This is probably the most effective weapon a debtor has against debt collectors. Basically, when someone contacts to you trying to collect a debt, it is your right to have this debt validated.
This essentially means that you have a right to demand proof that you really owe this debt, proof that you owe it to THEM, and a full accounting of the amount of the debt, including the production of any legal agreements you may have signed.
On the page entitled "Sample Validation Letter" you will find samples of letter you can edit and adjust to your particular case.
I would advise you to do what I have personally done. Ask for anything that occurs to you that may make them desist from continuing to pursue the debt, or at least delay the process as much as possible. I say this because it isn't illegal to ask for
It is important to note that the collection agency has to send you a written notice within 5 days of the first contact. I can tell you by personal experience that his is one thing they often ignore and you can use it as leverage.
The FDCPA gives you certain rights as long as you request this validation within 30 days of the first written notice. They must immediately stop all attempts to collect this debt until they have provided competent validation. If they do continue you might be entitled to compensation.
There is no time limit for them to provide the validation, but until they do they cannot legally collect from you.
The burden of proof is on the collection agency, not the debtor. You donít have to prove you donít owe. The collection agency is the one that has to prove that you do. Don't let them try to turn the tables on you by requesting certain types of documentation from you. You DON'T have to provide them with anything. That is their SOLE responsibility.
It is not written into the FDCPA exactly what constitutes debt validation. However, using common sense you would compare it to someone knocking on your door and demanding payment for a certain debt. You would certainly want this person to provide proof that you really owe THEM the exact AMOUNT they claim.
Your approach to this should depend on who is contacting you. If itís the original creditor, or an internal collection department of the original creditor, the FDCPA does not apply. If itís a collection agency acting on behalf of the original creditor, the FDCPA does apply.
If the debt has been sold to someone else, this is when you have the most leverage, and the most motivation. Once the debt is out of the hands of the original creditor, it has entered the junk debt circuit. Morally, I donít feel compelled to satisfy a debt owned by bottom-feeders in the business of buying debt for a couple of pennies on the dollar and then inflating the debt as much as they can to go after down-and-out people who spend many a sleepless nights with these vultures hounding and threatening them.
In my personal experience, I always ask for everything I can think of when asking for validation. Let them worry about what is necessary in case it goes to court.
Only the court can finally decide if you owe the debt or not, and the amount. If they judge against you they will enter what is called a judgment.
In general, Do not ignore a collection agency, but deal with them only through the mail and always send your correspondence certified, return receipt requested.
At the end they might take the matter to the courts and get a money judgment by default against you if you don't show up. With that they can take money from your bank accounts, garnish your wages, or even send a court officer to your home and levy your belongings, which can be very embarrassing.
Important note: Even a judgment, when it is sold, has to be validated. Suppose the original creditor sold the debt to a bottom feeder and this bottom feeder gets a judgment against you for that debt. After a while they decide to sell it to another bottom feeder. The new creditor will notify you that you owe them and youíll fire back asking for validation. They need to send you a copy of the judgment and prove ownership. You must make sure they can give you a warrant for satisfaction of the judgment which is filed with the court to prove you paid it. If they can't issue the warrant the judgment may still show up in the records as unpaid. An unpaid judgment may bring further consequences, for instance, you would have to clear it at the closing if you refinance or sell your home.
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