Collection Agency Failed to Validate a Debt? Here’s What to Do

Last Updated:
April 14, 2023

Everyone has the legal obligation to pay back legitimate debts under their names to the best of their abilities. But when a debt collection agency comes after you for a debt that isn't yours or that you already paid off, it can be difficult to know what to do, not to mention anxiety-inducing.

Fortunately, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) outlines important rights and obligations for American consumers and debt collection agencies, respectively. If a collection agency doesn’t validate a debt before continuing to ask you to pay it, you could have grounds for legal options. Let’s take a closer look at what to do once a collection agency fails to validate a debt it claims is under your name.

What is Debt Validation?

In a nutshell, the FDCPA outlines certain debt collection practices and consumer rights for all Americans. Debt validation is a specific process that debt collection agencies must follow if requested by a consumer.

For example, say that you have been contacted by a debt collector for a post-due bill supposedly under your name. You are contacted by the debt collection agency via email or phone call.

However, according to the FDCPA, you don’t have to pay down this debt right away, especially if you aren’t sure that it actually belongs to you or is legitimate. Instead, you have the right to request debt validation from the debt collector.

The debt collector must then validate your debt by producing documents proving that the debt is:

  • Under your name
  • Still active (e.g., has a balance)
  • Legitimate (e.g., from a real company/lender/organization)

If the debt collector can’t validate your debt within five business days, it cannot legally continue to pursue the debt from you. If it does, it’s in violation of your consumer rights under the FDCPA and could be taken to court through a lawsuit.

What is a Debt Validation Letter?

A debt validation letter is the response from the debt collection agency proving that you owe the debt they claim you owe.

Let’s continue with the example from above. If you receive a phone call from a debt collector talking about a debt you owe them, you can request debt validation over the phone as well. But it’s much better to have a paper trail or record of your official validation request.

Therefore, you should draft a debt validation request by email or physical mail. Once the collection agency receives your request, it has five business days to produce a debt validation letter.

If you receive the debt validation letter, it will include the details and documents proving that the debt is under your name, and you will be legally required to pay it to the best of your ability. If a company doesn’t produce a debt validation letter, you’re no longer on the hook for the debt (if you were technically on the hook at any point).

How to Request a Debt Validation Letter

You can request a debt validation letter by asking the company personally or by emailing them/writing a letter. Remember, under the FDCPA, the collection agency has five business days to produce a debt validation letter upon receiving your request.

“Business days” are any normal weekdays that don’t fall on federal holidays. So if you request a debt validation letter on Tuesday, you should expect the debt validation letter in your inbox or mailbox by no later than Wednesday evening the following week.

What if a Collection Agency Doesn’t Validate a Debt?

Sometimes, debt collection agencies don’t follow the rules of the FDCPA, or they may engage in illegitimate or illegal practices. If a collection agency doesn’t validate a debt, there are two possible outcomes depending on its next actions:

  • If the debt collection agency no longer contacts you or doesn’t pursue the debt, it’s still technically in violation of the FDCPA since it didn’t alert you to this fact. However, because you aren’t being harassed by the collection agency anymore, it’s likely worthwhile to simply move on with your life
  • If the debt agency continues to pursue you about a debt that it did not validate, it’s in violation of your consumer rights under the FDCPA and could be held liable for a lawsuit

That's because the collection agency must respect your consumer rights at all times. By failing to validate a debt after you requested debt validation, it has not proven that you owe the debt. Instead, it's now trying to illegally collect money from a consumer.

When Can You Sue a Collection Agency?

Technically, you can sue a collection agency whenever it violates your rights or doesn’t follow the debt validation process outlined above.

For instance, if a debt collection agency receives a validation request but continues to ask you to pay down a debt without validating it, not only do you not have to pay that debt. You can also take that collection agency to court.

Furthermore, if the debt collection agency doesn’t validate your debt within five business days through a debt validation letter, it’s also in violation of your FDCPA rights. It may be a wise idea to contact knowledgeable consumer rights attorneys to discover more about your legal options and come up with the best plan based on your finances and current situation.

Suing a Collection Agency that Failed to Validate a Debt

If and when a collection agency or any other debt collection entity (such as a single debt collector) fails to validate a debt after you request that they do so, you have grounds for a lawsuit. That organization or entity is in violation of your rights under the FDCPA.

Suing a collection agency, however, can be a laborious and time-consuming process, especially without legal experts providing key help. You’ll need to:

  • Collect proof that you tried to validate the debt using the FDCPA process before suing the collection agency. After all, it’s possible that the collection agency has made a basic mistake, so you have to give the agency time to correct the issue before suing it
  • Decide whether to file a lawsuit at the state or federal court level. Depending on the exact violations you wish to cite, it could be either or both; determining which is best handled with attorneys working for you
  • Negotiate with the collection agency, file a lot of paperwork, and keep track of all the disparate details of your case

All of that can take a lot of time, money, and effort. Consumer rights attorneys can help with all of those things and more.

How Can Attorneys Help?

It's no stretch to say that an experienced, well-reviewed consumer rights law firm can provide tons of assistance to any debt dispute case, including up to a lawsuit.

For example, if you want help to create a validation request letter so you can determine whether the debt a collection agency is inquiring about is actually yours, lawyers can help with that. They'll make sure that you draft your validation request letter properly and that it reaches the collection agency promptly.

If the collection agency ever violates your rights after work, your experienced lawyers can take the reins and provide you with sound legal counsel. They’ll advise you on things like:

  • Whether you should file a lawsuit, given your finances and other details
  • Whether something like arbitration or mediation might be better
  • What you should do to prepare for the upcoming lawsuit and potential court date
  • And much more

All of that advice and assistance can be invaluable. It will provide you with confidence and peace of mind so you can proceed through the lawsuit without feeling too much stress or anxiety. Even if you do have to go to court, your knowledgeable attorneys can counsel you so you know what to say and how to present yourself for maximum effect.

But wait – don’t you have to spend a ton of money on legal experts? Not necessarily. The best consumer rights attorneys operate on contingency fee bases. That means you don’t have to pay them any money unless they recover damages or compensation from your legal case. If they don’t win, you don’t win, and you don’t need to worry about your finances being compromised in the meantime.

All of this means there’s no reason not to contact consumer rights attorneys if a collection agency fails to validate a debt. At this point, it’s already violated your rights – don’t worry about continuing to communicate with them unless you have attorneys at your side. 

Contact Us for a Free Case Evaluation

As you can see, the debt validation process can be complex and difficult to navigate, even in the best of times. If you're not sure what to do or want to know more about how to get a collection agency to validate a debt, contact knowledgeable consumer rights attorneys right away.

Furthermore, consumer rights attorneys can help you sue collection agencies and debt collection firms for illegal or unscrupulous practices. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and consultation to learn more.

Ready to take action?

Don't let these companies get away with violating your rights and causing you financial & emotional distress.

Free Case Review