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Whether you have medical debt, credit card debt or unpaid student loans, getting calls or letters from debt collection companies can be frustrating. But it’s especially frustrating if your debt is several years old. If you have debt on your credit reports or are getting calls from a collection agency, you might wonder how long a debtor can try to collect these debts—and how long it can affect your credit score. Can a debt collector collect after 10 years? 15 years? 20 years?

The simple answer is: It depends. Here’s an overview of the timelines for debt collection and what to do if you’re contacted about an old debt.

Can a Debt Collector Collect After 10 Years?

In most cases, no. However, it depends on when you made the last payment. The statute of limitations for most debts starts when you go into default. If a debt is 10 years old but you were making payments under an agreement with the lender until 3 years ago, the debt is likely still within the statute of limitations and can be pursued by a debt collector.

How Long Can a Debt Collector Pursue an Old Debt?

Each state has a law referred to as a statute of limitations that spells out the time period during which a creditor or collector may sue borrowers to collect debts. In most states, they run between four and six years after the last payment was made on the debt. This means that even a debt that is older than that may still be able to be collected on if you’ve made a payment sometime in the last four to six years.

In some states, a collection agency cannot try to collect at all once a debt is past the statute of limitations. In other states, they cannot sue you, but they may still try to collect the debt, which can include calls and written requests.

Some debt buyers—companies that buy and try to collect very old debts—still go after borrowers and even take them to court. This is because they know that most borrowers who are sued for old debts won’t show up in court, and the judge will issue a default judgment.

Judgments may give collectors additional collection powers, such as access to the money a debtor has in his or her bank account or the ability to garnish wages to collect the judgment. To prevent this, all a borrower has to do is appear in court at the appointed time and explain that they have a time-barred debt. If that is correct, the lawsuit will be dismissed.

It’s important to note that the statute of limitations is not the same as how long the debt appears on your credit report. The timeline for debt to stay on your credit report is 7.5 years, but again, this depends on your activity with the debt. If the debt was sold by the original lender at 6 years, and you made a payment with the new debt buyer, it could restart the clock.

Can I Be Chased for Debt After 10 Years?

In most cases, the statute of limitations for a debt will have passed after 10 years. This means that a debt collector may still attempt to pursue it, but they can’t typically take legal action against you. If you notify them that the debt is past the statute of limitations and request that they not contact you again, they likely won’t.

Can a Bill Collector Collect After Seven Years?

Most debts have a statute of limitations that runs between four to six years. However, it’s still possible for a debt to be within the statute of limitations at seven years, depending on the debt, when the last payment was made and where you live. In general, if you owe the debt, the collector can attempt to contact you to get payment but may not be able to pursue a legal case against you.

What to Do If You Are Contacted About an Old Debt

If you are contacted about an old debt, it doesn’t mean you should automatically pay it. Remember, agreeing to terms and providing a payment can restart the clock on an old debt, and it’s important to be aware of your rights as a consumer. Instead, take the steps below to see if you need to pay the debt and what your options are.

1. Ask the creditor to send you written notice of the debt.

This is required under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act even if you don’t ask, but asking is a good first step. Scammers will say they aren’t allowed to send a notice or will try to email instead, which helps you weed out the illegitimate callers. By keeping the initial phone conversation to a minimum, you may avoid saying or doing something that could hurt you later on with legitimate collectors.

2. Validate the debt.

Once you receive written notice of the debt, you have 30 days to request validation of the debt. Mail your request to the creditor with a certified letter and ask them to validate the debt. You don’t have to give a reason for your request. You can simply say, “I dispute this debt. Please validate it.”

3. Confirm that the debt is within the statute of limitations.

While you’re waiting for the response from the bill collector, contact a consumer law attorney or your state attorney general’s office to confirm the statute of limitations for the debt. Consumer law attorneys who regularly represent consumers in cases against debt collectors often provide a free consultation.

4. Decide on an action.

Once you receive validation of the debt and confirm that it’s outside the statute of limitations, you have three main options.

  • Pay it. If you know you owe the debt and you now can to pay it, you can do so. Make sure you keep written records of the amount due and your payment. Sometimes these old debts get sold to more than one collection agency, and if you get another call about this debt, you want to have proof you have paid it.
  • Settle it. If you know you owe the debt and want to try to make good on it, but you can’t pay the full amount—or if the debt has been inflated by fees— you may want to negotiate to settle it for less than the full amount due. This is tricky, though, because once you start negotiating, you could reset the statute of limitations and end up being sued for the entire debt. If you want to go this route, your best bet is to talk with an attorney first.
  • Send the collector a letter telling them to leave you alone. You have the right to ask a debt collector to stop contacting you. Once you do that, they are only allowed to contact you to tell you if they are taking legal action against you. If you know the debt is outside the statute of limitations, state that in your letter and tell them not to contact you again.

How Long Do Collections Affect My Credit?

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the length of time that collection accounts may remain on credit reports is seven years and 180 days from the date the consumer first falls behind on the original account. Even if one of these bills remains unpaid, it cannot be reported after that 7.5 years is up.

The date an account was placed for collections doesn’t matter, just the date of the first missed payment. If an account remains on your credit report past this time, you may be able to take steps to have it removed.

