debt collection agency doesn’t respond to your request for a debt validation letter, they violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). You can report this violation to any of the following:

In addition to filing a complaint, you can also bring a civil suit to recover actual damages or $1,000, plus attorney’s fees and court costs.

When you receive the debt validation letter, it must include the following information:

  • The amount of the debt;

  • The creditor you owe the debt to; 

  • Notice that if you don’t dispute the debt within 30 days, the debt collector may assume the debt is valid;

  • Notice that you have the right to dispute the debt within 30 days and if you make such a dispute, the debt collector must verify the debt; and

  • Notice that you have the right to request the address and name of the creditor where the debt originated within 30 days of receiving the debt validation letter.

If a debt collection company is trying to collect a debt from you that you believe is incorrect, the debt validation letter provides useful information to contest the debt. It also starts the 30-day period for you to challenge the debt’s validity. Regardless of whether you believe the debt is valid or not, you should submit a debt verification letter to the debt collector after you receive the debt validation letter.

Debt Verification Letter 

Unlike the debt validation letter, a debt verification letter is sent by you to the debt collector. If you have any questions about a debt, you should write and send this letter to the debt collector. In this letter, you can ask almost anything about the debt. So if you want more information about the debt, don’t be afraid to ask. But understand that legally, the debt collector only needs to give you information concerning

  • The name and address of the original creditor; 

  • The balance owed on the debt; and

  • The name of the borrower.

Despite these limitations, it might still be a good idea to ask the debt collector additional questions, such as:

  • Why the debt collector believes you owe the debt

  • The age of the debt, including when the last payment was made

  • Whether the statute of limitations has run out on the debt

  • If applicable, when the debt collector purchased the debt

  • If the debt collector is licensed to collect the debt as required by state law

The answers to these questions can help you confirm the debt is yours, that you haven’t paid it already, and that the debt collector is authorized to collect the debt. When you send the debt verification letter, do so using certified mail with a return receipt requested. This provides proof of when you sent the letter and when the debt collector received the letter.

If you send the debt verification letter within 30 days of receiving the debt validation letter, the debt collector must stop trying to collect the debt from you until they can confirm the debt is yours. During this time, the debt collector is also prohibited from contacting you for purposes of collecting the debt.

If your debt verification letter goes out after the 30-day deadline has passed, the debt collector still must respond to it. But because they can assume the debt is valid, they can continue making phone calls to you and taking other steps to collect the debt during the debt verification process. No matter when you send the debt verification letter, once the debt collector receives it, they must answer it in writing.

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Disputing Validity of the Debt 

You don’t have to ask for a debt validation letter or send a debt verification letter. But it’s often a good idea to do so if you don’t:

  • Recognize the debt; 

  • Recognize the original creditor;

  • Recognize the debt collection agency that contacted you; and/or

  • Agree with the amount owed.

Also, trust your gut. If something feels off or unusual about the debt collector, it doesn’t hurt to make them confirm they and the debt are legitimate. Even legitimate attempts to collect a debt from you could feel fishy because the debt collector may know that when push comes to shove, they have no legal method of getting the debt from you. This could occur if the statute of limitations has run out.

The Statute of Limitations for Debt Collections 

In the realm of debt collection, a statute of limitations is a law that determines how long a debt collector or creditor has to sue a borrower for a debt that’s in default. Once the deadline passes, a creditor or debt collection agency doesn’t have the legal right to sue the borrower to collect the debt. Sometimes, a creditor will still file a lawsuit, so it’s up to the borrower to assert a statute of limitations defense. Another important consideration is that if you make a payment on the debt, it’ll reset the statute of limitations “clock.”

Each state will have its own law concerning the statute of limitations for bringing a debt collection lawsuit, but in most states, the deadline is three to 10 years from the date of the default. Even if the statute of limitations prevents a debt collector from taking legal action against you, a debt collector may still contact you to try and collect the debt. The debt collector hopes that you’ll pay the debt not knowing the statute of limitations has run out or that you make a small payment on the debt and reset the statute of limitations allowing them to sue you.

This is why sending a debt verification letter is important. It’ll give you the opportunity to ask the debt collector if they still have the right to sue you to recover the debt. You can also ask for information about the last payment date, which will help you decide for yourself if the statute of limitations has run out or not.

Debt Collector Response to Verification Request 

If the debt collector verifies your debt after you send them a debt verification letter, you should assume that they’ll continue to try to recover the debt from you. This could include filing a lawsuit against you or using collection efforts that don’t involve a courtroom. But what does it mean if they can’t (or won’t) verify the debt?

Unsuccessful Verification of the Debt 

A debt collector may not be able to verify a debt for one or more reaons. First, it’s part of a scam and the scammer was trying to trick you into thinking you owed a debt that didn’t exist or that you already paid off. If this applies to your situation, after sending the debt verification letter, you probably won’t hear from them again.

Second, the debt collector and the debt are both legitimate, but the debt collector needs more time to find the necessary information to answer your questions. This might happen for debts that get sold multiple times, which makes it harder to identify the original creditor. Keep in mind that federal law doesn’t require the debt collector to respond to your debt verification letter within a certain time frame after receiving it.

Third, the collection agency knows that the statute of limitations prevents them from suing you to collect the debt. This often occurs with credit card debt. But the collection agency will avoid bringing up that issue or ignore you if you bring it up. The hope is that you won’t know or understand how the statute of limitations works and pay the debt to avoid getting sued.

Fourth, the debt collector never intends to respond to your debt verification letter. This means that without verifying the debt, they can’t legally try to collect the debt from you. But the debt collector won’t tell you this and might still contact you and convince you to pay the debt. This is why it’s important for you to keep track of the status of the debt verification letter. Until the collection agency responds to it in a way that verifies the debt, they can’t try to collect the debt from you. 

Also, if the debt isn’t verified, it shouldn’t be on your credit report. If it is, improve your credit score by contacting the credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). You can explain what’s going on and they should take care of it. During this process, it helps to have a copy of the debt verification letter and the certified and return receipts proving when you sent it and that the debt collector received it.

Let’s Summarize…

The law requires a debt collector to send you a debt validation letter with information about the debt and an explanation of some of your rights concerning the debt. If they don’t provide you with this letter, you can sue them and/or report them to the FTC, CFPB, and your state’s attorney general’s office.

A debt verification letter is a letter you send the debt collector asking them to validate a debt. The verification letter also gives you a chance to ask for information that can help you establish legal defenses to collection efforts. One of the most prominent defenses will involve the statute of limitations. 

The ability to ask for a debt validation letter and send a debt verification letter gives you a chance to protect yourself from scammers. It also lets you take on unscrupulous debt collectors who are trying to trick you into paying a debt they have no legal right to collect from you.

Written By:

Attorney Curtis Lee


Curtis Lee is a writer and co-owner at Marvel Hill Freelance. Curtis earned his Bachelor of Science in Business from Wake Forest University and his Juris Doctor from Villanova University School of Law. After graduating law school, Curtis had the honor of clerking for a state cou... read more about Attorney Curtis Lee

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