Debt Validation FAQ

Concerned-looking woman on phone while holding a bill

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Don't believe you truly owe a debt? You have the right to force the debt collector to prove you owe the money. Debt validation is your federal right granted under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). To request debt validation, you must send a written request to the debt collector within 30 days of being contacted by the collection agency. The answers to these frequently asked questions about debt validation will help you better understand the process.

What is an initial communication?

However the collector chooses to contact you about the debt for the first time is the initial communication. It can be a phone call or a letter. The initial communication should include how much you owe, to whom, and other pertinent information. The debt collector must also notify you, in writing, of your debt validation rights within five days of its initial communication to you. 

What if I don't receive a debt validation notice after the first communication?

It's possible the debt validation notice was included in the first communication. Under the FDCPA, this is allowed as long as the notice is made in writing. You may have even missed it. In any case, you can send your request for debt validation regardless of receiving the debt validation notice from the debt collector. Make sure you send the request before the 30-day period has ended to ensure your rights are protected.​

What should a debt validation notice say?

The collector's debt validation notice to you should be made in writing. It should include the following:

  • Amount of the debt
  • The name of the creditor
  • The assumption that the debt will be valid unless you dispute it within 30 days
  • Notification that you can request verification of the debt within 30 days
  • Notification that you can request the name and address of the original creditor within 30 days

How do I prove the debt collector received my validation request?

When you send your validation request, you should send it via certified mail with return receipt requested. You can use the return receipt as proof your letter was received by the debt collector. If you do not receive the return receipt, you can check the status of the letter with the United States Postal Service using the tracking number on your certified mailing receipt.

What if the collector doesn't respond?

After receiving your dispute, the collector must stop attempts to collect the debt from you. This includes phone calls, letters, and reporting the debt on your credit report. The collector cannot resume collection activity until it responds to your dispute.

Can I dispute the debt after the validation period?

Technically, you can send a debt validation letter after the 30-day validation period. However, the debt collector isn't legally required to respond to your validation request. Nor does the collector have to stop collection activity on the account. To exercise the rights given to you by the FDCPA, you should send your validation letter within 30 days of receiving a debt validation notice.

What if I sent a dispute, but the collection still appears on my credit report?

The collector isn't allowed to list the debt on your credit report after receiving your dispute. Before taking action, check a few things.

  • Did the collector receive your dispute? If you didn't receive a signed return receipt, use the United States Postal Service website to confirm the letter was received by the collector.
  • Did you send the dispute within the 30-day time frame? Sending your dispute after the 30-day period nullifies your right to debt validation.

If you are sure the collector received the dispute and that you sent it on time, you can submit a credit report dispute to the credit bureau. Use a copy of your debt validation notice and certified mailing receipt as proof the debt shouldn't be reported.

How do I report violations?

If you can prove the debt collector has violated your rights under the FDCPA, you can sue in federal or state court for up to $1,000, including damages. You should also report violations to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Federal Trade Commission. "§809. Validation of Debts."

  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "What Information Does a Debt Collector Have to Give Me About the Debt?"

  3. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "If I Dispute a Debt That Is Being Collected, Can a Debt Collector Still Try to Collect the Debt From Me?"

  4. Federal Trade Commission. "Disputing Errors on Credit Reports."

  5. Federal Trade Commission. "§813. Civil Liability."

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