The only scenario where an old collection account can affect your credit is if you are sued and the collector gets a judgment against you. That new judgment would have its own seven-year reporting period. You can get your free annual credit reports to see if you’re facing a judgment. You can also see the impact that judgment is having on your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

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  • Taz

    I had a motorcycle repo almost 10 years ago. They sold the bike at an auction. Now they are coming after me. Can they do this

  • Jeanine Skowronski

    Ask for written verification of the debt in an attempt to determine if you are dealing with a debt collection scammer. More info here:


  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/judydoolittle51/ Judy

    I have an old hospital bill. It is more than 7 years old. Each time a new colection agency takes over they renew the date to make it current. Is that legal. To renew the debt by changing collection agencies. If not tell me what I need to do to get it off my credit report. Actually I have three hospital debts that all occur at the same time. All over 7 years old but again when they change collection agencies it goes on my record as if it was a new debt. I was wondering is that legal to do this and what can I do if it isn’t?

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    It’s possible that by making payments you have restarted the clock on the statute of limitations. You may want to consult a consumer law attorney in your area to get their professional opinion on the situation.

  • Paul VanEvera

    I had a cc that I tried to do a settlement on and the cc did not want anything to do with it. They sent it to collections. I was making payments to one collection agency. Out of the blue, they send me a notice that the client suspended collections on the account. I sent a letter to the original creditor but got no response. Six months later I get a new letter from a collector. The debt is old, at least five years old. According to this site the SOL is five years. Does the SOL start after the debt is delinquent to the original creditor or since I did make payments to one debt collector does it start when they stopped collecting? I just received the new debt collectors letter yesterday and have thirty days to respond. Thanks

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Typically, the statute of limitations starts when you miss your first payment with the original creditor. You might find this article on statute of limitations helpful: https://www.credit.com/debt/statutes-of-limitations/

  • Nazgun

    I need some help please with how to deal with my current
    situation. I am a US citizen and until 2009 was working in California and doing
    really well. I had some credit card balances but I had good credit and
    everything was under control. Around the middle of 2009 however I had an issue
    with clinical depression tied in with a close family member passing away. I
    moved to another country and was unemployed and aimless for about a year. I
    slowly built my life back getting back into work. Now close to 7 years later I
    am looking to return to the US and rebuild my life.

    My main worry now is the mess I left behind in the US
    with regard to my credit card bills. I pulled my credit report recently and there
    are two collection accounts, both owned by Midland Funding LLC for 3,240 and
    6,800. I’m concerned about being able to find work with the collections and
    derogatory items on my credit report. Should I wait the 7.5 years until these
    stop showing or does that really happen? What actions can the owners of the
    collection accounts do once I come back? I’m hoping to get some clarity so I
    can plan my move back and rebuild a responsible life as I have my medical
    issues under control now.

  • James M

    I keep a copy of the statute of limitations on debt collection for all states handy on my computer. I’ve had a few debt collector’s contact me about stuff from 20 years ago that I don’t even remember having. They will lie to you about how your credit score is going to be damaged if you don’t pay it but I just tell them to stop contacting me unless they can mail me proof of the debt. I never hear from them again.

  • Jenny Henson

    I have two questions.. I had an eviction back in 2007 (due to leaving breaking a lease, not non payment). This was “removed” from my credit report in 2014 and now a collection agency is trying to collection on this. Can they do this?? I am trying to purchase a home and these people are threatening me. My second question is I had a voluntary repo on a car (which I was current on the payments) but lost my job and had to give the car back. I made the payment last payment and had them come pick up the car. Now, 5 years later, I received a collection letter from an agency saying it could be either a collection or a judgement. Please, anyone who can help answer these two questions I would greatly appreciate it!! Thank you in advance.

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      Hi, Jenny,

      You may want to ask for written verification of the debt to get an idea of what the collectors are trying to collect on exactly. You can try disputing the debts with the credit bureaus and also speak with a consumer attorney about your best legal recourse.



      • Jenny Henson

        If I ask for written verification can’t that start the clock all over again? This was from back in 2007. I read in one of your comments that if the debt was removed and is older than 7 years, they cannot collect on it again. Is that true Jeannie? Also, I am trying to purchase a home and working diligently on my credit. If the “voluntary repo” for $13,000 is reported on my credit report as a collection, I can make a payment arrangement with them and will only have to make ONE payment (per my lender who I work for) to be approved. If they put it as a judgementment, I would have to make 3 make payment arrangments. If I claim Bankruptcy (which I will not be able to purchase a home for 2 years if I go that route) will I be able to claim the judgement in the Bankruptcy?

        • Jeanine Skowronski

          Hi, Jenny,

          Asking for written verification should not restart the clock. Typically, the statute of limitations starts when you miss your first payment with the original creditor. It does not start when the account was placed for collection. More info here: https://www.credit.com/debt/statutes-of-limitations/

          To learn about what may or may not be included in bankruptcy, you may want to consult a consumer attorney. Some offer free consults.



  • Toni

    What happens if a statue of limitations runs out with
    in 2 weeks before getting verification of debt?

  • Harold Heretic

    Have an old Medical debt shows as Collection.

    Date of 1st Delinquincy – 06/2009
    Balance Date of 12/2011. UNPAID.
    [redacted] also shows status details: This account is scheduled to continue on record until Mar 2016.

    Doing the 7.5 year math, Mar 2016, doesn’t quite make sense. Does this mean it drops off April 2016? Shouldn’t it remain until Dec 2016 which is 7years plus 180 Days?

    Also, does Paying this just going to show it PAID and start the 7 year clock again, or should it be left unPaid since it is at best 1 year away from the 7.5 year max?

