How to Respond to Debt Collection Letters

Responding to collection letters in writing is important to document the debt's validity.

Collection letters are generally sent to consumers by third-party collection agencies that buy old debt from creditors or other collection agencies. In other cases, the collection agency may be hired by the creditor to recover a delinquent debt. If you receive a letter from a collection agency, it is important to have the debt validated. Some collection agencies try to collect on invalid debts. Others may try to collect an excess amount. Responding to the collection letters in writing is essential.

Step 1

Write a letter to the collection agency requesting proof that you owe this debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act stipulates that collection agencies must be able to provide proof that you owe the debt, a process known as validation.

Step 2

Send your letter via certified mail and request a return receipt. Having proof that the collection agency received your letter will be beneficial if your case ever ends up in court. The collection agency may ignore your letter, but legally it is required to validate the debt in order to report it on your credit reports and pursue collection.

Step 3

Wait 30 days for the collection agency to respond to your letter.

Step 4

Send a second letter if you do not receive an appropriate response. Copies of the original account statements or a copy of the original contract between you and the original creditor is needed to prove that the debt is yours and the amount is correct. A simple printout from the original creditor does not prove anything under the FDCPA. In the second letter, include a copy of your first letter with a copy of your return receipt. Explain your rights under the FDCPA and demand that it cease collection attempts and remove the debt from your credit reports.

Step 5

Wait 15 to 20 days for a response to your second letter. If you do receive account statements and proper validation, you can negotiate a settlement or other payment arrangements. If you do not receive validation, you can take the collection agency to small claims court. Consult an attorney knowledgeable about debt collection for information about filing suit.