First it was a letter or two demanding payment, and then came the phone calls. Now, even your email isn’t safe from the debt collector that’s hounding you over a decades-old bill (that you’re not even sure is real).
What’s going on? You may be afflicted with what has become known as a “zombie debt.” Typically, zombie debts are old bills that are no longer collectable. These “dead” bills are resurrected by unscrupulous debt collectors who then exert pressure (or threats) to try to make people pay up.
North Carolina limits how long a creditor can sue to collect a debt
Residents of North Carolina actually enjoy a very short statutory period within which lawsuits can be filed over debts. Generally, you can’t be sued for medical or credit card debt in this state after three years nor auto loan debts after four years.
If you’re being hassled over a debt that’s older than that, you don’t have to pay. The debt collector may continue to harass you, however, because they know that most people aren’t aware of these limitations.
Is there a way to make it stop?
Most zombie debt collectors know what they are doing isn’t allowed — so ignoring them may be your best option. You can also demand that they stop contacting you by phone and provide you with written confirmation of the validity of the debt, including its age and the name of the original creditor.
If you have other debts that are piling up and going unpaid, however, it may be time to seek more permanent financial relief through bankruptcy. If new debts are piling on top of old debts, you may want to consider all of your legal options.