Zombie debt is old debt that “comes back to life.” In the world of money lending, debts are often sold to other financial institutions and when an old debt is sold to a new debt collector, that debt collector sometimes tries to revive it by intimidating the borrower into paying. The key to surviving zombie debt is to not panic if you are contacted about a debt you thought was in the past. Collect as much information as possible and learn what you can do to get through the zombie debt attack.
Check the Validity of the Debt Claim
First and foremost, you need to make sure the debt is valid. You have a right to verify any debt claims by collectors within 30 days of contact. You need to make this request in writing and send that request via certified mail so you have proof it was received. If the debt is valid, you will receive original documents associated with the debt that include the amount you owe when the debt was turned over to the collector.
If you do not receive validation within 30 days after requesting it for a debt, a collector is legally not permitted to add that debt to your credit report. In order to have the debt deleted from your credit report, submit a dispute to the appropriate credit bureau(s) and include a copy of the validation letter you sent to the collector.
Removing the Debt from Your Credit Report
If the debt is not even valid, you will need to take the necessary steps to have it removed from your credit report and possibly, to further prove it is not your debt. This is one of the reasons it is so important to keep track of your credit report from year to year, so you know if something appears on it that is not legitimate. Keep in mind not all non-legitimate debts are actually mistakes on your credit report. A debt that was yours and paid off or that has expired could be a problem in a zombie debt attack, too.
Has Time to Collect on the Debt Run Out?
Once you have proof a debt is legitimate, check the statute of limitations in your state concerning the debt. There is a limited amount of time a debt collector can use the court system to collect a debt. They can pursue a lawsuit against you but it will likely not hold up and usually collectors don’t even bother if enough time has passed. Bankrate.com lists the statutes of limitations from state to state here.
You might need to send a cease and desist letter to get debt collection efforts to stop even after the statute of limitations has passed. A cease and desist letter can also be sent to stop contact with you even if a debt is still legitimate.
Are you facing a zombie debt attack? Would you like to learn more about what you can do in general to stop creditor harassment? The Law Offices of Robert M. Geller can help. Contact us at 813.254.5696 for more information.