You don’t have to pay an expired debt. A debt that has gone beyond the statute of limitations in your state is an expired debt. In a previous article I wrote about what debt collectors can and can’t do, and that you have legal recourse to sue them if they insist on abusing you over the phone or in written communication through the mail. This article is concerned with debts that have expired, and a debt collector is trying to get you to pay it. Chances are the debt collector won’t put any threats in writing, but they might try to get away with abusing you over the phone. Whether the debt has expired or not, it is illegal for a debt collector to make threats against you. Even though it is illegal and criminal, some debt collectors will still use those tactics because often times their tactics work. Why do they work? Because you and I might not know they are breaking the law.
Have you ever been afraid to answer your own phone? I have. There was a time in my life that I just wouldn’t answer the phone, before I had caller ID. I was so sure that the call would be a debt collector that I just stopped answering the phone. Later, I got an answering machine to screen my calls. I owed some hospital bills and they went into collection. I was and I am still disabled so that I cannot work an outside job, so if I have to go to the doctor, ER, or I have to have outpatient surgery done, I have to pay 20 percent of the bills that have been incurred. The problem is that money is so short from having so little to live on that the debts just seem to pile up.
There was one debt collector that was really unethical in how he talked to me over the phone. Little did I know at the time that he was not allowed to harass me and lie to me. He told me he was coming after me and I would be thrown in jail for not paying my debt. I knew that wasn’t true, but I didn’t know that he legally couldn’t lie like that to me. Due to the harassment of him calling me time and time throughout the day, and saying whatever he wanted to I began to not answer my phone. I did not know at the time that I could just tell the debt collector to stop calling me, but I do now. Now I know what my rights are as a debtor that owes money. I am protected under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.
Because I didn’t know my rights I am paying a debt that I probably didn’t even have to pay. Most debts expire after so many years. I live in GA and the statute of limitations is 4 to 6 years, depending on the type of contract that is involved. This debt that I am paying now was over 6 years old. Debt collectors are banking on the assumption that you don’t know your rights, and since I didn’t know my rights at the time the debt that had expired started up new again when I agreed to make payments on this debt. The statute of limitations started over at day one on that day. If I had just known that ignoring the debt would have been enough to make the debt collector go away I would have. But instead the debt collector sent the sheriff out to serve me with papers with intent to sue me. I didn’t know at the time that the suit was not valid because the debt was over 10 years old, but because I contacted the debt collector attorney I restarted the statute of limitations back to the very beginning. After doing a Google search on the law firm that is a debt collecting agency I discovered there are numerous complaints written about them, but there is nothing I can do about that now, since I started paying the debt.
If you owe a debt that has gone beyond its expiration date, you don’t have to pay it. You can tell that debt collector to stop calling you. You can tell them they cannot collect that debt because it has expired. If the debt collector continues to harass you, you can report them to the Federal Trade Commission. Don’t stop at just telling the debt collector over the phone to stop harassing you. Follow up with a letter sent by certified mail telling the debt collector that you will file criminal and civil complaint about them if they do not stop. The letter should have your name, address, and the account number that the debt collector has assigned to you. Let the debt collector know that you know he/she/they are using unlawful tactics to collect on a debt.
Should the debt collector continue to hound you after you have told him/her them not to, you may be able to collect damages from them in a court of law to the tune of $1000 and up to $500,000. Most people don’t know they can sue a debt collector for unlawfully harassing them, but you can. You need to have good documentation, but if you can prove your case you can sue them and win.