Dealing with Debt Collectors Debt Help

Can Debt Collectors Extend Statute of Limitations on Zombie Debts?

Aaron Crowe
Written by Aaron Crowe

“Zombie debts,” or bad debts that have been around for years, have a statute of limitations on when a creditor can sue for payment.

The statute of limitations varies by state, but it’s typically six years for being sued, and seven years for the debt being reported on a credit report, says Shane A. McClelland, a consumer lawyer in Ohio who focuses on defending against debt collection. The range for most states is three to 10 years.

A debt collector who threatens to sue after the statute of limitations has expired is violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

There are a few ways the statute of limitations can be extended, and debt collectors can continue going after the debt even after the time has passed. They can still seek voluntary payment even though the law can’t force a debtor to pay.

But collectors can’t extend the statute of limitations and legally require debtors to pay by passing the legal rights to the debt to another collector, say McClelland and other attorneys.

Why zombie debts are chased after

Even if the statute of limitations has expired on debts, collectors can still legally seek the money, although they may have a harder time collecting it without a winning lawsuit in hand.

[pull_quote align=”left”]”Often times we see people come through our practice with a debt from 10 years ago, or a debt they thought was paid off years ago,” says Shane A. McClelland, a consumer lawyer in Ohio.[/pull_quote]Some people want to pay off their debt, or they can be pressured by a collector to make payments and be scared of ruining their credit.

“Often times we see people come through our practice with a debt from 10 years ago, or a debt they thought was paid off years ago,” McClelland says.

“In the end these collection companies bundle loads of consumers together and then sell them to third-party debt collection agencies for pennies on the dollar, to at least try to make some money off the collection efforts,” he says.

How statute of limitations is extended

If the statute of limitations is about to expire and the bill collector convinces the debtor to make only a small payment, then the clock starts again on being required to legally pay the debt.

About the author

Aaron Crowe

Aaron Crowe

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the Bay Area who specializes in personal finance. He has been a writer and editor at newspapers and websites, including AOL's personal finance site, WiseBread, Bankrate, LearnVest, AARP and other sites. Follow him on Twitter at @aaroncrowe, or at his website,

1 Comment

  • Hi and thank heaven for people like you. I have been in a debt validation program for almost one year. Most of my 13 creditors have sent me collection letters that been sold to third parties for payment. 3 of the creditors or collection agencies have NOT sent me any letters. Is there an expiration for the time the credits have to assign a collection company?

    Thank U!

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