Q. I received a letter from a collection agency saying there is a collection that I owe. The letter also says if I do not respond within thirty days questioning the validity of the debt, they will assume the debt is valid. What the heck does that mean?
A. The collection agency is actually following the letter of the law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act stipulates this very language be used in the first written contact with the alleged debtor (FDCPA section 809).
What this means is that once you receive this letter, you have 30 days in which to request validation of the debt. If after 30 days you do not respond, the collection agency can assume the debt is valid and can actively pursue debt collection efforts.
What kind of proof must the collection agency provide? The standards for meeting the threshold of debt validation are actually quite minimal. A copy of a past statement, a canceled check or a copy of the financial contract (even an unsigned contract) is enough to meet the legal requirements. What won’t cut the mustard? A computer print out of the debt with the collection agency’s letterhead.
Within the initial 30 day period, once you request debt validation, if the company cannot meet written requirements, the collection agency cannot continue collection activity. If they do continue collection activities without validating, they have violated the law and you can take them to court and sue for $1000 plus any actual damages you may have incurred.
Once the initial 30 days has past you can still request debt validation. However, after the initial period has passed, the collection agency is not required to stop collection activities, even if they don’t provide the validation. Sending in your request for debt validation within the first 30 days is a powerful protection for you. It can even persuade the collection agency to remove of the debt from your credit report.
Still have questions? The details of the debt validation process can be confusing. We have written up all the specifics in this article.