What to do if, out of the blue, you get a letter from a company you’ve never heard of (for example, Midland Credit Management, RAB Performance, Encore, Asset Acceptance, CACH, Gemini Asset Recoveries, Asta Funding) claiming you owe it money? A dunning letter that somehow just doesn’t seem right? A letter from a creditor you’re sure you’ve paid off long ago? Or maybe a letter from a creditor from the past you now want to pay? In any of these situations, before you act, validate.
What does “validate” mean? It’s easy, but specific, and you must do it to protect your rights against debt collectors. Here are the important facts.
You must contact the debt collector in writing to validate within 30 days from receiving the letter. You must state that you dispute the validity of the debt, and request verification. State that if there is a judgment against you, you want a copy of it, and if the debt collector is not the original creditor, you want to know the name of the original creditor. Send by certified mail, return receipt requested so you have proof the debt collector got your letter.
The debt collector cannot contact you during the 30-day period. If they do, make note of the details, and contact a lawyer, because you may have a cause of action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), a federal law designed to protect consumers.
What if you get a phone call from the creditor instead of a letter? Tell the collector you need something in writing. Once you get it – validate!
If a debt collector fails to respond to your request for validation, you may have another claim under the FDCPA.
If a debt collector is unable to validate a debt, they must cease collection efforts and not report the debt on your credit report. These activities violate the FDCPA. It’s not uncommon for debt collectors, especially debt buyers, to be unable to provide validation information. But be aware that your debt may be re-sold to another debt buyer, and may come back to haunt you (and your credit report) again.