Taking on debt and trapping yourself in the cycle is never something for which to strive. Debt can keep you from achieving the things you want to and can make everything just that much harder.
Let’s say, however, while you’re working yourself out of your debt hole, you notice some oddities on your credit report. You’re responsible and check your report often, so it surprises you to see a loan you don’t remember taking out. Or perhaps, you see a loan you do recognize but notice it’s nearly double the amount you actually borrowed.
What do you do?
A debt verification letter can square this problem away quickly. Let’s take a look at what a debt verification letter is, what it isn’t and a sample that you can use to question some of your outstanding debts.
What is a debt validation letter?
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) requires debt collectors to follow a whole host of rules. Congress passed the FDCPA to protect consumers and keep them from paying debts they do not owe. Additionally, the law restricts how frequently a debt collector can contact you via phone.
One of the requirements of the FDCPA is that the debt collector in question send you a debt verification letter. This means that they have to provide a number of details about the loan in question.
They must send the debt letter to consumers at least five days after the collector makes first contact with the consumer. Note the important difference in terms here between verification and validation. What’s the difference?
Debt collectors must send you a debt validation letter when they initiate contact with you. People often confuse this as a debt verification letter but it contains less information. These letters, which any third-party debt collector must send by law, contain the amount someone owes on the debt and the name of the collector in question.
The validation letter will also have a number of statements of your rights, including: that they have assumed your debt to be valid unless you dispute in 30 days; a statement that the collector has 30 days to respond to you if you dispute the debt and ask for more information, and; that if you request more information about the initial creditor and debt that they must provide it in 30 days.
So what about the debt verification letter?
Remember that companies often use these terms interchangeably, so it’s important that you understand what each includes so that you get all the information you can. The debt validation letter may raise more questions than it answers for you.
For example, that letter may contain cryptic information such as 123 Debt Co. owning and collecting your debt, or another obscure company name. Additionally, if you do know where the debt came from, the amount may be different due to interest, fees and other late payment penalties.
This is where you need to start drafting and sending your verification letter. Here, you’re putting the debt collector on notice that you won’t be paying them a dime until you understand more about the debt.
Debt verification letters are particularly important to use if you have an overly aggressive debt collector. In short, collectors who don’t have enough information to actually collect the debt may come on very strong in order to get you to pay before you start asking too many questions. Asking for a debt verification letter can put the brakes on the collector quickly and may even force him to give up trying to collect.
If you receive a call from a collector, never, under any circumstances, say you owe the debt. State laws vary but it is possible that the statute of limitations on your debt has already expired.
This means that the collector is trying to collect on a debt that they can’t legally complete. However, if you say that you do own that debt, the clock could restart.
What should your letter look like? A standard, professional letter is always best. Never express emotion. Instead, simply state the facts as you know them and be sure you ask several key questions.
- Ask for the name and contact information of the original creditor.
- Ask why the collector believes you own the debt in the first place.
- Ask for a record of all owners of the debt.
- Ask for the amount and age of the debt.
- Ask under what authority the collector has to collect.
These questions may seem both self-explanatory and oddly specific. However, you’re now following a legal process that will hopefully lead to the expungement of the debt in the first place.
For example, if you simply need more information about a debt, say so. Or if you truly believe you don’t owe the debt at all, simply say so. Below is a sample of a letter written by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that asks for more information.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a number of sample letters available on their website. Note that you should augment the letter to fit your particular situation.