This is the second post in a two part series. In the first post, a reader asked how moving between states affects the statute of limitations on debt. Click here for part one of The Statute of Limitations When Moving Between States.
So how would I handle the situation if I had a time-barred debt from one state, I moved to another with a longer statute of limitations, and suddenly had a debt collector claiming the new state’s longer statute of limitations applied?
Well, it would work out something like this:
Step 1: Reconnaissance
Let’s assume the debt collection agency had called a few times, and they’d already given me their line about the statue of limitations on debt “traveling” with the debtor. So I already know this is their story and they’re likely going to stick to it.
If I got another call and didn’t have all of the information I needed already, I’d ask: “who are you and why are you calling?” Once I had that information, I’d ask “what is your mailing address?” Lastly I’d ask “what account number is this concerning, and who is the original creditor?” I’d politely thank them for their time while I wrote all of that information down. Then, I’d hang up the telephone before they had a chance to launch into their collections spiel. I’d also write down the time of the call.
At this point, I have enough information to write this hypothetical collection agency with pen and paper and make them provide evidence that I actually owe the debt.
I have received a number of collection calls from [company name], regarding a debt you believe I owe. Per the relevant sections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), your claim is hereby disputed. Please provide the following information:
- The name of the original creditor.
- A dated copy of the original invoice.
- Proof that the debt is not time-barred by the statute of limitations.
Then I’d send it off and wait for a reply.
Collection Agency Inserts Foot in Mouth
The point of the exercise is to get the debt collector to write back and provide a photocopy of the original invoice. That invoice will show the date (presumably) and also establish where the debt originated from. This gives you confirmation that the debt is tied to the state with the shorter statute of limitations.
In such a case, you could expect a reply to the effect of:
See attached invoice dated 20xx. This debt is collectible in the state of [your new state with the longer statue of limitations] until 2018.
Chances are, they’re not going to be idiotic and say “the longer statute of limitations applies.” This is blatantly false. Rather, you are much more likely to have an unscrupulous collection agency try to use a series of technically true statements in a misleading way. Yes, you originated the debt when they say you did. Yes, the statute of limitations is longer in your new state. But don’t expect them to address the statue of limitations in your old state at all.
Why would a hypothetical bad collection agency word a reply like this? Simple: viewed uncritically, it looks like a written confirmation that the longer statute of limitations applies. Also, the statement leaves enough wiggle room to claim with a straight face that the collection agency “didn’t actually claim the longer statute of limitations applied,” even though that is the inescapable implication.