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Wednesday, November 26, 2014   
 

Collection Company After a 23-Year Old Debt
by Scott Bilker
Scott Bilker is the author of the best-selling books, Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt, Credit Card and Debt Management, and How to be more Credit Card and Debt Smart. He's also the founder of DebtSmart.com. More about and DebtSmart can be found in the online media kit.
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Scott Bilker

Scott, 
I received a letter telling me that I owed a debt of $535.73, but, "if I paid $214.00 immediately," they would cancel the debt. I cannot recall owing this debt. It was made, according to the company (I called this AM) in 1980, under my husband's name. We retired in 1978 and live on Social Security. He has never had a credit card and I have always taken care of our money, since he was in the Marine Corps and overseas so much. I have checked through as many old papers as I have and can't find this debt. When I pay a card off, I always cut it up. I have no cards now, and pay everything by check. Can they collect on a debt this old? I asked them to send any paperwork on this debt to me, but they said, "if I refuse to send a check at once," they will take me to court! What must I do? Thank you for your advice!
--Marjory

Marjory,

Disclaimer: Let me first say that I am not a lawyer. You should always seek the advice of licensed attorney in your state. This response is Scott's interpretation of legal issues and is for your entertainment only.

My impression is that you're dealing with an unscrupulous debt collection company that, quite frankly, may be lying about the debt! Be very careful not to disclose too much information to these people because you cannot trust them!

Do not send them any money! Do not give them any information about your checking account or any other accounts!

If the debt they are calling on is real, and 23 years old, it's going to be far past the statute of limitations in SC (10 years). You can send them a letter stating that, "This debt is past the statue of limitations and not legally collectable. Have a  nice day. :)"

In the case that they claim it's not an old debt you are still protected against many debt collection tactics by The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This law requires many procedures to be followed by debt collection companies, and it seems that the company which called you violated it immediately.

Validation (Section 809a): Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, give you information such as the amount of the debt; the name of the original creditor; a statement that you have 30 days to dispute the debt; among other items. You can see the entire law by clicking on its hyperlink in the previous paragraph.

And if you ask, they have to prove it! Section (b) states, "If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or any copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector."

In your first conversation they threatened to take legal action when you asked to provide proof of the debt. Legally, they must give you that information. The next time they call tell them that according to the FDCPA, section 809a, they have 5 days to give you information about that debt.

After they send that information, dispute the debt. This will force the debt collector to do more research. Then, if they provide some paperwork about the original debt, you'll be able to better verify its accuracy.

Since the debt is probably not valid, you could simply send them a cease-and-desist letter as pursuant to 805c. Write that you want them to stop contacting you for any reason. However, there are some reasons that they can contact you again like to let you know that they're not going to contact you again or they're going to take some other legal action.

Please let me know what happens with your situation.

Good luck!

Scott

--End--

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