How To Protect Yourself From Zombie Debt Collectors
What Are Zombie Debt Collectors?
Because certain debts have a way of rising up from the grave, these debts are known as “zombie debt.” Some of your past debts may have been considered “uncollectable” or dead because a company was unable to get you to pay or reach you.
The bad news is that zombie collectors have bought these old debts and are trying to collect these debts again as their business. What’s even worse is that uncollectable debts are often sold for a small percentage of their original value. So, getting paid on even a fraction of the loans makes for a profitable business.
What Should I Do When Contacted By Zombie Debt Collectors?
Here are some practical steps and some important ideas to remember when you get that dreaded call from these dark creatures.
Be careful of what you say
You should be wary when collectors use a phrase like “just pay something.” Whatever you do, don’t acknowledge the debt and don’t admit it’s yours.
- Better yet, just don’t communicate with them
- All communication should be done through mail, so it’s traceable and you have time to think carefully about your reply
- Never talk to them on the phone. If you accidentally pick up a call from them, immediately hang up the phone
- You don’t want to accidentally provide the collectors with potentially useful facts against you for the collection
- Nor do you want to say something that acknowledges that the debt exists
Request debt validation
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives you the right to verify debts from debt collectors
- You legally can ask the collector for debt verification, and they would have to respond
- This request can be mailed (you should use certified mail). You have 35 days to do this, with the clock ticking after the collector first makes contact with you
- Your request for validation must be made in writing
- Sending your request via certified mail with return receipt requested gives you extra proof and a way to track that your letter was received The collector needs to reply with 3 things. First, they must directly state that you are the responsible person for the debt. Second, they must tell you the amount owed. Finally, they have to give you reason for why they’re authorized to collect the debt.
Watch your credit report
Say that you’ve asked for proof that the debt is valid, but and the collector hasn’t responded yet or hasn’t given you enough information to prove that it’s not fake. In this case, your credit report legally cannot have the debt added to it. Ensure that the zombie debt collector hasn’t broken the law and reported this old debt. You can do so by checking your credit reports from the three credit bureaus regularly.
- If this sounds like your situation, it’s completely possible to remove that debt from your credit report. Simply file a dispute to the credit bureaus to get it removed, or work with a professional credit repair service.
- When filing a dispute, it’s often useful to give them your communication with the collector
- Be sure to also include that the collector did not provide adequate or any proof that the debt is legitimate
- Get a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com
Research the company
It’s completely possible that the collector that is reaching out to you is not the law firm that they claim to be. This is why it’s important to research the company. Perhaps in doing so, you find out that there have been many other consumers that have filed complaints against this company for their predatory and illegal debt collection activity.
If the company calls you, before hanging up, make sure you get the company name and address. Then, be sure to investigate the company online. Search for any warnings or reviews from others that say that the company takes advantage of consumers.
Don’t revive the debt
It’s important to know what a statute of limitations is. It’s the maximum time a debt collector has in order to sue you in order to collect a debt from you. The time varies by state. Be sure to check your statute of limitations so you don’t revive old debt.
- Don’t admit verbally or in writing that you owe the debt
- Also, avoid making any payments toward the debt until you figure out it’s actually yours
- Ensure you don’t make any payments toward the debt until you figure whether the statute of limitations has run out
- Remember that, if the statute of limitations has passed, it’s impossible for the collector to use the legal system to collect. In this case, there is very little that the collector can do, so make sure you understand this point.
Don’t ignore a lawsuit
Be sure to act quickly because if you’ve been sued for the debt, you have a limited period of time to respond.
- If you get a lawsuit, make sure to read it and check if a response is necessary. Don’t just ignore it
- Be sure to obtain the court’s contact information independently, in case that has been fake. Do your due diligence to ensure that the lawsuit is real (the company is real and the court is real)
- At least at first, don’t trust the information from the lawsuit. In case it’s fake, all of the contact information (addresses, phone numbers, names) will be fake
- In case it’s a real lawsuit, you must respond. This is because if you don’t, you could lose your change and right to fight it
Tell the collector to stop contacting you
Understand your legal rights. You can tell the collector to stop contacting you. By law (according to the FDCPA), you can send a letter to a debt collector requesting for all communication to end. The collector must follow this request according to the law.
- They must stop all communication regardless of whether the debt is legitimate or within statute of limitations
- Use certified mail with receipt requested to ensure that the collector receives the cease and desist letter. This way they can’t deny it later; you have proof.
There are two exceptions, however, that you should be aware of.
- One of them is that the collector still communicate with you to let you know that it’s stopping its debt collection efforts against you
- Another exception is when the collector lets you know that it plans to sue you
Ultimately, it’s important to understand that you have a right to ask for a cease and desist from the collector. If the debt collector ignores this, you legally can take action against them.
In case the a debt is valid and you want to pay
If you desire is to pay back your debt, you still want to watch your back. Not doing so may result in being sued or paying more than you bargained for.
- Negotiate that settlement without admitting the debt is yours
- Any admission could give creditors the right to sue you
- Get everything in writing before you pay anything
- Get a statement of the full offer in writing, including a statement that will settle the account in full
- Keep your payments records just in case the debt returns
- Some shady collectors may resell the debt even after its been settled
As you can see, the methods used by zombie debt collectors can be relentless and tricky. Follow the principles above and escape from those harassing phone calls, letters, and even wage garnishment.