From the desk of San Francisco Lead Attorney Alison Cordova:
The question: Under the law, who bears the responsibility of proving that a debt is valid? Must a debt collector prove that the debt is valid? Or does the consumer have to prove that the debt is invalid?
The answer is really quite simple. The burden is on the debt collector to prove that the debt is legitimate. According to the Assistant Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s division of financial practices, the debt collector must actually investigate the legitimacy of the debt in order to prove its legitimacy.” A debt collector can’t just look at its database and insist that the debt must be real. The collector, at a minimum, should look at more of the underlying documentation or go back to the original creditor if necessary.”
In a recent article in the LAtimes.com, Koegel advises consumers to lodge complaints with the FTC if the debt collector refuses to prove the debt is valid. He said that of the roughly 125,000 complaints made in 2012, almost 10,000 involved collectors failing to verify loans.
The article also recommends contacting an attorney that specializes in debt and consumer protection issues. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) holds the debt collector liable for any legal costs if a debt is found invalid. If the debt is found to be valid, then the attorney can often negotiate a settlement with the debt collector, using any violations of the FDCPA as leverage in negotiation.