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An Old Zombie Debt Has Resurfaced. What Should I Do? – Greg

“Dear Steve,

I have a zombie debt from 1997 that a company is calling about now. It was from a large retailer and while I’m pretty sure it was paid (Only a couple hundred dollars) I won’t swear to it, it’s just too far back to be sure of. Texas law says soL has ran out (4 yrs). I can do the registered letter thing but from what I’m seeing here is they’re entitled to try and pursue it anyway. I would rather not open any dialogue with these folks as they are just a little lacking in the mind your manners department. I don’t trust them to not try to claim that I have reopened this.

What I want to know is how to stop them from calling. A Cease and desist letter from an attorney?



Dear Greg,

You have two choices.

First, you could pay the debt and keep proof the debt was paid and never have to deal with this again. Paying is an option if you weigh the value of your time versus the amount it will cost you in time and money to deal with this.

Second, if this company does not own the old debt and is a debt collector, you could send them a cease and desist letter. You don’t need an attorney to do that.

But, you need to take a look at your consolidated credit report and see if it is reported on any of the three credit bureaus. If it is reported as an open collection item then it is lowering your credit score, so pay it and close the item.

Please update me on your progress by posting updates here in the comments section of your question. I’m very interested in how this works out for you.

P.S. Be sure to read ‘The Secret of Surviving Through Difficult Economic Times. What I Learned On My Journey‘.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
  • Kevin Lulham

    Steve wouldn’t a cease and desist letter and denial of the validity of debt after sending the creditor a notice that the Statute of Limitations was exceeded mandate the collector no longer bother/harass the alleged debtor?
    Also after 7 years (From the date of initial reporting on the debtors credit rating)they can not report to the credit agencies again.(retime a report)
    I am presuming both these point would need to be outlined in a written letter by the debtor to the collector. Also what does one need to write in the letter to address that if the creditor fails to write back?I was thinking that asking for written confirmation back if they contest thisstatment would be manadatory and failure to write after reciept of a confirmed letter (with US postal delivery confirmation)would serve as record would serve as legal record Is this correct? What other methods can they use besides writing letter asking for funds or following FDCA rules regarding other forms of contact?

    • Steve Rhode


      Excellent observations but a couple of points.

      Just because a debt is beyond the statute of limitations does not mean that collectors can’t attempt to collect on it, even aggressively. It just means the person can’t be sued.

      While the date on the debt isn’t technically supposed to be changed, it happens, especially when a debt is sold from one company to another.

      Finally, remember that a cease and desist letter does not apply to the owner of the debt. The owner may be the collection agency contacting the person, especially on an old debt.


  • Greg

    First part – Check credit report – Clear
    Second part – Decide to pay them to shut them down or not
    Decided no on this one. Paying them for a dubious debt is a form of blackmail in my eyes. If they can’t collect they can’t pay their people. And every business needs money to keep going. They’ll have to get by without mine.

    • Steve Rhode


      There is nothing that prevents them from collecting on a valid old debt. The statue of limitations does not prevent this. If you feel you’d rather deal with this moving forward, that’s your choice. Just make sure as you move forward, that you keep any documentation showing that a debt has been paid in full with your other important papers you need to keep forever.

      Good luck.


  • Thirtysomething Finance

    Right, but doesn’t that suggest that there isn’t anything the creditor can do to collect the bill? Unless it already has a judgment, it can’t fix the judgment and thus can’t execute on it. All it can do is hound the debtor.

    Not to say that he shouldn’t pay it, if he owes it and can pay it.
    .-= Thirtysomething Finance´s last blog ..PAYDAY! =-.

    • Steve Rhode

      Agreed. But the constant hounding or contact can get really annoying. Better to deal with it than ignore it or try to hope it will go away.


  • Thirtysomething Finance

    A twelve year old debt? You might want to consult a lawyer to see whether they can even pursue this debt against you — that debt is pretty old.
    .-= Thirtysomething Finance´s last blog ..PAYDAY! =-.

    • Steve Rhode

      A debt can be chased until the debtor dies and then the estate can be pursued. The statute of limitations only limits the ability to sue, not chase for collection.


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