What Is a Debt Validation Letter?

Quick Answer

A debt validation letter is a document from a debt collector providing information about a debt you may owe. Collection agencies are required by law to provide validation notices and give you time to dispute the debt.

Casual man at home reading a letter while checking his mail in the kitchen.

If you've been contacted by a debt collection agency about a debt you may owe, it's important to understand your rights. Debt collectors are required by law to validate certain details about the debt in question to help you determine whether it's really your responsibility.

Debt validation letters provide these details, along with instructions on how to dispute it. Here's what you need to know.

What Is a Debt Validation Letter?

A debt validation letter, also known as a debt validation notice, is a document that provides details about a debt you may owe to a collection agency. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires collection agencies to provide debt validation letters to protect consumers from being asked to pay debts that don't belong to them.

Note that a debt validation letter is not the same as a debt verification letter, which is what you can send to a collector if you want to dispute information found in the validation notice—more on that in a minute.

When Should I Request a Debt Validation Letter?

Federal law requires collection agencies to provide debt validation notices, so you don't need to request one.

In some cases, a collector may provide the validation letter as its initial communication to you. If not, they must provide it within five days of their first communication, either in the mail or via email.

What a Debt Validation Letter Should Include

The purpose of a debt validation letter is to help you determine whether you owe the debt that's being collected and that the details of your financial obligation are accurate. As such, collection agencies are required to provide the following information:

  • A statement that the notice is coming from a debt collector
  • Your name and mailing information
  • The collection agency's name and mailing information
  • The name of the creditor (or creditors) you owe the debt to
  • The account number associated with the debt (if any)
  • The current amount owed, along with an itemization detailing interest, fees, payments and credits

Once you receive the notice, you'll have 30 days to dispute it by writing a verification letter. Your validation notice will include information you can use to respond to the collection agency, along with the date by which you need to reply.

How to Request a Debt Verification

The debt collection process is far from perfect, and it's not unheard of for debt collection agencies—or a scammer posing as one—to claim that someone owes a debt that they've already paid or doesn't even belong to them.

Even if the debt does belong to you, you have the right to dispute it if it's past the statute of limitations for collection or the amount is wrong.

Once you receive a debt validation notice, review it promptly and carefully. If you don't respond with a debt verification request within the 30-day dispute period, the collector will assume the debt is legitimate. It can become more difficult to assert your rights once the process moves forward.

What to Include in a Debt Verification Letter

The information you provide in your debt verification letter will depend on the reason for your dispute. In addition to asserting that the debt doesn't belong to you, is paid in full or is inaccurate, you can request the following information:

  • Details about the original creditor
  • The original loan agreement that proves your obligation to repay
  • Documentation showing the age of the debt and the original delinquency date
  • A comprehensive itemization including dates for added fees and interest
  • The collection agency's license to collect in your state and the information for the state agency that issued the license

If you've already paid off the debt, it can also help to include documentation proving payment. If you're unsure about what to include in a debt verification letter or how to word it, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers several sample letters you can use as a starting point.

Note that once you send a debt verification letter, the collection agency is required to pause collection efforts until it's provided an adequate response to your request.

Next Steps

Before you send a verification letter disputing the debt, make a copy for your records. You may also want to send the dispute via certified mail so you have proof that it was delivered.

  • If the collection agency can't provide adequate documentation for its claim and still tries to collect, you can file a complaint with the CFPB, the Federal Trade Commission and your state's attorney general.
  • If the collection agency verifies the debt, consider asking whether the collection agency is willing to negotiate to accept less than the amount you owe. Lawsuits can be expensive, so the collector may be willing to accept less to avoid additional legal costs.
  • If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you, you can opt to defend yourself or hire an attorney to represent you.

Once you've paid the debt, take steps to rebuild your credit and monitor your credit score regularly to track your progress.