26 May How to Deal With Debt Collectors: The Statute of Limitations
Collection agents are usually rude, nasty, abusive and just plain mean. Their anger and apparent interest in you is phony, however; this is “impersonal anger” with a goal. The goal is to get you to pay them.
Today, with debt buyers roving the landscape snapping up old debt (and in some cases *very* old debt I successfully defended a client earlier this month in a lawsuit brought on a debt from 1978!), it is especially important for you to know some of the tricks these folks play to get out from under the statute of limitations, and how to avoid them.
The statute of limitations is a law that requires actions to collect debt to be taken within a certain period of time. Here in Maryland, the general statute of limitations is three years, so if a lawsuit isn’t brought against you within three years from the date you incurred the debt, with a few exceptions, you have an ironclad defense to the suit. It’s in those exceptions that debt collectors make their money.
The two biggest are payment and acknowledgment of debt. If you make a payment on a debt, however small, the statute of limitations starts running all over. So if my client with the 1978 debt had sent in a $10 payment last year, limitations would not have been a defense.
The second exception is acknowledging the debt. So if you tell the collector, “I know I owe the money; I just can’t pay it,” limitations starts over.
What should you do? Don’t send in a payment on a limitations-barred debt. Don’t acknowledge the debt. And to get the collector to stop calling? Read How To Deal With Debt Collectors: Stop the Calls!
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