The age of the debt does not necessarily mean they cannot try to collect from you. In CA, the statute of limitations for a written contract breach (like a credit card) is four years from the date you defaulted. Keep in mind, the statute of limitations is a defense you can assert if they sue you, it does not automatically bar them from attempting to collect on the debt.
Getting rid of old obligations can be very difficult. Debt collectors will often keep coming back for a very long period, even long after a debt should have fallen off of your credit report (and on a side note, just because it is off of your credit report, that does not mean you do not owe the debt).
You may be able to settle the debt for a fraction of what is owed, bankruptcy may be an option as well.
I suggest you contact an attorney to discuss the situation further.
Nothing contained in this message should be construed as legal advice.
You can dispute the collection of any consumer debt (preferably in writing) with a simple, one-page letter, such as my sample letter 1.1, at the link, below. I'd suggest you use sample letter 1.1 to this collection agency, send it by Certified Mail, return receipt requested. I would advise no phone calls with these folks, based on your posting that you have no funds to pay them, so the phone call will either end up harassing you or being unproductive.
The statute of limitations varies based on the type of debt and how it was formed. The period can be extended by various acts by the debtor. For instance, a written contract formed under California law, is four years from the date that the debtor breached the contract. Making a payment or promising to pay in writing, can renew the four-year period. Credit card debts may be four years, but they may be shorter, based on the laws of another state or if they were not properly in writing. If you are sued on this debt, please view the short videos on my firm's home page, which include a summary of your options. My office provides free consultations.
Robert Stempler (please see DISCLAIMER below)
NOTICE: The above statements are provided for general information purposes only and are not intended as legal advice or advice of any sort for a specific case or legal matter. If you do not have a signed attorney-client fee agreement with the Consumer Law Office of Robert Stempler, APC ("the Firm"), then until such written fee agreement is provided and signed by both a prospective client and attorney for a particular case, neither Mr. Stempler nor the Firm will represent you nor will they be your attorney in any matter and you remain responsible for retaining your own attorney and for compliance with any and all deadlines and for any statutes of limitations that may pertain to potential claims. Comments made on a public forum, such as Avvo.com, to not have any confidentiality because others may read them. If you desire a private consultation with Mr. Stempler that is confidential, please go to www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com and submit a free eCase Review. The result portrayed for a client was dependent on the facts of that case. Results will differ if based on different facts. The Firm and Mr. Stempler are a debt relief agency. The Firm and Mr. Stempler help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.
As my colleagues indicate, an attorney would need more information to ascertain whether the debt is barred by the statute of limitations.
I would suggest a vigorous defense by first filing an Answer to the Complaint, and then propounding extensive written discovery to ascertain whether or not the plaintiff has any evidence supporting the alleged debt. In many instances, a debt buyer will not have the necessary evidence to prove its case.
Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.