My mother was recently contacted by mail by a debt collection agency about an overdue payment on a purchase she made from a computer company. The agency was demanding she pay them $800. The notice said that it was charged-off back in 2012. My mother was not even aware that she still had a remaining balance so she contacted the original company whom she made the purchase from and they said she only owed $80 and that she could just pay them back directly and to essentially ignore this debt collection agency. If the debt had been sold, should she still pay back the original creditor? It's been over 5 years since the debt was charged-off.
Your mother should not pay a thing at this time; otherwise, she will renew the "stale" debt and the statute of limitations will start over. She cannot be successfully sued for a stale debt as long as she does not renew the debt. However, if she does get sued, she should immediately contact a local consumer attorney to learn how to deal with the suit. If the collection agency sues, it would be an unfair debt collection practice and you can counter-sue for that under the Fair Debt Collection practices Act and the California version. Her attorney fees will be paid by the collector when she wins.
In the meantime, she should demand validation of the debt in writing, forcing the collector to prove that the debt is valid and why the amount being collected is so out of line. It is common for stale debt to be collected with hardball tactics with scary letters and phone calls. The collector wants to spook your mother into sending some money, thus renewing the debt. This is a scumbag tactic, and she should not worry. A well-reviewed Bankruptcy and Debt attorney can help her protect herself. Many such attorneys recognize these scammers and know how to dispatch them. If necessary, some do sue under federal and state law. You can find an attorney right here on the AVVO website. You can also check out YELP.com for additional reviews. Most such attorneys offer a free consultation that should answer your mother's concerns. Again, tell your mom to be diligent, but not worried. She has rights that simply need to be enforced. I will recommend "hiring" an attorney even though your mother may never pay a dime!
Hope your mother has a happier New Year.
Please understand that my answer assumes certain things that may not be true. You should seek competent, local counsel to get the full story and to seek expert advice. I cannot be certain that my answer is correct, and neither should you, based on the limited information you have provided. I ask many questions of my clients before I render a final opinion, so this answer is merely a general guideline to follow. Please seek competent counsel to help you right away!
Since the debt was charged of 6 years ago and the debt was last serviced before being charged off, its too late to collect. I understand that California has a short 4 year statute of limitations. Therefore, immediately take mom over to the offices of a good consumer protection attorney who handles Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act violations. You can't go wrong.
Instead paying the debt, your mother should contact an attorney that experienced in handling Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) claims. If the claim is barred by the SOL an a collection agency, debt buyer or law firm is collecting the debt, your mother may have a FDCPA claim. Many FDCPA attorneys will handle claims like this and collect their fees from the collector. . There are a significant number of bankruptcy attorneys that handle FDCPA claims. Most debtor's debt collection attorneys and bankruptcy attorneys will provide you with an initial appointment at no charge. If you have a claim, many attorneys will collect their fees from the creditor. You can use the Avvo "Find a Lawyer" link at the top of this page to search for an attorney. I suggest you use the categories of Debt Collection, Debt Settlement, and Bankruptcy. Some attorneys that handle each of these areas will handle FDCPA claims while others may not.
Answers and comments provided are for general discussion only. My comments are not to be considered legal advice and they do not create an attorney-client relationship.
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