    Advice appreciated.

  • Ang2015

    I was just contacted by a cc company that stated I had a cc that hasn’t been paid since 2000. They said they are placing a judgment. Do judgments have at status of limitations?? Thanks!

  • Kathy kirby

    I have just had something placed on my credit that happened 4 yrs ago. Can they do this. It shows Sept 2015 instead of 2011

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      possibly. they can’t put anything that’s older than 7 years, though.

  • Cgorley

    If you stop paying your credit card does and it was only for 1000 how much would it go up? Just it keep going up and up so if I don’t pay it, it could be 20000 now? Or when it gets called to collections it stops at an amount and doesn’t go any higher?

    • Jeanine Skowronski


      How much the debt would go up each month would depend on the APR associated with the card. If the debt is sold to a third-party collector, it could still accrue interest, but there are certain limitations that may apply. You may want to consult a consumer attorney in your state to learn of any you may have.

      Thank you,


  • tina

    I have a debt I refused to pay because dentist damaged my daughters tooth and also they ran incorrect benefit schedule so that advised it was all cover which turned out to be incorrect due to their error. 3 yrs later they sent the debt to collections who’s is stating the debt is from 06 2011 when the actual service a was 06 12 2008 does the statue of limitations start from date of service since no payment was ever made or does it start 3 yrs later when they sold the debt

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      The statute of limitations typically starts when the bill becomes delinquent. It does not start when it is turned over to collections. Remember if you don’t believe you owe this debt you should send a certified letter to the collection agency stating that, and do it promptly (within 30 days of receiving their letter). Keep a copy for your records.

      • tina

        Thanks I have numerous time but they refuse to stating the collection agency states it’s correct even though I have sent the credit agencies proof

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          If it were accurate it could remain on your credit reports for seven years plus 180 days from the date of first delinquency which roughly the end of this year I believe.

          It sounds like the problem is the dentist is standing firm that the debt is accurate.

          You could wait until it falls off at the end of this year (or if it doesn’t get a consumer law attorney involved) or you could try taking the dentist to small claims court now and see if you can’t resolve it that way.

          Please keep in mind I am not an attorney and this is not meant to substitute for legal advice.

  • Tracy Moore

    A good friend of mine received a writ of garnishment today stating she owes this collection agency $28,000 for a $6000 principal amount. She was never notified prior to this writ arriving. She does recall having a credit card with that amount she defaulted on like 10 to 15 years ago, She is currently unemployed and recently went thru brain surgery, this is the last thing she needed.Can she request a hearing within the court that the order came out of? She is at a total loss…..

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Have her check her credit reports and see if there is a judgment on there. Typically wages cannot be garnished unless there is a judgment already. If there is, her best bet is to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney asap about her options. This article provides more information: I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report. Now What?

  • Chris

    Hello! I hope you can help me with this.

    Back in 2008 there was an issue and my father was evicted. My name was on the lease, but I wasn’t living with him. Either way, both of us got evicted and sent to collection. The amount has been on one of my credit reports (Transunion) for the past few years. I assumed that once I got to the 7 year mark, which would be in November this year, that it would disappear. But, I noticed that the the amount was “Last Reported” in January 2015. Does that mean that the clock has reset and I have to go another 7 years with this collection on my report?

    What can I do to get this collection removed? I haven’t reached the 7 year mark yet, but I’m close and I was expecting this collection to be removed.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    A debt collector – which includes an attorney who regularly collects debts – must send you written notice of the debt within 5 business days of that phone call. Look for it. If it doesn’t arrive it’s possible you are hearing from a scammer who bought some old debts and is hoping you’ll pay. Once you get the letter you have the right to dispute the debt in writing (certified mail is recommended).

    If the collector is legitimate, then main piece of information you need to know is when the statute of limitations expired on this debt. If you believe the debt is too old you can simply write the debt collection attorney a letter telling them not to contact you again. And in any event,

    Please read our articles on the statute of limitations: Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State and 7 Things You Need to Know About the Statutes of Limitation for Debt

  • Mike S.

    I just recived a letter for a “One Time Offer” to pay a debt of an account closed Feb 24, 2009 and the last payment i made was August 25, 2008. I believe that the statute of limitations is California is 4 years. Is this something i can ignore since its a really old debt or should i be concerned?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      The debt may still appear on your credit report. And before you decide to ignore it completely, be aware that if you are sued and do not appear in court to point out that it is a time-barred debt, the card issuer might be able to get a judgment against you. You can read more here:
      7 Things You Need to Know About the Statutes of Limitation for Debt

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    You can ask a collection agency to stop contacting you and by law they must, except to notify you that they are taking legal action (which doesn’t sound like it would make sense given what you described). And it also sounds like this is getting close to the time period after which it can no longer be reported.

  • Renee Mackie

    If i have debt owing since 2007/2008 can they still chase for payment just today i found an old debt was owing to sky t.v only because a person i live with tried to apply and my name came up and now there refusing to connect his sky back on is this right?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Renee —
      Utilities are generally regulated at the state or local level. Your best bet may be to contact your state attorney general’s office to find the answers to your questions.

