Zombie Debt Harassment: an Unfortunate Reality
Any type of debt harassment is a pain. But what about debts that have literally risen from the dead? Zombie debt is a debt that is old and often forgotten, or is a settled debt being brought back by a creditor or a collection agency claiming that it has no record of payment. Old debt is often sold by the original creditor to a different company (called a “debt buyer” who is also a debt collector) at a substantial discount, usually pennies on the dollar, where it can then be collected at obscene profit. It is this financial incentive that makes collectors greedy and abusive. Many consumers fall victim to this type of debt harassment.
Zombie debts are difficult to get rid of because it is so much more profitable to resell than to keep good records of paid accounts. In many cases, a debt will be sold without any information to the buyer other than how much the debt was for and the identity of the concerned parties. The debt buyer/debt collector may not know that a customer has already dealt with previous agencies and/or resolved the matter. This is all too common. There are several things that a consumer can do to stop zombie debt harassment, however. First, find out when the statute of limitations expires on the debt. If the debt is too old, the consumer may have an absolute defense to the claim, preventing the debt collector from winning in a court battle. However, just because the debt is old, does not mean the debt collector will stop trying to collect, so be aware that the defense must be raised in response to a court action, and that the debt does not disappear on its own just because it is old. If the debt collector is misrepresenting the age of the debt in some way or deceives the consumer in speaking of it, the collector has violated the FDCPA and is liable to the consumer. Also, ask for proof of the debt in writing, as well as ask the company to cease contact if they are being abusive. Don’t let zombie debt harassment ruin your life.