Question: I recently received a letter from a Collection Agency regarding a credit card debt that is so old it has already gone off of my Credit Report. It is at least 7 years old. The SOL for a lawsuit in my state is 4 years. I no longer have any documents concerning the debt. How can I get them to leave me alone?
Answer: Technically a debt is owed until it is paid and a debt collector can continue collection efforts.
The debt collector is well aware the debt is time-barred but may be trying to revive the debt by: (1) Getting you to acknowledge you owe the debt or (2) Getting you to pay any amount or even a promise to pay in order to revive the debt.
In January 2012, Asset Acceptance LLC, one of the nation’s largest debt collection firms, agreed to pay a $2.5-million civil penalty to settle a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit for misrepresentations in dealing with consumers, including failing to disclose when a debt was too old to be legally collected.
Asset Acceptance also agreed to tell consumers whose debt may be too old to be legally enforceable that it will not sue to collect on that debt.
It is good that you are aware the debt is time-barred as many consumers are unaware and fall right into the trap of “reviving” the debt.
What to do when a debt collector contacts you about a time-barred debt?
The law allows collectors to contact you about time-barred debts; however, it is not likely they will divulge that the debt is time-barred and they cannot sue if you don’t pay the debt.
But the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Section 805 – Communication in connection with debt collection, allows consumers to request no communication with a debt collector.
(c) CEASING COMMUNICATION. If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector
shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except—
(1) to advise the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated;
(2) to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor
may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or
(3) where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy.
If such notice from the consumer is made by mail, notification shall be complete upon receipt.
Send a certified, return receipt letter to the collection agency informing them to cease and desist communication (written and telephonic) with you. Once you receive the return receipt you have proof of when the collection agency received the cease and desist letter.
Should contact continue contact your state’s attorney general to make a complaint; that usually takes care of the issue.
I would also advise you to regularly monitor your credit to make sure no entries pertaining to the old debt show up on your credit report. In case it does pop up on your credit report, a letter directly to the credit reporting agency stating the FCRA Compliance date has passed and the account can no longer appear on your credit report should take care of it. Good luck to you.