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:
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.
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Updated January 2012