Zombie debt is when an old debt suddenly rises from the grave and becomes a problem all over again. These debts are especially troublesome, because it’s harder to tell if they’re even accurate. Getting hassled by debt collectors for money they don’t think they owe is the single most common complaint that Americans make to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Here’s a look at how to keep this problem from coming back.
How to Fight Zombie Debt
- Never ignore anything from a debt collector: It might be human nature to ignore a letter asking for money you don’t owe, but never ignore any materials from a debt collector. This could harm your credit score, and things will generally go better for you if you challenge a debt within 30 days of being contacted.
- Get the facts: If you can’t remember owing money or you don’t think you are still on the hook to pay a debt, never agree to pay anything on trust. Instead, ask for a validation letter. This will give you all the details of the debt, how you got it and where you owe money. After receiving this information, you might also want to research if the debt is too old to collect under laws in your state.
- Address the problem based on facts: Once you determine if you are on the hook for the debt or not, you can respond accordingly. If you don’t owe the money, challenge the debt within a month of receiving the notice. If you already paid the debt, you can send a letter to the collections agency demanding that they stop pestering you. If you still owe the money, make sure to get the payment agreement in writing. In cases where you can’t afford the debt but you’re sure it’s legitimate, you might want to speak with a credit counselor. Remember that if a debt becomes too overwhelming, filing for bankruptcy is often the wisest option for a fresh start.
Nothing feels worse than getting a letter from a collection agency for a debt you don’t even remember. Hopefully, these tips will help you get those troublesome collectors out of your life for good.
Kevin D. Judd is a DC bankruptcy lawyer who fights to provide his clients a gateway to financial freedom.