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What is Zombie Debt, and How Do I Deal With It?

Lyle Solomon | November 03, 2022

Watch out for zombie debts.

Summary: Zombie debt is debt that has either returned to haunt you after being paid off, is too ancient to be collected, or belongs to someone else entirely. In essence, a zombie debt is when debt collectors are attempting to recover funds without having the legal authority to do so. Use SoloSuit to fight off zombie debt collectors in and out of court.

Do you know the primary difference between real-life zombies and zombie debt? Zombies haunt you in mysterious places, but zombie debts haunt you everywhere you go.

Simply put, debt collectors might come after you trying to collect on a zombie debt that they have no legal right to pursue. In this article, we will explain everything you should know about zombie debt and how to fight it.

Luckily for you, fighting zombie debts is less frightening than fighting off real zombies—though not by much.

Let’s get right to it.

What is zombie debt?

Zombie debt is debt that has either returned to haunt you after being paid off, is too ancient to be collected, or belongs to someone else entirely. In essence, a zombie debt is when debt collectors are attempting to recover funds without having the legal authority to do so.

Be aware that if you fall for the scam and pay even a single penny toward your zombie debt, you're essentially authorizing the debt collectors to pursue collection!

You’re probably thinking, “There is no way I would pay back a loan that isn't mine!” But you'd be shocked at how frequently this strategy works.

There are different types of zombie debt

Like we said, you’d be surprised how often debt collectors successfully collect on zombie debt. This is because there are different kinds of zombie debt, and know this can help you protect yourself when collectors come crawling your way.

Here’s a list of the different types of zombie debt you should know about:

  • Debts that are past the statute of limitations period: If you borrowed money and didn't pay it back, a debt collector cannot file a lawsuit against you if the statute of limitations on the debt has expired. The statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline for creditors and collectors to sue someone for a debt. This deadline is different in every state, but it usually ranges from three to six years. If you agree to pay a debt collector, even a small amount, the clock will reset on the statute of limitations. As such, you should check your state’s statutes before making any payments on a debt!

  • Debts that have already been settled: These are debts agreed between you and your creditor through a debt settlement program. If you have already reached an agreement to pay off a debt, or you’ve already paid off a debt in full, debt collectors may have out-of-date documentation and still come after you for the debt.

  • Debts that have disappeared from your credit report: Unpaid debts disappear from your credit report after seven years. However, debt collectors can still come after you for them. Keep in mind, if seven years have already passed since the debt was originally reported to the credit bureaus, there is also a good chance the statute of limitations on that debt is up too.

  • Someone else's debt: Identity theft is the apparent result of this. Pay close attention; you are not obligated to repay a debt that is not your own.

Zombie debt collectors may try to scare you—here’s how

Debt scavengers, also known as zombie bill collectors, are skilled at making you anxious and frequently attempt to con you into paying a debt you do not owe. These are some such strategies they might use:

  • Zombie debt collectors may offer to leave you alone for a small payment.
  • Zombie debt collectors will threaten to sue if you don’t pay.
  • Zombie debt collectors harass or abuse you verbally.
  • Zombie debt collectors may claim to be a law firm.

Below, we describe these strategies in detail.

Offering to leave you alone for a small payment

It does not require you to make payments on a zombie debt. Debt collectors, however, might attempt to persuade you to pay them a small sum of the debt. According to the Fair Debt Practices Act, you can request they leave you alone without having to pay anything (FDCPA). They must stop contacting you if you notify them in writing that you no longer wish to be contacted.

Threaten to sue you if you don't pay

If a debt is time-barred, zombie debt collectors cannot lawfully sue you. Even if they might threaten to sue you, it's doubtful they would have a good case. According to the FDCPA, collectors cannot threaten to sue you for a debt that they know is past the statute of limitations.

Harass or abuse you verbally

You are harassed if you frequently receive threats, critical remarks, or intrusive calls. The FDCPA forbids this kind of harassment. Even though it could be frightening, informing the debt collector in writing to halt further correspondence can be helpful.

Claim to be a law firm

Although most debt collectors aren't attorneys, they could misrepresent the fact that this is the case. Frequently, they lack the legal authority to file a lawsuit against you or demand payment for ghost debts.

Zombie debt collectors have employed these and other strategies in the past to try and recoup zombie debts. You must know your legal rights concerning debt collection and recognize when you are liable for a debt.

Learn about your rights under the FDCPA

If you're considering paying ARstrat, ask for proof of the debt they claim. A collection agency must show you documentation confirming the debt before collecting it per the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA prevents unfair or abusive debt collection practices, and you have the right to dispute the debt.

Below are some of the rules that debt collectors must follow:

  • Debt collectors cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Debt collectors cannot discuss your debt with your friends and family.
  • Debt collectors cannot call you at your workplace.
  • Debt collectors cannot use vulgar or threatening language to intimidate you into paying a debt.
  • Debt collectors cannot continue calling you if you have requested to have all communications in writing.
  • Debt collectors cannot threaten to take legal action that they are unable, or do not plan, to take.
  • Debt collectors cannot pretend to be associated with the US government.

How to deal with zombie debt collectors

The best way to fight off zombie debt collectors is to formally request that they validate the debt by sending a Debt Validation Letter. Under the FDCPA, debt collectors must validate a debt with proper documentation and contractual evidence in order to collect on it.

Do not let the collection agency walk over you with threats of a lawsuit. Make them prove you are liable for the debt. Sure, you may owe them money, but what is the amount they claim? Do they have the correct account information? Once contacted by a debt collector, respond with a Debt Validation Letter within 30 days. If the collector lacks sufficient evidence to validate the debt, they will legally have to cease collection efforts.

Draft your own Debt Validation Letter in minutes with SoloSuit.

Check out this video to learn more about how a Debt Validation Letter can help you battle zombie debt collectors:

You can also try sending a cease and desist letter to the debt collection agency if they bother you about a zombie debt that isn't yours. If they persist, you can lodge a complaint with the FTC or attorney general's office. If they file a lawsuit against you, don't get frightened. You must respond to debt collection lawsuits fast with SoloSuit.

It's also time to freeze your credit, close any accounts created in your name, set up a fraud alert, and report the incident to the FTC if you believe you may be the victim of identity theft.

Respond to a debt collection lawsuit

If you get sued for a zombie debt, the first step to winning your case is to respond. You must respond to your debt collection lawsuit with a written Answer. In your Answer, you can explain why you are not responsible for the debt and why it’s considered a zombie debt.

Follow these three simple steps to respond to your debt lawsuit:

  1. Respond to each claim against you.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File the Answer in court, and send a copy to the collector suing you.

SoloSuit can help you draft and file an Answer in all 50 states in minutes.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James

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