Like a typical zombie movie, zombie debt involves debt that either is no longer owed or is very old that a debt collector buys from the lender. The collector (often called a debt scavenger) pays little for the debt, then begins trying to collect it. Usually, the people the collectors try to collect from don’t realize the debt still exists or thought they had paid it off. Like many types of debt collection, this type can become a form of harassment and lead to considerable stress and frustration. Here’s what you need to know about zombie debt if it, unfortunately, rises in your life.
What Kinds of Debts Become Zombie Debts?
There are many kinds of debts that these collectors buy for pennies in the hopes they can recoup far more than their purchase price. In general, these are types of debts that collectors will try to collect:
- Old debt. Creditors and lenders have a limit to the number of years they can try to collect debt. This is called the statute of limitations, and it varies by state. In Illinois, that limitation is five years. After that, they can no longer try to collect. But the so-called debt scavengers will try to convince people that the debt is still legally due.
- Bankruptcy debt. Someone who has had their debt discharged via legal bankruptcy procedures may also find themselves dealing with debt scavengers.
- Debt that belongs to someone else. A collector may try to collect debts in someone else’s name but similar to yours, or identity theft may be involved.
- Paid-off debt. Sometimes debt that’s been cleared from someone’s credit history is revived by these collectors, who try to convince the accused debtor that it’s still showing on their credit.
What Should I Do if I Have Zombie Credit?
First and foremost, do not talk to the collectors except to demand validation of the debt. Otherwise, don’t get into a conversation or argument with the collector, who may use things you say against you. Tell them to stop contacting you and don’t pay or acknowledge the debt in any way.
Getting current versions of your credit reports is a good idea to ensure these debts don’t appear there. If they do, and you believe it’s incorrect, check with each credit bureau to begin the process of disputing them.
It’s important to understand that they can’t take you to court for this debt, even if they say they can. Knowing your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is also important. Consumers have the right to tell collectors to stop contacting them. If the collector continues to harass people or makes lawsuit threats, they should be reported to your state’s attorney general.
Let Us Advise You
Being harassed for zombie debt can be stressful. If you or someone you know needs legal assistance with these types of collectors, call us at 708-575-1500 to work with an experienced attorney.