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City, State Zip
Debt Collector’s Name
City, State Zip
Re: Account Number
Dear Debt Collector:
This letter is sent in response to received by you on . I am requesting that you provide validation of this debt.
If you do not comply with this request, I will immediately file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the [your state here] Attorney General’s office. Civil and criminal claims will be pursued.
Ask questions and learn specifics. Often the first contact with the debt collector is a telephone call from a representative, a pre-recorded message asking you to call a mysterious toll-free number, or a letter. When a collector calls or you call back, get as much information as possible. Ask for the name of the caller, the collection agency, the creditor, and the address and fax number for sending correspondence. Also ask about the amount the collector claims you owe. In this first call, you should also tell the caller you expect written follow-up if you have not yet received a notice in the mail. For information about how to correspond with a collector or complain to a government agency, see Parts 6 and 7.
Put it in writing. Send any correspondence, including disputes, to both the collection agency and the creditor by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. When in doubt, send a written confirmation of anything that you may need to prove later (for example, a promise or threat made, a rude or harassing comment received, or an explanation given you that may show improprieties in the handling of your dispute or your payments). See Parts 6 and 7 for tips on corresponding with collectors, government agencies, or collector associations about abusive practices. Also, see the Sample Letters in Attachment B.
The statute of limitations starts on the last date of activity on the account. (Keep in mind this can be different from the date the account went past due.) Your credit report will include the account's last date of activity.
Even if the statute of limitations has expired, some debt collectors will continue to attempt to collect. They're hoping you don't know about the statute of limitations and you'll pay up if they threaten you enough. They may even file a lawsuit against you. If you are certain the statute of limitations has expired, you can use that fact as justification that you do not have to pay the debt.
Be careful not to restart the statute of limitations. Anytime you take an action with an account, the statute of limitations is restarted. Making a payment, making a promise of payment, entering a payment agreement, or making a charge using the account can restart the statute of limitations on an account. When the clock restarts, it restarts at zero, no matter how much time had elapsed before the activity.
If you've ever watched Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later, then you know about zombies. They're nearly impossible to kill and continue to haunt you despite your best efforts to stop them. Shooting them doesn't work, tearing off their limbs doesn't work, blowing them up doesn't work. Zombie debt is sort of like that.
Zombie debt refers to old debt purchased by debt collectors hoping to intimidate consumers into paying the debt. If you're contacted by a collection agency about an old debt, don't give in immediately. You have several tools you can use to fight back.
You have the right to an accurate credit report. If you see an error on your credit report, for example a delinquent account that doesn't belong to you, send a dispute letter to the bureau who issued that credit report. The credit bureau has to investigate and let you know the result within 30 to 45 days.
To stop calls from debt collectors, use a cease and desist letter. The letter essentially says you no longer wish to be contacted regarding the debt. You don't have to admit to anything or promise to pay later (you probably shouldn't do either of these anyway), just state that you want contact to cease.
The cease and desist letter only applies to a particular debt collector, so you may have to send another one if a new collector takes over that debt.
Within the first 30 days of being contacted by a debt collector, you can dispute the validity of the debt. Once the debt collector receives your written validation request, they have to cease collection efforts until they've provided you with proof of the debt.
A "pay for delete" is an offer to a creditor or debt collector to remove a negative credit report entry in exchange for payment. These types of offers can also be made over the phone, but a signed letter from the creditor or collector is better proof that an agreement was made. Otherwise, it's your word against theirs.
The statute of limitations doesn't relieve your obligation to pay a debt and it doesn't stop collectors from trying to get you to pay. You can customize this sample credit letter and send it to debt collectors who continue to attempt collections on a debt that has an expired statute of limitations.
Many people instinctively call their credit card issuer when they spot a billing error. But, a written billing error dispute letter is necessary if you want the card issuer to abide by the Fair Credit Billing Act. The law requires creditors to investigate your dispute as long as your letter is sent within a specific timeframe.
Credit card issuers have to give a 45-day advance notice before they raise your interest rate. You can opt-out, but you must do it in writing within the opt-out period. Here's a sample letter you can use to reject a new interest rate.
Letters are a powerful tool to use in communicating with creditors, debt collectors, and other businesses. Keep in mind that thousands or even millions of people may be using the same letter templates are you. Customize sample credit letters when necessary to fit your circumstances.