Note that the government has paused all repayment on federally held student loans through the end of 2022, with no interest to be charged during that period and no loans to be held delinquent or in default.
* * *
If you’ve fallen behind on student loan payments, your debt could get sold to a collections agency. But before making any payments to a collector, it’s important to double-check that they’re legitimate. To find out, you can send the collection agency a debt validation letter.
This debt validation letter will help you ensure that the details of your debt are accurate before you send off any of your hard-earned money.
- Why do you need to send a debt validation letter?
- When you shouldn’t send a letter
- Debt validation letter sample
- When to dispute a debt
- Best practices when dealing with debt collectors
After a debt collector contacts you for the first time, they must send you a validation notice with the amount you owe within five days of the initial contact.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), borrowers have the right to request proof of their debt from collectors. If you receive a validation notice from a debt collection agency and have doubts, you can send them a debt validation letter.
If the collection agency can’t provide proof of the debt, they can’t collect on the debt. It’s important to note that you need to send the letter within 30 days of receiving the validation notice from the collector.
Once you’ve sent the letter to the collection agency, the collector must then adhere to the guidelines set by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and stop contacting you. The collection agency can only resume contact if they can send you written verification of your debt.
If you receive a validation notice from a collection agency and you know that you owe the debt, don’t send a letter to try and get out of it. It will just single you out among the many other people the agency is trying to collect from.
However, if you know you owe the debt but you’re not sure the collection agency is the one that owns it, you can check your free annual credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com for verification.
The next step is how to write a validation of debt letter – and time is of the essence. You should send your letter via certified mail within the first 30 days of contact with the debt collector.
Here are the details you want to ask for, as taken from this debt validation letter sample from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):
- Why you owe, including the name and address of the creditor to which it’s owed, the account number, the amount and the name of the original creditor (if different from the one contacting you).
- How old the debt is, any additional fees or interest charges that may have developed, any changes from the last statement by the original creditor, the last payment date, etc.
- Proof of the collector’s license in your state or their state of operation.
Even though you’re required to send your debt validation letter within the first 30 days of being contacted by a creditor, there’s no time limit within which they have to respond. They simply can’t contact you to try and collect that debt from you until they respond to your letter. It’s up to you to maintain contact and make sure you get proof of your debt.
It’s important to be proactive; if you do owe that debt, it will still show up as past due on your credit report and damage your score. It’s in your best interest to get the validation letter and set up a payment plan as quickly as possible.
If you know for a fact the information given to you by the collection agency in their validation notice is incorrect, you can dispute the debt. There are a few reasons you might want to dispute the debt, including:
- You don’t owe the debt.
- The amount you owe is incorrect.
- Your debt has expired due to the statute of limitations on debt.
If you’re in a position to dispute your debt, then you’ll need to send a letter in a similar manner to a debt validation letter. The CFPB offers a few more samples to help, including one explicitly stating you don’t owe the debt.
Finally, whether you’re sending a debt validation letter or a letter disputing the debt, make sure you date them and keep copies for yourself. That will protect your rights under the FDCPA by showing you followed the correct protocol.
There are a few best practices for dealing with debt collectors, and sending a debt validation letter is one of them. One thing is for sure: when you get a call from debt collectors, do your homework before you take action.
Look into whether or not the debt collector is a real company, whether the debt is something you owe, and whether or not this is the company that currently owns the debt.
It’s hard enough to repay debt. Make it a little easier on yourself by taking the time to ensure you’re not sending your money somewhere it doesn’t belong.
If you’re dealing with debt collectors because you’ve defaulted on your student loans, here are five ways to get your debt out of collections.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this report.