Old Debt … Watch out

You may have long-unpaid debt. Most states have statute of limitation laws that restrict how long a collector can sue to reclaim debt.

This article … Dusting Off Old Debt by Liz Weston … points out some traps you should be aware of.

  • Making even a small payment, whether you realize it or not, on old debt restarts the statute of limitations clock.
  • Trouble credit history? Beware of card offer that might have you agreeing to repay old debt (which is added to the card’s balance).
  • Collector’s often contact the wrong person (I’ve had these calls myself). Is it your old debt? You  are not obligated to repay someone else’s debt even if they have the same, or similar, name.


  • Monitor your credit reports (here’s the real free website). I suggest you check one credit agency once a year, but rotate through them every 4 months … this way you can spot things faster (4 month gap), and take advantage of the rule that each agency must give you a free report once a year.
  • If you are being bothered by collectors, file a complaint with the consumer protection arm of FTC.gov.

The article does not address if this is a problem for debt you may have had erased due to bankruptcy. If a bank or agency tries to revive it … look into your rights before you take any steps or agree.

Of course, nothing prevents you from repaying old debt if your conscience says you should now that your situation has changed and you might be able to. This is a different issue from being tricked into it as discussed above.

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