Protecting Yourself From Zombie Debt Collectors

zombie debt

The term "zombie debt" refers to any old debt that has suddenly "come back to life" to haunt you. Essentially, these are debts that everyone agrees are too old to collect. If you didn't pay a bill last decade, and no one took you to court over it, then the debt is too old to pursue. If a collection agency contacts you for repairing, the debt becomes a zombie.

In nearly all instances, you are not required to repay zombie debts. In fact, repaying them could lead to expensive legal trouble. Protect yourself by learning more about zombie debt and the strategies that debt scavengers use to frighten people into paying expired debts.

Types of Zombie Debt Collectors Often Pursue

Zombie debt collectors are often trying to collect on accounts that are legally out of bounds. This may include:

  • Debts that have exceeded your state's statute of limitations
  • Debts that do not belong to you
  • Debts that were discharged during bankruptcy

Debt scavengers rarely have the legal right to pursue repayment on these accounts. The companies only make money by targeting people who do not understand their rights. At times, they will use illegal strategies to trick you into payment. At other times, they will use legal strategies to collect money that you do not have to repay.

This is a tricky, malicious industry that will try practically anything to get more of your money.  Assuming that your debt falls into one of the categories listed above, you do not owe the zombie debt collectors anything. 

Illegal Tactics Used by Zombie Debt Collectors

Not many people in the zombie debt collection industry follow a strict ethical code. They will do just about anything to get money from you. These are some of the most common illegal strategies used to collect zombie debts. Learn about them now so you do not fall for the ploys when a professional tries them on you.

Harassing You to Pay

Contacting you by phone and letter is perfectly legal. Otherwise, companies wouldn't have the ability to pursue repayment. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, however, limits what collectors can do and say. Harassing language is illegal. If a debt collector uses profanities or threats, then that person has broken the law.

You can usually combat this by telling the collections agency that you know your rights. If that doesn't work, you may need to record future conversations so you will have proof of the harassment.

In the meantime, contact the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, your state's attorney general, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to file complaints about the abusive behavior.

Taking the Case to Court

No one wants to go to court. It's expensive and time-consuming. Zombie debt collectors, however, will likely threaten you with a lawsuit to get their money. Luckily, there are credit card statutes of limitations that can protect you from most lawsuits. If your credit card debt is more than seven years old, then the company probably cannot sue you for repayment.

The statute of limitations differs from state to state, so you need to know the laws in your area before you can confront collectors. If the statute of limitations has expired, tell them that they cannot sue you for repayment. Do not admit that the debt is yours. Simply tell them that the statute of limitations in your state protects anyone from lawsuits after a certain number of years.

If the company keeps threatening to sue, you should contact a lawyer for advice.

Submitting the Debt to a Credit Bureau

Debt collectors might also threaten to report your debt to a credit bureau. Some might even follow through to place negative information in your credit history. This is known as re-aging the debt.

Most types of debt can only remain on your credit history for up to seven years. Zombie debt, by definition, does not belong in your credit history. It's old, outdated information that has lost its usefulness.

Zombie debt collectors will still do this to make your life difficult. Tell them that it is illegal. If they contact credit bureaus anyway, dispute the debt by contacting the collector. If that doesn't work, you will need to dispute entries with the three major credit bureaus.

Legal Strategies Used by  Zombie Debt Collectors

Zombie debt collectors usually try to stay within the law so they can get repayment without going to court. Many of these legal strategies, however, still look unethical to most consumers. You need to know that unfair isn't always the same thing as illegal. Even if debt collectors use legal strategies, you may need to take an aggressive stance against them.

Requesting Partial Payment

Debt scavengers may tell you that they will eliminate your debt if you make a partial payment. If you're tired of getting letters and phone calls about the old debt, practically any payment plan can sound good. When a scavenger offers to settle the debt for pennies on the dollar, many people jump at the chance.

This is a big mistake. Do not fall for the trick. Once you make a payment, they will double their efforts to get the rest of the money. Even worse, making a small payment could reopen the debt. You think you're paying off a mild annoyance, but you're actually restarting the clock on your credit card state of limitations. That means the collector can now sue you in court.

How to Deal With Zombie Debt Collectors

Knowing your rights is the most important part of dealing with zombie debt collectors. Ignoring the scavengers is usually the best thing you can do. Do not talk to them on the phone. Hang up as soon as you realize it is a collection agency. If the company sends you a letter in the mail, read it to see what they have to say, but do not respond unless you have good legal reason to do so.

All debt collectors are required to give you validation upon request. If you want validation, send a certified letter to the collector.

If the debt scavengers files a lawsuit, respond to it. Do not ignore it. If the statute of limitations has passed, the judge will likely through the case out. If you do not appear in court, though, you could be held in contempt. You should always be the party who follows the law. Let the collectors make mistakes that will backfire on them.

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