  • pcooper

    long story short I screwed up and didn’t file 2001 taxes, govt filed for me and I made a deal for 100 to settle one in 2013 and filed a hardship on the other. I got a letter in 2014 and I called and the lady said she saw no way I could pay at this time, and if my income remained the same it would continue as a hardship., probably dropping off in 2015 since they had filed for me in my absence in 2006. How do I check on this, no way I want to call them again! I have done very well since on my fixed income and finally have a bank issued credit card, I have tried hard to fix my past. When I lost my job and house I had sereral cards go under as well. I hope to get these off as well, I hope to do it all at once.
    So please suggest how I might go about this

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I know you can check the status of a refund or amended return online but not sure how to check your current tax status. (I suppose you could try those tools to see what happens.) Other than hiring a tax professional to contact them on your behalf I am not sure what to advise. You may want to try a tax-related site for answers.

  • R Allen

    I posted a question earlier today but have more info now. Due to a hospital sending a radiologist grossly outdated personal information for billing my mammogram, they sent the bill to an expired health insurance policy, and then spent months contacting my outdated address. I never knew until today – five years later. Now out-of-the-blue a collections agency has contacted me for the amount. But this is from California, where the statue of limitations is 4 years. They have already reported this to Equifax, even though I never knew anything about it and they never contacted me. I found out by looking at my credit report. So do I dispute this with Equifax since it’s technically no longer a “valid” debt according to California? Or do I take the “deal” the collector offered ( I called them from the number on my report) pay them, and then let them remove it from my report? I have nothing in writing except my credit report.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      As I explained in this article, the statute of limitations is different than the time period it can be reported. If the collection agency will agree to remove it if you pay it that’s probably your best bet for fixing your credit–but get it in writing first. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request given the circumstances.

      • R Allen

        Okay, I will try to get it in writing from them. It’s frustrating that they reported this to Equifax after the statute of limitations on the debt collection had passed. But I guess they know that – it’s their best tool for getting paid at this point even if collecting 5 yr old debt is technically illegal in CA. They have me backed into a corner. Thanks.

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          The National Consumer Law Center, in a report on medical debt collection, calls it “parking the debt.” I wrote about that in this article. And be sure to speak up to your legislators and the CFPB. Nothing is likely to change until consumers initiate change. You may want to read:
          Can a Debt Collector Come After Me If I Never Got a Bill?

      • Logikal1

        Skippadoodoo – you need to look at the bigger picture. I assume you are liberal (heck even if you are not your gov’t is still on the same side). The bubble that was the housing bubble was a bunch of homeowners nationwide taking advantage (albeit irresponsibly) of a corrupt system in which had to eventually burst. Most likely setup by the powers that be as well. Don’t let them think for you – think for yourself

  • R Allen

    I just found out (7/2015) there’s a ding on one of my credit reports. It’s a $198 bill for reading a mammogram from 2011. I had insurance that should have covered this, but the collection agency is claiming that insurance denied it and that I was sent numerous bills and never paid. This is the first I have ever heard of this. I have since moved out of state and changed insurance. I never received one letter or phone call about this bill, but now it’s on my credit report, which is otherwise excellent. I’ve contacted the radiologists, who now have to dig through records to find mine. What else can I do? I can’t believe that this phantom bill – which insurance should have covered – has brought down my excellent credit. Do I dispute the credit report?

  • Melissa

    I want to get a transcript from my old university, but they require that you pay any past due bursar bill before they will release them. I don’t know if I do have any past due bills being that this was over 20 years ago, and I would like to check with them to see if I do. However, if I am unable to pay any bill that might exist in a lump sum at the time of the request, would the request be considered “activity” and open it up to being placed on my credit report?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      It should not appear on your credit reports at this late date.

  • shf

    Great article. Very informative!
    I have a collection that is over seven years old. In the notice, it says that due to the age of the debt, I cannot be sued for the balance. This notice is coming from Collector A. Suddenly this month, I’m getting a collection letter from Collector B, trying to collect for the same debt (original creditor/bank listed), with no mention of the age of the debt. Can I tell Collector B to stop contacting me due to the age of the original debt? Or does Collector B now begin a new aging process and could this situation go on “forever?” Thank you so much for your time.

  • Nina

    I have Wells Fargo credit card I owed ! It’s not reported in my credit report for some reason and now they are trying to collect after 3 years ? What is the best thing I should do? Thanks for the advice

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      In most states, a three year old debt is not outside the statute of limitations. You can double check it but if it’s not you will either have to consider paying it, settling it or ignoring it (and possibly face further collections and/or a lawsuit).

  • Melody Walls

    Can Juvenile Court charge for detention fees 9 years ago

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I don’t know what the statute of limitations is for that debt, but often municipalities and government agencies give themselves a very long time period to collect. You may want to check with Legal Aid.

  • dGemini Mason

    I had an old credit card bill that reached the 7.5 closer to 8 year legal limitation in my State. A debt collector sent me a letter. It was removed from my credit reports and they told me they can’t sue me. However, they sent me a letter trying to collect the balance which has increased. I lost everything back in 2007/08 when the economy nose-dived. I paid what I could but I couldn’t manage another payment as a single parent. Can they still collect on this debt or cause me any additional grieve? Thank you.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      dGemini —
      Perhaps this article will help:
      The 2 Words Debt Collectors Don’t Want to Hear. You can also check your state’s statute of limitations here: Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      If it is outside the statute of limitations and off your credit reports then you shouldn’t be too worried. They can try to collect but you can tell them not to contact you again and they must stop. Still, be sure to monitor your free annual credit reports and your
      free credit score to make sure something new pops up. Keep good records and respond to any efforts they make to collect. As long as you know your rights and exercise them you should be fine.

