What To Do if You Receive a Debt Validation Letter

Paying off debt isn’t fun, but if your debt goes into collections, it becomes even more frustrating. 

When debt collectors contact you about a debt that you owe, they must also provide you with a “debt validation letter.” This letter is so that you know exactly how much you’re being told to pay and why. 

Debt collectors are required to give you specific details on any debt they claim you owe. It’s crucial to know your rights and the necessary steps to confirm whether you actually owe this amount — before you send any payment.

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  • If a collection agency contacts you about a debt, they must also provide a debt validation letter within five days.
  • Before sending payment, check the debt validation letter carefully to see if the debt is valid and belongs to you.
  • If you’re unsure if a debt is valid, send a debt verification letter to the collection agency requesting further information.

What Is a Debt Validation Letter? 

A debt validation letter is a document that collection agencies must provide to you. 

It is required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and debt collectors must provide it within five days of their initial contact with you. 

Here’s what should be included in a debt validation letter:

  • A statement that this is a debt collector 
  • Name and address of the debt collector 
  • Your name and mailing address
  • Account number for the debt 
  • The name of the creditor you owe
  • Current amount owed
  • Itemization of the debt, including interest and fees
  • Information on how to respond to the debt collector 
  • End date for 30-day dispute period

Why Do You Need a Debt Validation Letter?

Unfortunately, finance scams are everywhere. You don’t want to be bullied into paying or confused by aggressive scammers. 

Not only that, but even legit debt collectors make mistakes. Their records may be incorrect, and you might be targeted for a debt you’ve already settled. The debt may even seem legit, but the amount could be off. You could also be the victim of fraud. 

That’s why you need to be sure the debt is actually yours. 

It’s easy to be convinced by an official-looking letter or angry phone call, but the bottom line is you should always verify any debt you supposedly owe before sending the collector money. 

Also, while you might be tempted to ignore a collection agency’s calls, that actually works against you. The agency won’t simply go away. By not questioning or disputing a debt, you’re essentially accepting it — and the collection agency will assume the debt is accurate. 

READ MORE: How Does Debt Consolidation Work and Is It Right for You?

Debt Validation vs. Debt Verification Letter

A debt verification letter is something different than a debt validation letter. 

While collection agencies are required to send you a debt validation letter within five days of their first contact with you, a debt verification letter is a document you must send. It is a request from you for more information about the debt and whether the amount is accurate.

You should send a debt verification letter if you:

  • Believe you do not owe this debt
  • Need more information about the debt
  • Want to manage how the debt collector contacts you

If you don’t follow up within 30 days, the collector will assume the debt is valid. The debt verification letter forces the agency to check their records and confirm everything they say is accurate. 

Always double-check the debt collector’s claims. Don’t pay more than necessary, and don’t pay a debt that doesn’t belong to you. 

Debt Verification Letter Template

Sending a debt verification letter doesn’t make you seem difficult or irresponsible. In fact, you might be writing it to ensure that you pay the correct amount to the correct creditor (you don’t want to send $2,000 if you only owe $1,000). 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has several templates for debt verification letters. You can write a letter asking for more information, or stating that you don’t owe this money, or another option. 

Be sure to send this within 30 days of receiving your debt validation letter. 

Here’s a variation of the CFPB’s template if you believe a debt isn’t yours: 

[Your name]

[Your return address] 

[Date]

[Debt collector name and address]

Re:  [debt account number, if available]

Dear [Debt collector],

I am responding to your contact about collecting a debt. You contacted me by [phone/mail], on [date] and identified the debt as [include debt details you were given]. I do not have any responsibility for the debt you’re trying to collect. [Add specific reasons, if applicable.]

If you have good reason to believe that I am responsible for this debt, mail me the documents proving this. Stop all other communication with me and with this address, and record that I dispute having any obligation for this debt. If you stop trying to collect this debt and send it to another company, please notify them that it is disputed. If you report it to a credit bureau or have already done so, please report that the debt is disputed.

Thank you for your cooperation. 

Sincerely,

[Your name]

How To Deal with Debt Collectors

Don’t panic if you’re contacted by debt collectors. 

You have rights and you don’t have to send anyone any money if they haven’t proved the debt is yours.

Here’s what to do if you’re contacted by a debt collector:

  • Ask for a debt validation letter as soon as possible. 
  • Avoid giving sensitive information over the phone and never before receiving a debt validation letter.
  • If you don’t receive a debt validation letter or want to dispute the debt after reading it, send a debt verification letter. 
  • Keep written records of all communication with the debt collector, and send your debt verification letter by certified mail with a return receipt. 
  • If the debt collector fails to respond, file a complaint with the CFPB

Debt collectors cannot harass, abuse, or threaten you. They also cannot contact you at wildly inconvenient times and can’t lie or mislead you. You have rights, and if you think they’re being violated, contact the CFPB. 

READ MORE: How To Pay Off Credit Card Debt

What to do after a debt is verified (or not)

If the debt is verified, you’ll have to pay it. 

You can ask the collection agency if they’ll accept a smaller payment to settle the matter. (Debt collectors often prefer receiving something rather than nothing.) If they accept a lower offer, be sure to get it in writing before sending a single cent.

But if the debt’s not yours, contact all three credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). 

If the debt is showing on your credit reports with them, you can dispute it. Each bureau will have its own process for disputing a debt.

READ MORE: How To Check Your Credit Score for Free

FAQs

What happens if a debt collector can’t verify a debt?

If the debt can’t be verified, the debt collector must stop trying to collect payment. They also cannot report the debt to the credit bureaus or sue you. 

What proof do debt collectors have to provide?

Debt collectors must send you written proof of the debt, such as a copy of the original bill showing the amount you owe. They must also include the name of the creditor, the account number for the debt, and any interest and fees included in the debt amount.

TL;DR

A debt validation letter is what a collection agency must send to you if they claim you owe a debt. It must include information on what you owe and who you owe it to.

A debt verification letter is a letter that you send to the collection agency if you believe that a debt isn’t yours or isn’t accurate and you need more information.

Debt collectors can seem scary, but you have rights and they can’t harass or threaten you. If you’re contacted by a collection agency, make sure you get all the information before sending any money.

For more tips on managing debt, check out these episodes of the Erika Taught Me podcast:

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I'm an award-winning lawyer and personal finance expert featured in Inc. Magazine, CNBC, the Today Show, Business Insider and more. My mission is to make personal finance accessible for everyone. As the largest financial influencer in the world, I'm connected to a community of over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I'm also the host of the podcast Erika Taught Me. You might recognize me from my viral tagline, "I read the fine print so you don't have to!"

I'm a graduate of Georgetown Law, where I founded the Georgetown Law Entrepreneurship Club, and the University of Notre Dame. I discovered my passion for personal finance after realizing I was drowning in over $200,000 of student debt and needed to take action-ultimately paying off my student loans in under 2 years. I then spent years as a corporate lawyer representing Fortune 500 companies, but I quit because I realized I wanted to have an impact; I wanted to help real people and teach them that you can create a financial future for yourself.

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Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.