The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives consumers the right to request validation of a debt. Under the FDCPA, a debt collector must send you a written notice within 5 days of their first communication with you. The notice must tell you, among other things, about your right to request validation of the debt. In my experience, consumers should almost always request validation of the debt, particularly if a debt buyer is involved, because the more information you have, the better. But here are a couple things to keep in mind about the validation process:
You must request validation in writing and you must request it within 30 days of your receipt of the required notice. Under the FDCPA, a debt collector doesn't have to honor a request for validation unless it's in writing and unless they receive it within 30 days of your receipt of the notice. As a practical matter, many debt collectors will honor a verbal request for validation and some will even honor a request made after the 30 days. But if you want to protect your right to have your debt validated, you must do it in writing and within 30 days. I recommend sending the letter via certified mail so that you can prove that they received it and when they received it.
Once you've properly requested validation, the debt collector must cease all collection attempts until they provide it to you. There are some websites that claim that a debt collector must validate a debt within 30 days and if they don't the debt is forgiven. This is simply not true. There is no time limit to how long the debt collector has to validate your debt. They just can't call you, write you, sue you, or take any other action until they validate. If they do, they've violated the FDCPA.
A debt collector can't use your failure to request validation of a debt against you. The FDCPA prevents collectors from using your failure to request validation as evidence that you owe the debt.
There aren't any clear requirements about what type of documents are sufficient validation. The FDCPA doesn't define validation, and the FTC has said that validation only needs to confirm that the debt collector is pursuing the right person and the right amount.
Collection activity during the 30 day validation period can't "overshadow" your right to request validation. This can be a little tricky, but here's an example: let's say you receive the validation notice on March 1 and then they serve you with a lawsuit on March 5. Under the FDCPA, you have 30 days--or until March 31--to request validation. And in Minnesota you have 20 days--or until March 26--to respond to a lawsuit. So because you have to answer the lawsuit before your time to request validation is up, the lawsuit "overshadows" your right to request validation. This is a violation of the FDCPA.