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Can your old accounts come back to haunt you during debt relief?

Have you ever had an old debt that you simply could not pay -- and you forgot about it or just left it alone? A surprising number of Washington residents find themselves in just this situation, with debt that is years old still floating around on their credit report. In some cases, the debt is so old that creditors do not even attempt to collect since a statute of limitations has passed. However, some people seeking debt relief may find that these unpaid accounts come back to haunt them.

Experts say that borrowers should know their rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which is designed to protect Americans from illegal creditor harassment. Interestingly, debt collectors that violate the provisions of this act could actually be targeted by those they are harassing! In other words, you may be able to sue a debt collector if that company attempts to take you to court after the statute of limitations has expired.

Debt collectors can generally only sue consumers up to five years after the date that the account was first considered delinquent, though that length of time varies by state. Companies that claim they will take such legal action are thus violating consumer protection provisions. However, they are allowed to make collection phone calls that comply with the rules, even after the debt has been "dead" for many years.

One of the most important parts of debt relief is simply knowing your rights as a consumer. No matter whether you are considering bankruptcy or a different type of negotiated repayment plan with your creditors, you are shielded by certain consumer protections. A bankruptcy attorney may be able to provide additional information for those who need assistance with their own financial challenges.

Source: Credit.com, "What Happens If I Never Pay an Old Debt?" Gerri Detweiler, May. 13, 2014

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