Q: Can a debt collector contact me about a debt that's no longer on my credit report?
A: Unfortunately, a debt collector can contact a consumer about a debt that is no longer on the consumer's credit report.
Your debts are removed from your credit report for various reasons. One reason a debt may be removed is that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the FCRA) requires removal after seven years. (You can find a summary of your rights under the FCRA here.)
However, just because the FCRA requires removal of a debt from your credit report does not mean that debt is no longer enforceable. In fact, debt collectors will be able to pursue you until the earlier of:
- Expiration of the statute of limitations (explained below);
- Payment in full; or
- Settlement of your debt.
The statue of limitations is the legal "clock" that determined how you are responsible for paying back a debt. The length of the statute of limitations on a debt is effected both by the type of debt and the laws of your state.
You should be aware that a debt collector may still contact you after the statute of limitations expires. However, you are under no legal obligation to pay that past due account.
However, if you do start making payments on an old debt, in some states this will cause the statute of limitations to restart. And, if that that happens, the debt collector may then sue you. So, while you might have the best intentions, it may be better to be overcautious and not make any payments on your debts after the statute of limitations expired.
One last thin to be aware of. Just because a debt or past due account is shown on your credit report, that does not mean it is enforceable. If the statute of limitations expired, or you are not otherwise responsible for that debt, you can have it removed. Check out the "Additional Resources" below to learn how.