A debt verification letter is correspondence you can send to a debt collector to get more information about a debt or to start the dispute process. If you’re contacted by a debt collector and something doesn’t seem right about the collection agency or the debt itself, you can use a debt verification letter to learn more about the agency and the debt. This can help you dispute debts you don’t actually owe or identify potential debt collection scams.
What Is a Debt Verification Letter?
A debt verification letter is correspondence you sent to a debt collector to gather more information about a debt. You’ll usually send this as a follow-up to a debt validation letter. If you disagree with the debt collector’s details about the debt, you can use the debt verification letter to dispute the debt.
Debt Validation vs Debt Verification Letter: What’s the Difference?
These two letters sound similar, and sometimes you’ll hear the names used interchangeably. But there are important differences between these two types of correspondence.
A debt validation letter is a written notice that debt collectors are legally required to send you before they first contact you or within five days after their first contact. This letter should contain key details about the debt, such as the:
Amount of the debt
Name of the creditor
Debt collector’s mailing address and contact information
The validation letter should tell you when the 30-day validation period ends (more on this later). It should also include a detachable form that you can fill out and return to the debt collector to dispute the debt or request information.
A debt verification letter is a letter you write to a debt collector to dispute a debt or ask for more information about the debt. You typically send this letter in response to receiving a debt validation letter from the collection agency. You can use the detachable form included on the validation notice as a debt verification letter or you can write your own.
Your right to dispute a debt is outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This is the federal law that governs third-party debt collection practices.
Why Should You Send a Debt Verification Letter to a Debt Collector?
The main purpose of a debt verification letter is to protect you. This letter is your chance to confirm that the debt is yours, that the debt collector is authorized to collect the debt, and that you’re not paying more than you legally owe.
If you aren’t sure all the information in the debt validation letter is correct, it’s a good idea to dispute the debt until you’re certain. (If you don’t dispute the debt within 30 days, the debt collector can assume that you agree with all the information in the debt validation notice.) Your verification letter puts the debt collector on notice that you dispute the debt. It also shows the debt collector you’re serious and willing to fight against wrongful debt collection.
Legally, there isn’t any specific information debt collectors are required to provide beyond thedetails required in the debt validation notice. But if the debt collector has the information you request, they’re required to send you a copy.
The most common request in a debt verification letter is for the original creditor’s name and address. Here are some additional questions you may want to ask:
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 (if your state requires licensing)
If you send a debt verification letter disputing the debt, the debt collector must respond. They may not be allowed to contact you or report the debt to thecredit reporting agencies until they’ve responded (more on that below). Even after the debt collector has responded to your dispute, they must still mark the debt as “disputed” if they report it to the credit reporting bureaus. A debt that’s marked “disputed” won’t affect yourcredit score while the dispute is being investigated (usually around 30 days).
Send your debt verification letter via certified mail with a return receipt requested. This provides proof of when the letter was sent and when the debt collector received it.
What Should a Debt Verification Letter Include? (+ Letter Template Link)
A good debt verification letter should include:
Your name and contact information
The debt collector’s name and contact information (found on the debt validation letter)
A short statement of the letter’s intent
A list of specific questions you have about the debt amount, who owns the debt, how old the debt is (to assess weather it’s past the statute of limitations), who originally held the debt, who holds the debt now and their authority to collect it
Closing paragraph reiterating that you have questions about the debt and requesting the debt be considered in dispute
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides an excellent downloadable template for a debt verification letter. The CFPB’s template provides several specific questions you can modify to include in your own letter. Use any that are relevant to your specific situation.
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How Long Do You Have to Send a Debt Verification Letter to a Collection Agency?
You can send a dispute verification letter at any time, but to take full advantage of your legal rights, it’s best to send it within 30 days of receiving your debt validation letter. This 30-day period is called the validation period. The debt validation letter should tell you the specific date your validation period expires.
So long as you send the letter within this timeline, the debt collector must stop trying to collect the debt from you until they respond to the dispute. During this time, the debt collector is also prohibited from contacting you for purposes of collecting the debt or reporting the disputed debt to the credit reporting agencies.
