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If collectors call on a very old debt, know your rights and assert them

Start by making them prove the debt is yours

By Tanisha Warner

Credit Care
'Credit Care' columnist Tanisha Warner
Tanisha Warner is the communications manager for Money Management International, where she manages educational content designed to teach consumers about personal finance topics.Ask a question ‘Credit Care’ archives

Question for the expert Dear Credit Care,
Due to health problems (heart attack), I was forced to file bankruptcy. It is 12 years later and some creditors are starting to hound me for payments saying they weren’t covered by the court action. My only income is Social Security Supplemental Security Income at this time. What should I do? — Jack

Answer for the expert Dear Jack,
A good rule of thumb when contacted by anyone who says you owe them for a debt is to request verification in writing that the debt is valid and owed by you. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states that, to validate a debt, a collector or creditor must provide you with:

  • The amount of the debt.
  • The name of the creditor.
  • A statement that you have 30 days to dispute the debt in writing.
  • A statement that if the debt is disputed in writing by you that the collector must obtain verification of the debt and mail it to you.
  • A statement that you can request in writing the name and address of the original creditor.

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