I received a notice from an attorney's office in July 2011, stating that I owed money to a credit card I don't ever believe I had. I responded to their request--asking for validation. I did not hear anything from them until mid-February of 2012. When they did respond, it was with an unsigned copy of an agreement plus bills that did not show how the debt was accumulated. I believed they violated fair debt collection practices, so I responded with a letter advising them of this belief along with my original letter and proof of receipt. I got a letter saying they have satisfied their burden. They say the 30-day notice applies to the dispute rather than validation. Is this true? How should I respond to this notice?
Letter and validaiton violations can be difficult to prosecute and may not be worth the time and effort. Even though the informaiton you received from the collection agency was not persuasive, it was probably sufficient to fulfil their burden under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Your best bet, if the debt is not your debt, is to send the collection agency (law office) a letter via certified mail that clearly states that you dispute the debt, that you will not pay the debt, and you do not want the collection agency to contact you further for any reason.
If you send such a letter and keep the evidence that it was received (the certified mail receipt) then the collection agency must cease all contact with you unless they actually take the matter to court. In court, they will have to prove that you actually applied for or used the credit card in order to collect.
If, after notification, they contact you for any reason except to initiate a lawsuit, they will have violated the Fair Debt Colletion Practices Act and you can contact my office (or another FDCPA attorney) and may be entitled to up to $1,000 in statutory damages, plus any actual damages, plus recovery of attorney fees and costs.
You can reach Harkess & Salter LLC at (303) 531-5380 or info@Harkess-Salter.com. Stephen Harkess is an attorney licensed in the state and federal courts of Colorado. This answer is for general information only and does not create an attorney client relationship between Stephen Harkess or Harkess & Salter LLC and any person. You should schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your legal issues.
In response to a request for "verification" following a dispute made within 30 days after the initial written notice, the debt collector is not required to prove the debt. The courts have reasoned that the verification process was designed to make sure that the collector was seeking payment from the right person -- not that the collector had to back to the creditor to prove the debt. What is ironic is that you are disputing the debt for the very reason that they've got the wrong person.
I put the word in quotes because there is an interesting issue under the FDCPA. The applicable section is 1692g. The section title uses the word "validation" but the text never uses "validation" but uses the word "verification" four times. I don't know that there is a substantive distinction but it is curious why Congress used different words.
So, I think the collector is probably correct that they verified the debt and I agree with the other responder that you should send an additional notice using a method where you can prove receipt.
Personal Injury Lawyer
Section 1692g of the FDCPA addresses validation of debts. When the law firm validated the debt in February of 2012, the law firm should have provided you the following information: (1) verification of the debt or a copy of the judgment, or (2) the name and address of the original creditor. I would be interested to know what the letter from the law firm said in response to your second dispute letter. Regardless, you should check your credit report to see if the credit card at issue is also on your credit report. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com If you do not owe the debt, yet it appears on your credit report, you should send the credit reporting agencies a dispute letter.
However, whether or not you owe the debt you are still protected under the FDCPA. The FDCPA protects debtors and non-debtors alike. That is, everyone is protected by the FDCPA, even if you do not owe the debt.
I recently wrote articles on obtaining your free copy of your credit report, and disputing inaccurate information on your credit report. For more information on these issues, please see my blog at http://blog.agrusslawfirm.com/