Within five days of first contact, a debt collector is supposed to identify itself and advise you of your right under the FDCPA to seek verification. This right will also have what we call the “mini-Miranda,” which is notification to you that the communication is seeking payment of a debt (alleged debt) and that any information you provide will be used for the purpose of collecting that debt. You should dispute the debt and demand verification.
Disputing – A Step toward Protecting What’s Yours
You must take the mini-Miranda seriously. Debt collectors often record, and always at least make notes of, anything you say. They are building a file on you from the first time they contact you. You should remember that anything you say that reveals financial information will be remembered by the debt collector, and that anything you say that sounds bad for you, like cussing or name-calling, may come up again at a bad time for you. This is why I say that silence is golden with debt collectors.
The other right you are told about, of course, is your right to seek “verification” or “validation.” If you request it within thirty days of receiving notice of your right, the debt collector must validate the debt and notify you before taking any further action on the debt. For some reason, debt collectors often will not do this if you seek verification, but instead will either ignore the request or sell the debt and move on to greener pastures.
What Is Verification?
Verification is not a clearly defined term. It was certainly not required as a means of slowing the debt collection process substantially. It appears to be almost a pure formality, but it does at least, according to most courts, require the debt collector to contact the original creditor and make sure, in some vague sense, that the debt is supposed to involve you. If that sounds vague or minimal to you, I’m sure you’re right. But it is an actual obligation that the debt collector take some time and do something besides harass you, and it does require them to stop harassing you, and it may give you a claim against them if they continue bugging you before verifying the debt. These are all good things.
And it often makes them go away entirely.