I have always told people, whenever you are contacted by a debt collector, the initial letter from the debt collector will state that you have the right to request validation of the debt within 30 days. You MUST, MUST, MUST send a validation letter. Heck, you can find one here.
Even debt collectors who may not follow all of the rules, like Persolve, Midland Funding, CACH, FIA, Cavalry, or Asset Acceptance puts the notice on the initial letter. Why do you care about this right?
Debt validation will help you with a few things. First, by making the debt collector validate the debt, you stop all collection activities. This means the debt collector cannot do anything until they validate the debt. The debt collector cannot continue its efforts to collect the debt until it provides you with validation. This also means that they cannot report the alleged debt to a credit reporting agency. By requesting validation, you can get some time to figure things out while the collector looks for validation. At the very least, you have some more time to talk to an attorney about how to proceed - either by figuring out a payment plan or filing bankruptcy or fighting it.
Second, sometimes there is no validation. If the collector cannot validate the debt, the collector cannot collect the debt from you. End of story. If they do not have validation, they cannot collect the debt. The validation letter is a simple method to end the collection efforts.
Third, when a client comes to me after being sued by a debt collector, I serve a request for production of documents. That request asks for some of the same information you would receive if you send a validation letter. If the debt collector cannot produce these, then this can sometimes result in a case being dismissed.
In addition, now the Fair Debt Buying Practices Act requires debt buyers to confirm the identity of the consumer, as well as prohibiting a lawsuit from being filed without the debt buyer being able to verify ownership and the amount of the debt. This is a huge help in getting debt buyers to simply drop cases that may not be legitimate.
Requesting debt validation can go a long way towards helping you resolve a dispute with a collector. But you must make sure you ask for the validation immediately. If you are unsure of what to do or how to do it, contact an attorney.