Things You Should Know When You Receive Debt Collection Letters

If you fall too far behind on any of your bills, you may receive debt collection letters in the mail. If you do, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) says that a debt collection letter must send you a written notice of the debt that includes the following information:

  • The amount of money that the debt collector wants to pay.
  • To whom you owe the debt.
  • The address of the debt collector.
  • The fact that you are legally entitled to dispute all or part of the debt. For example, you may disagree with the amount of the debt that the debt collector wants you to pay or you may not believe that you owe any of the money at all.
  • Your right to request the name and address of the original creditor related to the debt (the creditor who turned your debt over to collections) if the creditor is not the current owner of the debt. (Some creditors sell past due accounts to debt collectors.)

You must put your request for verification in writing and mail it no later than 30 days after receipt of the debt collector’s letter. It’s best to send the letter via certified mail with a return receipt requested and to keep in your files a copy of the letter and the receipt in case the debt collector does not respond to your request.

If you want to dispute a debt because you don’t think you owe it or because you disagree with the amount of money that the debt collector says you owe, the FDCPA requires that you put your dispute in writing and mail your letter no later than 30 days of receiving the collector’s letter. Again, send the letter via certified mail, request a return receipt, and be sure to keep a copy of your letter and the return receipt in your files.

If you dispute the debt, include copies of any receipts, notices, letters, or other information that help prove your point. However, do not send copies of any cancelled checks you may have written to pay the debt unless you are able to completely obscure the account number on the checks. Otherwise, an unscrupulous debt collector could use the number to take money out of your bank account without your knowledge or permission.

If you do not receive verification of the debt when you request it, or if the debt collector refuses to provide you with written proof that the debt is yours, schedule a free consultation with a consumer law attorney right away. You may have the basis for a lawsuit against the debt collector.

Being Sued By A Debt Collector? Read This Next

It’s important to know your rights when you are dealing with debt collectors! Our affordable ebook, Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights, can help!

It not only explains debt collection rights and offers helpful advice regarding how to negotiate with collection agencies, but also provides sample debt collection letters that you can use to help as you work to resolve problems you may have with debt collectors.

Updated January 2012

Do you have a question about how debt collection laws can help you protect your rights? Ask it here!

Read our e-book, Debt Collection Answers, here for free!

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