  • Lovinglifegonzalez Jesusway

    I have debt that was sold, no judgements, and it is showing as a new debt on my report with a new date as if it is a recent transaction vs 2-3 years ago. I have been told by bankruptcy attorneys that its legal, and yes the time clock restarts. After reading your post, I think there is a way to stop the clock from restarting on debt that I have not been sued for. Most of my debt is student loans, and I would rather wait 5-6 more years to see the debt come off than 10 yrs of bankruptcy on my report. Can you tell me if I can fight the clock restarting on my report when debt (that I haven’t seen judgements for) is sold?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      It’s hard to say exactly what’s going on based on the information you shared. Start with this article:

      The Most Important Dates on Your Credit Report

      After you’ve read that feel free to come back and ask additional questions but we’ll need more specific information about exactly what’s being reported in order to answer your question.

  • Brandon John

    I have a question. I lost my job about 6 years ago and let about 6-8 small accounts go delinquent and never got a chance to catch up with payments and pay them. The debt was small, 5 credit cards with a balance of 300$ ea and 3 department store cards with a balance of 600$ each. I recently checked my credit report and I have late fees and overdraft fees that almost tripled my principle balance. I am about to reach the 7 year 180 day mark and I am wondering if I should pay off the debt owed, try and settle the debt and pay the principle balance and not the late fees, or just wait the 7 year 180 day mark and let the accounts drop off of my credit report. Please help with any suggestions I have no idea which route would benefit me the most. I would ideally like to build up new credit and pay the least amount/ or no money if possible. Any answers would be greatly appreciated.

  • Jenny

    I received a notice from a debt collector for debts a bit over 8 years old (the oldest with the ‘last payment date’ of 1/22/2007). I logged onto the website they provided and asked them to send me invoices of what the debt was for and was sent a breakdown – they were hospital charges. I had recently noticed that these same debts had ‘fallen off’ of my credit report. I admit that I was relieved- I was aware of these debts previously but had no means of satisfying them. With interest and fees, the amount is now more than $13,000! After some research (much of it on this website; thank you) it seems that they shouldn’t be able to collect on it or refer it to the credit bureaus anymore, is this correct? It has been more than the Credit Reporting Time Period of 7.5 years and the statute of limitations is 6 years (Oregon). Would it be reasonable of me (again, being unable to pay the debt) to request that they stop contacting me and remind them that the debts are outside of the CRTP?
    Thank you so much for your advice and for this website, both are greatly appreciated – The short time that I have been visiting this site has taught me a lot about something that I and, I think, many other people find quite intimidating for our ignorance.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Thank you for your kind words. You may want to double check with your state attorney general’s office to make sure you are clear on what the statute of limitations for medical debts is in your state. (Sometimes it can be confusing in terms of which debt falls under which category.) Once you have confirmed that the debt is time barred, then you can go ahead and send the debt collector a certified letter letting them know that the debt is past the statute of limitations and asked them not to contact you again.

  • Theresa

    what if 10 years ago a credit card went to collections 3 years after that I got a judgement( i was young and had no idea what it was so I never responded) it has now been 7 years and 3 months since i got the judgement and now it is gone from my credit report but a debt collector is calling me everyday trying to collect on it, Does this mean the judgement is no longer in effect and is it statue of limitations since its been longer than 7 years. I have also asked to see proof of this debt where I signed for this card and no one ever could show me that.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      The state of limitations is usually different for judgments and in many states they can be renewed. You’ll want to do some research to find out if it’s still valid. The article I reference in a moment will explain how. Additionally since it’s already been reduced to a judgment in court I don’t believe they have to produce the documentation you are requesting at this point, but I am not a consumer law attorney so please don’t take this as legal advice. I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report. Now What?

  • Robert Ledgerwood

    I went through a divorce 12 years ago and she assumed some of the debt. Last year I was sued and a judgement found against me for 10s of thousands of dollars. The thing is I was never notified of the lawsuit yet they sure found where I was working and wasn’t that a fun pay day when I found 25% of my pay check gone. They need to change the laws so that they have to serve you personally via a sheriff or court messenger and you must be allowed the chance to contest it. This debt was not only too old to collect on, but it wasn’t my debt to begin with. I had to file chapter 7 because of this. My total debt before this you ask? 0. I had just paid off my car even. You can be responsible and still be screwed by collectors. It’s not right..

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      You’re right–such an important issue. I hope you’ll at least file a complaint with the CFPB as they are looking into new debt collection regulations.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    It’s not a simple question to answer. It can depend on where they bring the lawsuit among other factors. But if these are collection accounts they should not be on your credit report after 8 years. Collection accounts may only be reported for seven years plus 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor, paid or unpaid.

  • Joe Sobe

    Gerri, My wife was contacted by a debt collector regarding a utility bill that was at least 12 years old from the address in Columbus she shared with her former husband. She had moved out in 1997 and they were divorced in 1999. The home was sold in 2001. We doubt the electric account was in her name but her former husband in any event agreed at the time of separation to pay all the bills since he was living there and she was not.

    The debt collector (probably had bought the debt from the utility) filed a delinquent account notice 1/15 with the credit bureau claiming the account was opened in 10/14. She had never received a bill or any other notice about the delinquent account from the utility or anyone else until the debt collector called, asking for her by her married name. We have been married for 12 years.

