Have you ever been pursued by a debt collector for a debt you thought was long gone? You may have been the victim of zombie debt. Zombie debts, also called phantom debts, are old or expired debts that scheming investors or scammers purchase at a massive discount. They then try to get misinformed debtors to pay back the money they likely aren’t legally responsible for anymore.
Old debts usually fall off your credit report after seven years. However, you may still be contacted by debt collectors about these old debts. It is important to do your research to ensure that the debt collector is legitimate and that you are only responsible for paying back the amount you legally owe. You can easily spot debt collection scams by being informed about your rights and responsibilities.
How Does It Work?
Debt collectors may try to contact you about expired debts, which are also called zombie debts. Even though collectors can’t take you to court to collect on these debts, they may still try to get you to pay. Zombie debt is often sold for very low prices, sometimes just a few pennies per dollar. This means that debt collectors can profit even when only a few agree to pay. Unless the state where you live requires collectors to tell you that they can’t sue you over the debt, you might accidentally revive the debt by taking certain actions.
Zombie Debt Collectors Strategies
Debt collectors, or “debt scavengers,” are known for their ability to cause worry and often try to trick people into paying debts they don’t owe. Some of the common tactics these collectors may use include:
- Zombie debts have been unpaid for so long that the statute of limitations has expired. This means that you no longer legally have to pay the debt. However, debt scavengers may try to convince you to pay them a small portion of the debt. You can ask them to stop contacting you without paying anything under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA).
- Zombie debt collectors may try to scare you by saying they will sue you, but legally they cannot sue you for a time-barred debt.
- If debt collectors harass you, you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This law makes it illegal for collectors to use threatening or abusive language, make excessive phone calls, or harass debtors. If you are harassed, you can write a letter to the collector telling them to stop.
- Debt scavengers try to collect money from people who owe money. They may lie and say they are lawyers. Still, they usually don’t have any legal grounds to sue you or pursue payment for zombie debts.
As debt collectors become more desperate, they increasingly resort to underhanded tactics to collect on unpaid debts, including so-called “zombie” debts. It’s important to know your debt collection rights and understand when you are actually responsible for a debt.
Types Of Zombie Debt
Debt collectors may attempt to collect many different types of debt. However, some debts are more common than others. Here are some of the most common types of debts that debt collectors may try to collect:
Settled Or Discharged Debts
Chapter 7 bankruptcy can provide relief from some of your debts. This means that you are no longer legally obligated to repay these debts. With a settled debt, you and the creditor should have a written agreement stating that the debt has been resolved and you are no longer responsible.
Debt collectors can only sue you for your debt within a certain number of years, known as the statute of limitations. This time varies depending on the type of debt and the state you live in, but it is typically between three and ten years. After this point, your debt is considered “time-barred,” and collectors can no longer take legal action against you. However, there is one exception to this rule: federal student loans do not have a statute of limitations.
Debt Fallen From Reports
Even though a negative item on your credit report, like a collection or late payment, can only be reported by a collector for up to seven years, making even a single payment on the debt can restart the clock. So be very careful before agreeing to make any payments on what’s known as a “zombie debt.”
Not Your Debt
Debt collectors may sometimes contact people who don’t owe any money. This can happen due to a mistake or because someone has stolen your identity and made fraudulent charges in your name. Either way, it’s important to take action. Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) immediately, and notify your bank and creditors.
Get Protected From Zombie Debts
There’s no need to be scared of zombie debt – as long as you know the law and do your research; you can easily protect yourself from being scammed. Follow these simple steps, and you can keep debt scavengers at bay.
Get Informed About The Debt
The original debt may have been owed to someone else, and you may not be responsible. You may have been contacted by mistake about a charge you don’t recognize.
Ask For A Debt Validation Notice
You can do a few things to determine whether a debt is yours. First, ask the creditor for a validation notice. This should include how much the debt is, who the original creditor is, and when the debt was incurred. Compare this information to your records to see whether the debt matches up. Second, you can send a dispute letter to the creditor asking for more information about the debt.
Watch Your Next Step
Paying off debt can be tricky, especially when you’re unsure whether the debt is yours. In this case, it’s best to send a dispute letter to the creditor asking for proof that the debt is yours. Often, the debt collector won’t have any proof and will eventually leave you alone.
The best way to deal with debt is to dispute it directly with the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
Debt can be a tricky thing – especially when it’s not yours. In this case, you’ll want to take specific steps to protect yourself. First, ask the debt collector to send verification of the debt. This will help establish whether or not the debt is valid.
Knowing your rights when you owe money you can’t pay is important. The FDCPA can help you understand what your options are in this situation. One option may be to negotiate with your creditor and settle for less than the full amount owed. Getting the collector to agree in writing that they won’t sue you for the remaining debt is important.
AnnualCreditReport.com provides free credit reports from the three major credit bureaus. Consumers are entitled to one free report per year.
It can be difficult to know what to do when you owe money and can’t pay. However, it’s important to consider all your options before deciding. One option is to try and negotiate a lower payment or payment plan with the debt collector. Another option is to think about not paying until you are able. Depending on your circumstances, this may impact your credit score negatively, but it could be a better option for you.
It is important to keep a written record of all correspondence with a debt collector in case you need to take legal action later. This will provide evidence of the interactions between you and the debt collector.
When facing a difficult situation, it is important to take actionable steps to improve it.
Tell The Collector To Not Call Anymore
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives you the right to tell a debt collector not to contact you. You can send the collector a certified letter with a return receipt to confirm it has been received. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has sample letters on its website that you can use as a guide.
Zombie debt collectors are a real problem. They violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by harassing and threatening to sue you. But there are things you can do. You can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can also report the violation to your state’s attorney general office. Or you can sue the debt collector in state or federal court.
Don’t Admit That The Debt Is Yours
You may be wondering what to do about zombie debt that is no longer on your credit report but which you may still be legally responsible for in some states. The best course of action may be to simply ignore it and not make any payments towards it or acknowledge that it is yours.
Avoid Zombie Debt
You can do a few things to prevent your debt from becoming zombie debt. First, make sure you’re making your payments on time and keep track of your payment history. This will help you stay on top of your debt and avoid potential issues. Secondly, consider consolidating your debt into one monthly payment using a debt consolidation loan.
There are many ways to get out of debt; one option is to use a debt payoff calculator.
A debt collector may contact you about a debt that has expired, been paid off, or does not belong to you. You are not legally required to repay such a debt. To determine whether the debt is yours, find out the age of the debt from the collector or do your research. You can dispute the debt with credit bureaus or creditors in case of an error.
If the zombie debt does belong to you and is still listed on your credit report, consider paying it off or settling with the original creditor.