January 13, 2021

Will inquiring about an old debt make it active again?

Dear Consumer Ed:

If I ask questions about an old debt that might have expired, will that make it active again? I’m not sure what the original debt was for before it was sold to a debt collector, and I need to find out the date the debt was incurred.

Consumer Ed says:

Old debt that has reached the statute of limitations is considered time-barred. Time-barred doesn’t mean the debt can’t be collected, only that the person who incurred the debt cannot be sued for it. Be cautious inquiring about potentially time-barred debts. Typically, simply acknowledging a debt can toll the statute of limitations, or restart the clock. Georgia law, however, gives enhanced protections for consumers by providing a statutory written requirement whereby you as the debtor, or someone authorized by you, would have to provide a written acknowledgement sufficiently recognizing the debt in order for a creditor to collect on a debt that would otherwise be time-barred.

If you’re curious as to what the original debt was for, consider reviewing a copy of your credit report from one of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are now offering free weekly online reports through December 31, 2022. To access your free credit report, go to annualcreditreport.com.

You have one additional avenue available to you if the debt collector contacts you. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act give you the legal right to what is called “debt validation.” The law requires debt collectors to provide a notice of debts within five days of their initial communication to collect on a debt, if not included in the initial communication. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and a statement notifying the consumer of his/her 30-day right to dispute the debt. You also have the right to request within this 30-day period, the name and address of the original creditor. A written request to dispute a debt, so long as it is stated as a dispute and not an acknowledgment, stops debt collectors from further attempts to collect until the debt is verified. Failure to respond to a notice of a debt on the part of the consumer does not imply an acceptance of the debt and therefore has no effect on the statute of limitations.

Submit your own question to Consumer Ed.  Remember…we do not give legal advice. Always consult a lawyer about legal issues.

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