    Are they entitled to file a notice with the credit bureau for this? It is not scheduled to come off until 2021. Meanwhile, we were both turned down on a mortgage solely due to the delinquency notice. What can we do? Many thanks.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Has she disputed this? It sounds way too old to be on her credit. I’d suggest she dispute it in writing with the collection agency and with the credit reporting agencies that are reporting it (keep good records). If it’s not removed she can either try contacting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or get a consumer law attorney involved. She may have a case for credit damage. Again, keep records of everything. Let us know what happens – OK?

      • Joe Sobe

        Gerri– Thank you for the good advice and encouragement. I wrote to consumer affairs at my state’s attorney general’s office (which was very supportive), I wrote to the credit reporting agency and I wrote to the Better Business Bureau in the state the debt trolling company is headquartered. They immediately wrote back through the BBB account that they were dropping all actions, correcting the credit report and that the utility was wiping out the alleged debt.

        I think this three-prong approach is an effective way to resolve these issues, especially using the BBB complaint procedure as it becomes an online public record that is easily accessible for anyone checking into the company’s practices. With the other two piling on, the momentum works for a favorable and speedy resolution.

        I don’t think it would have worked as well had I contacted the credit troll directly as they are then in control of the process and would more than likely have tried to “settle” the problem and collect some revenue. This was a clear case of misrepresentation from the get-go and I can only assume that they were knowingly out to scam me out of money through other threats and intimidation.

        Please know that your column provides an essential and helpful forum for the consumer citizen and your work is much appreciated by me and my family. Keep up the righteous fight.

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          Excellent! Thanks for the update and for the encouraging words.

  • Bill

    how long can a “settled debt for less than full balance’ remain on ones credit report?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      If it is the actual account – credit card, for example – then it will typically remain for seven years from the negative status (for example charge off date). If it’s a collection account the collection account may be reported for seven years plus 180 days from the date you fell behind with the original creditor.

  • Jeffrey Smith

    3 months wages if you have no other bills, don’t eat or drive to work.

    • Skippadoodoo

      What’s your point Jeff? I have always been a responsible borrower and was a GREAT credit risk (my FICO score was consistently above 750) until 2007. I am currently being sued by a debt buyer who paid about $750 for a $10,000 debt that was forgiven by the creditor.
      I received a 1099 and paid income taxes on that debt but the debt buyer still has the legal right to go after me for $15,000. That is the $10,000 original debt plus interest, penalties and attorney fees. These blood sucking, bottom feeding leeches are SOL. They want to remove me from my home of over 30 years (there is nothing else for them to attach or take), in order to make a 750% plus return on their “investment”. If I loose my home I will become homeless at 58 through no fault of my own and that is not right (although it is legal).
      This case will be dismissed in May because the debt buyer violated the law. I have no attorney (self represented) and will ultimately walk away from over $40,000 in unsecured debt without paying A SINGLE PENNEY to any of these folks.
      When I was growing up those that weren’t credit worthy weren’t able to get any credit. All loans were fixed rate and fully amortized and that NEVER should have changed! Lending money to folks who don’t have the ability to repay (or scam the system by lying in order to qualify) along with greedy, dishonest lenders, destroyed our economy in 2007.
      That will be happening again as the rules haven’t changed and more and more folks are borrowing more and more money so that they can live beyond their means.

      • Sleepygradstudent

        Well, there are two types of “responsible borrowers.”

        One is the kind that looks at their credit score. They have several accounts, all the major companies, platinum cards with high limits and low rates and consistently make their required payments on time. Creditors really like this kind of borrower.
        The other kind is the kind that looks at their bottom line. They only borrow for long-term benefit (house that they expect to go up in value, education that will lead to better paying job, etc.). Generally speaking, they don’t refinance their houses for cash out, only for better interest rates. They don’t have a credit card or if they do it is paid off monthly or at least as soon as possible. They’d rather buy a lesser car for cash than a newer car on payments. Creditors don’t really like this kind of borrower because they try to pay debts off early and creditors don’t make as much money off of them.
        So you might want to re-evaluate what kind of responsible borrower you want to be. Sounds like you’ve learned a lot, but accepting our portion (and it is ONLY a portion) of responsibility for our mistakes helps keep us from making more mistakes in the future.

        I shed no tears for the credit card companies, good for you for screwing them and not feeling guilty about it! I am so tired of people moralizing about paying your debts but NOT addressing the moral principle of usury that the credit card companies are guilty of.
        But if you’re looking to place blame, it’s not just the companies and it isn’t the people using credit cards irresponsibly (they’re being encouraged to!) You have to look to a 1978 Supreme Court ruling that basically deregulated interest rates on credit cards. This meant that they could loan money to people who they KNEW couldn’t afford to pay it back, knowing that with the interest rates they were now allowed to charge they would, on average, make more money on these “high risk” borrowers than their responsible borrowers because even loaning to people who can’t afford it, these people would pay back the principle and then some before defaulting.

        P.S. Check with an attorney in your state, but I’m pretty sure they can’t take your home. Although they might be able to put a lien on it with a judgement that would affect your credit and prevent you from selling the house until you either paid the debt or the statute of limitations ran out on the judgement.

