The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act contains a provision by which consumers have the right to request validation for unsecured debts held by collection agencies. If debt collectors from a collection agency are contacting you concerning a debt you supposedly owe, sending a debt validation request requires the company to mail you proof of your debt. You must put your debt validation request in writing. You can only send a debt validation request to a collection agency. These letters are not valid with original creditors.
Debt Validation Letters
All debt validation letters vary. In general, its best to write your own debt validation request rather than simply printing a form letter for debt validation. Writing your own debt validation letter gives you the opportunity to include specific details about your dealings with the company and any action you intend to take if the collection agency fails to send you proof that you owe the debt.
The FDCPA notes that consumers are also entitled to the name and address of the debt's original creditor. If you do not know the original creditor for the debt, you can include this request in the request for debt validation.
Sending the Letter
After receiving your written request for validation, a collection agency cannot commence with debt collection activity until it mails you a validation. Doing so is an FDCPA violation and leaves the company subject to a lawsuit. Unfortunately, unless you have proof that you sent the collection agency a debt validation letter, you have little recourse if the company refuses to acknowledge your request.
The U.S. Postal Service offers return receipts with both registered and certified mail. A return receipt notifies you of the exact date and time that the collection agency received your debt validation letter -- providing you with proof of the request should the need to file a lawsuit arise.
Proof of Debt
After receiving a request for debt validation, collection agencies often send consumers computer printouts reflecting the company's ownership of an account in the debtor's name. This constitutes a legitimate debt validation. Although a printout does not prove that you incurred the debt, only that the collection agency opened an account in your name, the FDCPA does not stipulate that the company must provide you with specific paperwork in order to meet the legal requirements for validating a debt. You can request a copy of your signed contract with the original creditor, but the collection agency does not have to provide you with this information to validate your debt.
Avoid signing your debt validation letter. Type or print your name instead. In the past, unethical debt collectors have lifted consumer signatures on debt validation letters and applied the signatures to statements agreeing to pay or contracts the debtor never signed.
In addition, should the collection agency contact you requesting additional information after receiving your debt validation request, do not respond. It is the collection agency's responsibility to validate your debt with the information it already has available. Providing the company with additional information only helps it pursue you more efficiently for a debt you are not certain you owe.