I know what you’re thinking. Why on this green Earth should I worry about my credit report when I am busy fighting off man-eating zombies with half of a 2 x 4 and a candlestick? OK. Well. When you put it that way, forget about the credit report.
I’m not talking about actual man-eating zombies. I am talking about what we in the industry refer to as “zombie debt” aka debt that is so old that you forgot you even owed it. Old debt dies and goes away, right? Wrong. Old debt dies, and then comes back to life as a zombie and uses debt buyers to haunt you until you are scared and pay.
Here’s the DL:
You took out a credit card when you were 18. You needed it for essentials: rent, textbooks, beer. You know. Survival. Well you weren’t employed when you got the credit card, and since you majored in underwater basket weaving, you were unemployed for quite some time. You made a few minimal payments, and then stopped paying altogether. And that was twenty five years ago. Now you are a successful underwater basket weaver with your own basket weaving practice. And suddenly you get a call (or a letter) from Mr. Debt Collector saying that they purchased the debt from your original credit card issuer and you must pay.
DO NOT PAY. IT IS LIKELY A TRAP.
Unless we are talking about a federal student loan, or other items of that nature with no limitations period, the situation above is a trap. It’s a zombie debt trying to get revived. If you make one measly little payment because you “feel bad” you are restarting the statute of limitations (which expired twenty one years ago) and giving your new zombie friend another opportunity to sue you for your unpaid credit card.
Like most claims, the rule for suing for an unpaid credit card is simple:
YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE.
If your original creditor took too long to collect on the debt (i.e. more than three or four years depending on the terms of your credit card agreement), they CANNOT SUE YOU (of course, unless there is some tolling issue, but that is not really a mainstream problem). Plus, it may not even be showing on your credit report any more due to the age of the debt. (Keep in mind it is ALWAYS good idea to check your credit report to make sure).
My suggestion? Ask a consumer attorney. (Like me, duh). A consumer attorney should be able to tell you immediately whether you are being attacked by a zombie, or whether the collection attempt is legit. Basically, consumer attorneys are super-awesome zombie-fighting heroes that can save your ass-ets. Your assets. Your financial assets. Put down the 2×4 and call a consumer attorney before you try to fight off zombie debt on your own.
Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor does this article purport to give legal advice. Everyone’s situation is different. If you have legal questions, you should contact a licensed attorney. Written by Shera E. Anderson, Esq. in Sunrise, Florida.