        • Skippadoodoo

          They can put a lien on the house and force a sale. The statute for a lien here is 10 years with one renewal allowed. I owe 50K on my home of almost 30 years and will own it free and clear no later than Oct. 2017.
          I am now being forced into bankruptcy (and 15 years of bad credit) for one credit card debt. The debt collector and creditor won’t get more than a few hundred dollars (not even court costs) as the Chapter 13 filing will be rolled over into a Chapter 7 after Jan. 1st as the homestead exemption will be going from 175K to 300K and that will protect my home.
          So, they got no money and forced me into bankruptcy because they were never willing to accept less than $0.60 on the dollar. No winners here, loose loose for all parties involved because of their greediness and one size fits all policies. I kept this account current for 3 & 1/2 years after loosing my job because I was a responsible borrower. I stopped paying because my unemployment ran out after 100 weeks back in 2011.
          I was forced into retirement because I am no longer able to find a job in my line of work. I have done the same thing for 36 years and nobody wants old white guys in my line of work. My quality of life and lifestyle have been changed forever. From an upper middle class $125K a year person to somebody who has been living below the poverty level for the last 8 years and will be for the rest of my life all because of the greediness and dishonesty of the financial services industry!

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Probably not. You can check your state’s statute of limitations here:
    Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Hope that works out for you.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    What about the statute of limitations? What state do you live in? In many states it is four or five years.

    We’ve written about ways to defend a debt collection lawsuit here: Seven Ways To Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

    Whether or not you can use the payment protection plan as a defense would depend on the facts and circumstances. One thing I suggest you do is research the payment protection plan you had. Some state attorneys general and federal regulators have taken enforcement actions against some of those plans. If the plan you purchase was covered by one of those actions that may help.

    The second thing I’d recommend is that you talk with a consumer law attorney. They will be able to identify defenses to the lawsuit faster than you probably can. They may also be able to provide you with some helpful information if you decide to proceed pro se. If you are having trouble finding an attorney I suggest you use the search function on the websites of the National Association of Consumer Advocates or the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    No. Collection accounts may be reported for 7 years plus 180 days from the date you fell behind with the original lender. The issuance of a 1099-c doesn’t change that. Please read this article: What is a 1099-C? Your Top 11 Questions Answered

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Carey – Please talk with a consumer law attorney as soon as possible. It is possible that the collection agency’s actions are illegal (or they may not be) but I think it’s good be hard for you to sort through yourself. You should be able to get a consultation for little or no cost from a consumer law attorney. Visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. You may also be eligible for free legal assistance through your local Legal Aid office. Here’s another article I suggest you read: Help! I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I am having a hard time following your comment, but you need to find out whether the statute of limitations has expired. The statute of limitations is a matter of state law, and usually starts when you last made a payment. (sounds like 5/2009). This chart may help point you in the right direction: Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State

    Some red flags are going up here. You told them the statute of limitations expired and then they tell you they are going to “serve you with a certified letter.” What the heck does that mean? Sounds like a scare tactic to me, and possibly illegal if you told them the statute of limitations had expired.

    Do you even know if this collector is legitimate? I’d suggest you proceed with caution.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Is there an outstanding judgment against you? Check your credit reports. If there is a judgment, then yes, they may be able to still try to collect it.

    • Jake

      I owe credit card $200 in a year of 2000. At that time I was a freshmen of college. No money to pay. So today 2015 some how the collection called me. Ask me to pay. And I check my credit report it doesn’t show on it. Should I pay them? I guess by now it might up to 3k debt.

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        That debt is likely outside the statute of limitations as we explained in this article. You’ll need to check. You can start here:
        Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State. If you believe the debt is too old (in most states and situations it sounds like it will be) you can tell the collection agency (in writing) that you believe it is outside the statute of limitations and ask them not to contact you again.

      • http://thekeytohoustonrealestate.com jcmoore2010

        there is a statute of limitations on collecting a debt. In texas, they have four years to file a lawsuit, then it stays on your credit for 7 years, but it is my understanding that after 4 years the debt becomes uncollectible.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Brina –

    I am not sure I understand the situation. Typically creditors must get a judgment before they can garnish wages (though that’s not always the case with federal student loans and federally guaranteed debts.)

    When was this judgment entered by the court? Was it before or after your wages were garnished? When was it paid off?

    I’d need more information to point you in the right direction.

  • http://www.coralseamercantile.com.au Coral Mercintile

    Nice stuff posted about debt repayment. I think, debt collection agency can chase you until you die and after your death they will chase your family and your kids.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I need more details on the first issue. What kind of items are you talking about and what are the dates involved?

    As for the overlimit issue, if they are reporting the correct current balance and limit then it is not inaccurate and he’s probably stuck – despite the fact that it wasn’t his fault they lowered the limits.

    If he’s been struggling with this debt for a while he may want to look into credit counseling:
    5 Ways To Get Out of Debt: Which Will Work for You?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    You have two choices. One is to seek help from a consumer law attorney with expertise in debt collection and credit reporting matters. If they think you have a good case (I am not an attorney but it sure sounds like it!) they may take your case for free as the collection agency would have to pay their fees if they broke the law. Visit Naca.net to find one in your area.

    Your other option is to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    And you’re welcome! 🙂

    • Jody

      That’s the conclusion I came to as well. I have already CFPB and have a case pending.

      Thanks again! 🙂

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    When were you late on payments? If they are more than 7 years they should be off your report. If more recent, and they are accurate you always have the right to request an investigation, but they may be confirmed as correct by the lender. If they aren’t they will no longer be reported. If they are confirmed, they can legally they can be reported for 7 years from the date you were late.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Cindy —
    You will want to get your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies to see if this bill is showing up on all of them. You will need to dispute it with each agency, and then you should be able to get it removed from your credit reports. Here are some resources that can give you some help and direction for getting it done.

