It is incredible what lengths a debt collector will go to in an effort to collect a debt. Over the last several years, collection agencies have purchased what is considered junk debt from credit card companies, telecommunication companies, health club memberships, etc. for mere pennies and targeted debtors to make payment on this debt that is likely passed the statute of limitations. This debt has become known as “zombie debt” as it is debt that is not the debtor can no longer be legally held to pay, and is as if it has risen from the dead, haunting the debtor.
Zombie debt is often so old that the original creditor has completely written it off and ceased all collection efforts. Collection agencies will buy this debt and then begin collection by manipulating you into making payment, thus reviving the debt, and in some circumstances making the statute of limitations null and void. If you believe you are the victim of a zombie debt collection tactic, the first step in avoiding the scam is to not acknowledge the debt. Do not let the debt collector know the debt may belong to you and do not make any agreement to pay. Make sure to ask for proof of the debt in writing including the amount of the debt, the name of the original creditor and any additional proof that it is your obligation, like a credit card agreement signed by you or an original contract-but stand your ground in stating you do not accept responsibility for the debt until it is proven yours.
When dealing with debt collectors attempting to collect zombie debt make sure not to fall into their trap. Collectors will often threaten to report a debt on your credit report if you don’t pay, which they cannot usually do. This type of debt is often well past the allowable time for reporting on your credit file under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Alternately, collection agencies will promise to delete an entry on your report if payment is made, when in fact the account was not reported in the first place. Lastly, it is important to view your credit report to make sure the collector does not try to report the debt by re-aging the account to make the debt “viable” or within the statute of limitations or report the debt as new. Either way, should an account appear on your credit file as a collection effort, make sure to dispute the information with the credit reporting agencies.