Here’s how to exercise your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) to dispute a collection letter. By doing so, you can temporarily halt the collection process and get the information you need to make a sound decision. You’re also sending a clear message to the debt collector that you’re not going to be pushed around.
The FDCPA provides consumers the right to dispute and obtain validation of debt information. This is to ensure that the debt collector’s information is accurate. Debt collectors are required to inform consumers of their right to dispute the debt within five days of their initial communication. Be sure to check the collection letter for this notice. A debt collector’s failure to inform you of this right can result in stiff penalties.
Under the FDCPA, “validate” or “verification” means that the debt collector must provide:
the amount of the debt;
the name of the original creditor;
the name of the present creditor; and
a copy of the judgment, if applicable.
So how do you exercise this right? By mailing a validation notice to the debt collector within30 daysof receiving the collection letter. A sample validation notice is provided below or can be downloadedhere.
What should be included in the validation notice.
The notice should dispute the amount and/or validity of the debt, request the name of the original creditor, and request the debt collector “validate” the debt.
You can also request a payment history and any agreements supporting the debt. Debt collectors are not required to provide this information, but it never hurts to ask. You may be surprised to find that many debt collectors can’t – or won’t – provide this information. This can be particularly telling when deciding whether to challenge or settle the debt.
Always keep a copy of the validation notice for your records.
When dealing with debt collectors, all communications should be sent via Certified Mail, return receipt requested, so that there is evidence of the mailing and receipt. Always keep copy of the signed validation notice and tracking number.
When dealing with debt collectors, it’s also good practice to keep a copies of all letters and a log of phone calls including the date of the call, whom you spoke with, and the details of the conversation. This information can be crucial when it comes to establishing a violation.
A debt collector must cease collection efforts until the debt is validated.
As an added bonus, the FDCPA requires debt collectors to cease all collection efforts until the debt is validated. This includes phone calls and mailing further collection letters. Failure to do so can be a violation of federal law. And, if successful, consumers can recover statutory damages of up to $1,000, plus their actual damages, attorneys’ fees, and court costs.
What to do if you believe your rights were violated.
Remember – it’s the debt collector’s burden to “prove up” the debt; meaning that it owns it, you owe it, and the amount is correct. By exercising your federal rights, you’re reminding the debt collector of its burden and sending a clear message that you’re not going to be pushed around.
If a debt collector fails to provide you with notice of your right to dispute the debt, continues to contact you without validating the debt, or engages in behavior that is deceptive or hostile, I encourage you to talk with an attorney. Since the FDCPA requires the debt collector to pay your attorneys’ fees and costs if your case is successful, it may cost you little-to-nothing to fight back.