I'll assume that "from 20 years ago" means what I'd think it means --- you haven't paid anyone any money towards this account in 20 years. If so, here are some pointers to get you started while you are waiting to speak with a Florida lawyer. (1) In an abundance of caution, check your credit reports just to make sure that no one has "re-aged" the debt. (See link below re : Zombie debts). (2) Log the calls. (A call log instructions and the logs are available on the tool bar on the link below). (3) Save the messages (I suggest you follow the instructions for logging calls and saving messages. (4) Remember, the expiration of the statute of limitations would not "extinguish" the debt if someone sued you on it you'd need to respond. For information about what a debt collector can lawfully do while attempting to collect a time barred debt, pls. refer to "Statute of Limitations" under the categories in the left hand column of my site. After you've read the educational materials, call a consumer lawyer who is licensed in Florida. Most of us provide consumers a free initial consultation concerning time barred debts and similar issues. Good Luck! Don Petersen
Do NOT ignore the letter. Dispute the debt and make them prove its validity and their right to collect. Then, see a consumer law attorney for possible violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Mr. Goldstein is a Virginia-licensed attorney only. The information is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. Answering this question does not in any way constitute legal representation. Contacting Mitchell Goldstein or the Goldstein Law Group does not constitute legal representation, nor is any information you provide protected by attorney-client privilege until otherwise advised.
The actual age of the debt depends on when you stopped paying it. If it was 20 years ago, then it is probably past the statute of limitations (i.e. too old for for you to get sued over it) but to be sure you have to check your state laws. Assuming it is a consumer debt and the debt is past the statute of limitations, I would argue that this a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) since they are trying to collect a debt that is legally uncollectable. By violating the FDCPA, the company is liable for up to $1,000 in statutory damages, and they have to pay your reasonable attorney fees and costs associated with bringing a claim.
If you would like to discuss how you can proceed, your should contact an FDCPA attorney in your area, or call me (312-242-1849) to discuss your potential case in more detail.