If you don’t respond within the 30-day validation period, the debt collector can assume the debt is valid and continue making phone calls or contacting you about payment unless you send a cease and desist letter. You can still send a debt verification letter after the validation period ends, and the debt collector has a legal obligation to respond, but they can continue their collection efforts in the meantime.
In other words, no matter when you send the debt verification letter, once the debt collector receives it, they must answer it in writing.
How Long Does a Collection Agency Have To Respond to a Debt Verification Letter?
There is no law governing the time frame debt collectors have to respond to debt verification letters. But if you’ve sent the letter within the 30-day dispute period, the debt collector may be motivated to respond quickly because otherwise they can’t continue their collection activities.
The Debt Collector Responded to My Verification Request — Now What?
After the debt collector responds to your debt verification letter, you should assume that they’ll continue to try to collect the debt from you.
Take this seriously! The collector can take legal action against you if you ignore them. If the debt collector wins a lawsuit against you, they can get a court order to garnish your paycheck or bank account.
If you believe you owe the debt, make a plan to repay it. You can try to negotiate a debt settlement agreement with the debt collector or work out a payment plan. If this is one of many debts you’re struggling to repay, reach out for additional help.
You can get a free session with a credit counselor who will go over your debt relief options. Having someone to help you make a plan and to negotiate with your creditors on your behalf can be a big stress reliever.
I Disagree With the Debt Collector’s Response — Now What?
If the debt collector maintains that the debt is valid, but you disagree, you can continue to dispute the debt. If you haven’t already, send documentation proving you paid the debt or that you owe a different debt amount. The CFPB advises sending copies of canceled checks or credit card statements that prove you made payments or paid off the debt. (Always keep the originals!)
If you settled the debt or made an agreement with the original creditor, send copies of the settlement agreement. If you don’t have access to this information, contact the original creditor to ask for a letter stating that you paid off the debt or a copy of your payment history.
Also, keep a record of all communication you have with the debt collector. This could include letters and written notices as well as a log of phone conversations (including the date, time, and topic discussed). When dealing with debt collectors, the CFPB advises that you be careful what you say regarding the debt. Remember that the debt collector will likely be recording the conversation or keeping their own records.
If this doesn’t resolve the situation, you have a few options. You can submit a complaint with the CFPB and/or to your state attorney general’s office. Either organization may be able to help facilitate a resolution. Alternatively, you can seek legal help. If you win the case, the legal fees may be paid by the other party.
The Debt Collector Didn’t Respond to My Verification Request — Now What?
Sometimes you’ll stop hearing from the debt collector altogether after you ask for verification of the debt. This is why verification and dispute letters are so powerful!
Here are a few reasons the debt collector may not respond to your letter:
The debt collection was a scam.
The debt collector needs more time to find the information you requested. If the original creditor charged off the debt and it changed hands several times, the collection agency may struggle to find information about the debt.
The collection agency knows that the debt is an old debt (meaning it’s beyond the statute of limitations) and they can’t sue you to collect the debt. This often occurs with credit card debt.
Remember: If you sent a verification letter within the 30-day validation period, the debt collector can’t legally try to collect the debt from you (unless you sent the verification letter after the 30-day dispute time frame).
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is a state 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 you to collect the debt. That said, it’s common for debt collectors to file a lawsuit anyway. In this case, it’s up to you to assert a statute of limitations defense. To learn more about how, read our article 3 Steps To Take if a Debt Collector Sues You.
Why Is the Debt Still on My Credit Report?
If you sent a verification letter disputing the debt, it must be marked as “disputed” on your credit report — if it’s included at all. Unpaid debts and accounts in collections will hurt your credit score. You can dispute these debts and have them removed from your credit report by contacting the credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian).
A debt verification letter is a letter you send the debt collector asking them to verify details about a debt. The verification letter gives you a chance to ask for information that can help you dispute the debt and/or establish legal defenses to collection efforts. One of the most prominent defenses will involve the statute of limitations.
Most debt verification letters are sent in response to a debt validation letter, which is a written notice you should receive from a debt collector before or soon after the first time they contact you. This letter is intended to establish the validity of the debt. If it doesn’t have enough information or you still have questions about the alleged debt, write a debt verification letter to follow up.