What to do when a debt collector asks you to help validate a debt

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Question: I mailed a certified letter to a collector requesting them to validate the debt. I received a letter back from them, stating they need the following information to help them locate the debt and so they do not violate HIPPA and FDCPA.

They wanted the last 4 of my SSN, my date of birth, and the account number. In my letter to them, I provided the account number that they provided me in their original letter/bill. This may have been the collectors account number, not the original creditor, but is that really my problem? How should I respond to their request?

Answer: You are no doubt dealing with a “junk debt buyer.” Junk debt buyers purchase large portfolios of debt. The portfolios typically come with no more than the name, address and amount of debt.

Although original creditors have information to validate a debt such as original contract, statements and even payment records of the debtor, junk debt buyers do not purchase the supporting documents.

The junk debt buyer probably has no additional information about you or the debt. This is why they are requesting you provide them information in order to “help them” locate the debt. In the article “What is Debt Validation” I advise consumers to watch out for this tactic. Some debt collectors will actually refer you to the original creditor when asking them for verification of the debt. You are correct, it is not your problem.

And, it is not your duty to “help them” locate the debt they are attempting to collect. They have no other information besides the basic contact information about you. Leave it that way. There is no legal obligation for an alleged debtor to help a debt collector “locate the debt” they are attempting to collect. It is an absurd request.

If the debt collector thinks it is your duty to prove you don’t owe anything, they have it all wrong. Section 809 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states that if a consumer disputes a debt, “the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt.” The law clearly puts the responsibility on the debt collector to prove you owe the debt.

Simply put, debt validation requires the debt collector provide proof and documentation from the original creditor, not you. Do not help them. A simple letter referring them to the FDCPA regarding duty of debt collector to provide debt validation, not the alleged debtor is sufficient. But trust me, they already know this.

If you do write back make sure you put on the letter this it is your 2nd request for debt validation in case you need a paper trail down the road for a lawsuit. Be sure to site the FDCPA Section 809. Lodge a complaint with the FTC against the debt collector for failing to verify a debt as per federal law. Also lodge a complaint with your state’s Attorney General. Turn up the heat on the collection agency, they may simply go away.

You mentioned HIPAA. There are some great strategies dealing with HIPAA and medical debt if you are interested in paying the original health care provider and obtaining deletions of the negative entries from your credit reports. Good luck to you.

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