Within five days after first contacting you, federal and state law requires that a debt collector send you a written notice. This notice must contain at least the following information:
- The amount you owe
- The name of the creditor
- Notice that if you don’t dispute the debt in 30 days, it will be assumed valid by the debt collector.
- Notice of your right to request validation of the debt.
Requesting validation of the debt is crucial. It serves two purposes:
First, it requires the debt collector to provide proof that the debt is actually yours. This includes proof of the debt itself, and proof of assignment if the account is now owned by someone else. Even if the original account was yours, that doesn't automatically mean that the new company is entitled to collect it. Often, debt collectors will provide documentation that you might not otherwise have, which can be helpful in determining your options and/or defending a lawsuit (if necessary).
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the debt collector is prohibited from taking any further collection actions against you until it provides validation of the debt. There is no ‘due date’ for a response, so this prohibition applies forever until the debt is validated.
Because of this, it is important to always dispute the debt and request validation, if appropriate. A validation request must be in writing and sent within 30 days after you receive the debt collector's original letter. A sample template is included with Brine Consumer Law's free downloadable report Stop Drowning in Debt - FAQs About Massachusetts Consumer Debt Collections & Bankruptcy.
Finally, even if you don't dispute the debt (or didn't timely request validation) it is important to pay attention to everything debt collectors do. Keep every letter you get, and every voicemail you receive. For every phone call you get, write down who you spoke with and what they said as soon as possible. A sample call log template is also included with Brine Consumer Law's free downloadable report Stop Drowning in Debt - FAQs About Massachusetts Consumer Debt Collections & Bankruptcy. There are significant restrictions on what collectors and legally do and say. By keeping thorough notes, you may uncover debt collection violations that could be helpful.
If you're being harassed by debt collectors, contact Brine Consumer Law today to see how we may be able to help.