Debt collectors are known for their aggressive tactics, but some take it to the extreme by pursuing so-called “zombie debt.” Zombie debt is old debt that has been written off and deemed uncollectible, often because the debts are so old.
Some debt collectors are perfectly willing to use illegal tactics to try to coerce unwary consumers into paying. If you find yourself being harassed by zombie debt collectors, it’s important to know your rights and take steps to protect yourself. Here are some suggestions:
First, never acknowledge the debt is yours to the collector
Until you have a clearer picture of what’s happening, do not acknowledge any responsibility for the debt. You really may not know if the debt is accurate until you review your records. Even then, you may not actually be required to pay it, if the statute of limitations on collection actions (which is 10 years in Missouri) has passed.
Any acknowledgment of the debt, agreements to repay or partial payments can sometimes reset that statute of limitations – and that gives the bill collector new power.
Second, know your rights as a consumer against unfair debt collection
You have numerous rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This protects you against threats of arrest, abusive language and other forms of harassment. If a debt collector violates the rules, you can file a complaint with both the state attorney general’s office or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Third, know how to react when zombie debt turns into a lawsuit
If the debt collector has already filed a lawsuit against you, it’s important to respond to the lawsuit in a timely manner. Failure to respond can result in a default judgment, which means the debt collector will automatically win the case – and that could lead to liens on your property or garnishment of your wages. If you respond to the lawsuit, the debt collector will have to prove that you owe the debt and that they have the legal right to collect it. With zombie debts, that’s not easy.
When zombie debt collectors are giving your nightmares, don’t let them keep chasing you: Fight back. Experienced legal guidance can help you defend your consumer rights (and your wallet).