    A Step-by-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

    I Want My Free Credit Reports

  • Skippadoodoo

    I work as a consultant . . . . In 2007 the bottom dropped out and for the next five years I averaged 3 months of work and nine months of unemployment. I am a single homeowner with a 15 year fixed rate mortgage on my home of almost 30 years. I had perfect credit and almost 29 years of continuous employment (not a single day between jobs). I stopped paying my unsecured debt (credit cards) after my unemployment expired. That is what I used to keep these accounts current but with no income, a mortgage to pay and a house to loose I told the credit card folks to pound salt. In the 3 & 1/2 years that I tread financial water, they got their principle back and some interest too. I tried to negotiate with them and the best I could do at the time was about $.60 on the dollar. I had about $40,000.00 in credit card debt so there was no way I could do this. So, almost three years ago I unplugged my home phone and began the game of cat and mouse with the collectors. My home phone will be reconnected in January of 2015 and I will have three more years of bad credit after that. I have always lived within my means and been a responsible borrower. The financial services industry and those that were living beyond their financial means screwed the economy and the rest of us. At 57 years old retirement isn’t even in the picture. I now drive three hours round trip every day so that I can work and work with folks that are all 25 to 30 years younger than I am. I resent what happened and what was taken away from me through no fault of my own. Now I hear advertisements stating that mortgages are available for people who have had BK’s or short sales that are 12 months old are older. You have got to be kidding !!!

    • Savannah Nash

      been there done that FEEL your pain!!!!

      • Skippadoodoo

        Some good news. Even though I was “sewer served” in January of this year (quashed that defective service) and the creditor canceled the debt and sent me a 1099, the debt buyer continues to come after me for the entire amount ($15,000 now with penalties, interest and attorney’s fees).
        They made a fatal error when filing the complaint by not including a copy of the original credit card agreement with the complaint and summons. My state requires that. So, I have a hearing date of May 1st, will be served when I walk into court and then will motion the court for dismissal because of the fatal error and because I will have paid income taxes on the principal of this debt.
        In addition, I will be counter suing for damages (just $500) for malicious and pernicious prosecution and malfeasance. It will give me alittle satisfaction getting some money from somebody who makes their entire living off of the backs of hard working middle class Americans like me who lost everything in 2007 due to the greediness and dishonesty of the financial services industry!
        And I have done all of this by myself. I am not represented by any attorney. If folks take the time to understand the process, it is almost inevitable that they will be able to find mistakes and find true justice for these bottom feeding dirtbags (aka debt buyers).

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  • Walter Lobo

    Great information.
    First, if an unpaid credit or any type usecured loan exists, upon receipt of collection agency letter, seek (1) validation letter in the form of “original documents”, not any documents. (2) seek validation within 30 days of the date of the collection agency letter, and (3) seek their reply within 30 days of your letter seeking validation. If the “original documentation”, does not exisits, the credit or oan company would NOT be able to file a suite (claims) in the court. One requires copies of the original documentation to file a claim. Nine out of ten times, credit company lacks the original documentation, which invalidates their claim against you.

    • Paul VanEvera

      I got a new collector on an old debt just the other day. The original cc company sold it to one collect and pulled it from them about a six months ago. I believe the debt is about 7 years old which goes against the SOL. Should I send the certified letter to the new collector to verify or validate the debt? I did make payments to the first collector, so would this start the SOL all over?


    Question, I had an auto loan that was 6 yaers in lenght, 72 monthly payments. About 3 months ago I thought I had mad my last payment, but kept on getting dunning notices that I owed an amount that was about $100 short of a normal payment(Mthly payments were $499, dunning payment was for $399. When i inquired to the loan company they stated that I had missed a payment. i went on line to there web site looked at all my payments, seems I made 74 payments on a 72 payment loan. When i brought this up tp them the first response was prove it, I said check my payment history site. They said the payment due was now related to interest. When I told them I still made 2 extra payments and to apply that to the balance open and send me a refund, I shortly received a “we have to protect our interest E-mail and will take the auto if the payment is not received by a certain date. I paid the amount. Now what do I due?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Who is the lender?

      • glory

        How does this apply to real estate

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          There are statutes of limitation that apply to real estate debt as well. Is that what you are asking?

          • Kat Web

            I had a 2nd mortgage that the last payment was made 9 years ago, thought it was taken care of in the foreclosure. Out of the blue 6 days ago a collection agency called and ask how we would like to pay the $42,000? Can they come after us 9 years later?

          • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

            It’s probably outside the statute of limitations but you may need to do a little research in order to find out for sure. Start here:

            7 Things You Need to Know About the Statutes of Limitation for Debt

            At any rate, the collector must follow up their phone call with a written notice. Insist on it. When you get it, you can request verification of the debt in writing (send your letter via certified mail). This helps protect your rights while you research it.

            My answer assumes there is no judgment against you. If there is, then it’s a different matter.

  • Mike M

    Good article Geri – it seems like this is always a timely topic. Since we are rapidly approaching tax season, it’s probably worth mentioning that, if a borrower settles with the creditor (including a debt buyer or collection agency) for less than the full amount owed or if they send a cease communication letter to them and refuse to pay on a time-barred debt, they may receive a 1099-C for the amount forgiven/amount of the debt. Your readers who receive a 1099-C should definitely check out your excellent articles on the subject.


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