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Your Right to Dispute a Debt Under the FDCPA

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

Under the FDCPA, you have the right to dispute a debt, or any portion of a debt the debt collector claims you owe. In order to exercise your rights under the FDCPA, you must follow certain steps. In order to pursue your legal rights, it is important to understand the laws that protect you. The information provided to you to verify the debt will vary depending on the basis of your dispute. Generally, it is considered sufficient for the debt collector to provide you with the name and address of the current and original creditor and a statement that the amount being collected is the amount owed. If you fail to dispute the debt in writing within thirty days of receiving the validation notice, the debt collector is not required to provide you with verification of the debt under the FDCPA. Also, the debt collector is not required to comply with subsequent verification requests if the debt collector has previously provided verification of the debt.

Validation

Within five days after the debt collector's initial communication with you, unless such information is provided during the initial communication, the debt collector must send you a notice detailing your rights under the FDCPA. This is commonly referred to as the validation notice. The notice must contain the following information and statements regarding your rights: · the amount of the debt; · the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed; · a statement that unless you, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, dispute the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector; · a statement that if you notify the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against you and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to you by the debt collector; and · a statement that, upon your written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.

What Must be Provided for Verification

Some consumer Web sites claiming to provide consumers with information concerning their rights under the FDCPA have caused confusion among consumers about what the debt collector must provide to verify a debt. Often these Web sites suggest the debt collector must provide such items as a contract bearing the consumer's signature, the debt collector's contract with the creditor, proof the debt collector is licensed by the authorities of the consumer's state and other demands. However, most courts have found such requests to be beyond what is required under the FDCPA.

Form of Dispute

Under the FDCPA disputes are not required to have a specific form, but your letter must make clear that you dispute the validity of the debt. Though it is not required under the FDCPA, your letter will be more effective if it contains specific information as to the nature of your dispute. For instance, provide written notice to the debt collector if your name is not the same name as the name referenced in a collection notice, if you believe the debt to be the result of identity theft, or any other information that could help substantiate your dispute. Although not required, you may want to send your letter via certified mail. Sending your letter via certified mail will provide you with proof of the debt collector's receipt of your letter. A copy of your letter should also be saved for your records. Continued on next page

Verification

If, within 30 days after you receive the validation notice outlined above, you request verification of the debt in writing, the debt collector must cease collection of the debt until the debt collector has obtained verification of the debt and a copy of the verification has been mailed to you. If the debt collector is unable to provide you with verification of the debt, he or she must cease all collection efforts.

© 2008 ACA International Education Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Your Right to Dispute a Debt Under the FDCPA (cont'd)

Verbal vs. Written Disputes

Only a written dispute will trigger a debt collector's duty to provide verification of the debt. If you dispute a debt with the debt collector orally, the debt collector may not assume the debt is valid, and the debt collector must also mark the debt as "disputed" with any consumer reporting agencies to which the debt has been reported. However, the debt collector will still be free to continue his or her collection efforts after an oral dispute without providing you with verification of the debt.

Please note, you may also have dispute rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) if the debt collector or the original creditor is reporting the debt to a consumer reporting agency. Your rights under the FCRA are discussed in the ACA International Education Foundation brochure entitled, "Your Right to Dispute a Debt Under the FCRA."

Extended Right to Request Verification if Debt Collector is ACA International Member

It should also be noted that under the ACA International Code of Ethics, Rule II.A.3., members of ACA International are required to provide verification of a debt or cease collection activities until such verification is provided, regardless of when a dispute is sent by the consumer. This recent addition to ACA International's Code of Ethics requires all ACA members to provide verification even if your written dispute is sent after the FDCPA's thirty-day validation period has expired.

The ACA International Education Foundation is committed to promoting consumer financial literacy. The mission of the ACA International Education Foundation is to increase financial literacy through research, education, job training and public relations. This information is not to be construed as legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. Every effort has been made to assure that this information is up-to-date as of the date of publication. It is not intended to be a full and exhaustive explanation of the law in any area. This information is not intended as legal advice and may not be used as legal advice. It should not be used to replace the advice of your own legal counsel.

© 2008 ACA International Education Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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