Some debts just don’t seem to die. Just like the zombies you see in the movies. You hit them with a golf club or baseball bat — they just shake it off and stand back up. Shoot them or blow them up, zombies just rise and continue to haunt you…just like some debts, too.
Examples of these debts are those old debts purchased by debt collectors, in hopes of making a consumer pay and that they can make money off it. If one day, a zombie debt rises and walks up to your house in the form of a phone call from a debt collector, what would you do?
Well, for one, you should not panic and give in to the debt collector right away, unless he or she is a real zombie. Not even if the debt collector makes outrageous threats to you or your family. We’re dealing with an old debt here, and there are other possibilities. In fact, that debt might not even be yours!
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA, you have the right to verify if the debt is actually yours. Within 30 days after getting contacted by a debt collector, make sure that you ask that he or she validate that alleged debt. Write a formal letter of request, and send it via certified mail with return receipt requested. Ask the debt collector for proof that you owe the debt, the amount you owe, as well as proof that they are allowed to collect the debt from you.
Why is this important? The reason is that debt collectors might just be shooting at the stars hoping that they would land on someone gullible enough to pay what they are trying to collect outright. A lot of these collections are just mistaken identities or plain bogus accounts. Beware!
Dispute your credit report
In the above scenario, if the debt collector fails to provide a debt validation within 30 days of your request, they can no longer legally put that debt on your credit report. You can now dispute it with the credit reporting bureaus, provide evidences of your debt validation and return receipt requests, and finally rest your case. Zombie debt now dead.
Know the statute of limitations on your debt
The statute of limitation on debt is the maximum time allowed for the debt collector to be able to use the court to collect a debt from you. However, some of them are still bent on chasing you and filing a case just to intimidate you. If you know the statute of limitations, debt collectors won’t be able to do that to you.
Cease and desist
Under FDCPA, you have the right to ask the debt collector to stop contacting you by writing a cease and desist letter. Writing such letter gives you a clear record of what you had said in request. But never admit in any way whatsoever that the debt is yours. This letter should only be meant to stop the debt collector from communicating with you. If they refuse to do so and continue to contact you, you could file and lawsuit and the tables have now turned in your favor.
But of course, if in debt validation, it is proven that the debt is actually yours and the statute of limitation has not yet expired, it is your moral obligation to pay that debt. If you think you can’t handle it, there are available alternative solutions such as debt negotiations to significantly reduce that debt, and make it possible for you to pay it off. Hopefully, that would be the last of the zombie debts to haunt you in your lifetime.