Each state has a time limit, or statute of limitations, on the amount of time that a debt collector can attempt to collect a debt. This is what is meant by time-barred debt, in most states the limit is seven years, but you should check the limitations within your state. What does a time-barred debt mean for the consumer? If a time-barred debt has gone beyond the statute of limitations a debt collector can still attempt to collect the debt, but the methods of collection they can use are severely limited. A debt collector cannot take you to court, or even threaten you with court action, in an attempt to collect a debt that is over the statute of limitations. They cannot garnish your wages either, but there is one tactic they can employ, and debt collectors are well trained in the use of this tactic.

If you are ever contacted by a debt collector concerning at debt that is a time-barred debt use caution in what you say or promise the debt collector. It is best to not say anything to them until you are positive that they debt is beyond the statute of limitations. Why is this? The reason for you to use caution is that most states will allow a collection agency to “re-age” a debt. What this means is that if the collection agency can get you to acknowledge the debt by any means then the clock is reset to zero on the debt. This allows the collection agency another seven years to take any possible actions to collect the debt.

If you are certain that the debt you are being contacted about is a time-barred debt and is past the statute of limitations, your best bet is not to speak to the collection agency at all. The agents that contact people are well trained in that art of causing people to make a slip-up in what they say. The next thing you know you will have accidentally said something that will allow the collection agency to re-age the debt. If you do speak to the agent, you will need to listen carefully to what you are being asked and choose your replies carefully. Do not agree to send a payment of any sort, if you send any money to the agency that is acknowledging the debt and giving the collection agency an excuse to re-age the debt.

The last thing to know about dealing with time-barred debt is that the collection agency may be able to get you brought to court. If this happens, make sure you show up on the court date, many states will require you to prove that the debt is time-barred. If you do not appear in court, the collection agency will win the case and be permitted to re-age the account. They will then be able to use many methods to collect the debt. A consumer can make the statute of limitations work in their favor but you have to know the rules concerning time-barred debt. You can learn your rights by researching the Fair Debts Collection Practices Act.

More information on how to deal with time-barred debts and the statute of limitations debt is available here.


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