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Steve Bucci, the Bankrate.com Debt AdviserDebt collections, collectors and old utility bills

Dear Debt Adviser,
I am being contacted continually to pay an old utility bill in a state that I have not lived in for nine years. The amount is for $132. What is the best way to put an end to these annoying phone calls? There is much information on the Internet about old credit card debt, but I don't see any information about this type of collection. Thank you for your assistance.
-- Paul

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Dear Paul,
A question for you: Do you owe the $132? If so, the simplest way to stop the phone calls is to pay the bill. By the way, Paul, this solution works even if you don't owe the bill! We are dealing with a small amount of money and a large portion of your life. Nine years is what, 9 percent to 10 percent of the time you will be spending on this planet? My suggestion, pay the bill and move on.

OK, now, for all of you who seek after truth, true justice and don't mind wasting another 1 percent or 2 percent of your lives, here is the answer you were hoping to read!

You have certain rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

If you did not receive a written document from this collector outlining the items above, let the collector know that you are aware of your rights under the FDCPA and that you will no longer discuss the matter until the document is received. If the collector refuses, report the company to the Federal Trade Commission through the FTC's complaint form.

If you believe you do not owe the debt because the statute of limitations has expired on collecting the debt, then let the collector know that you are aware of this fact. It is legal for the collector to attempt collection on a debt past the statute of limitations; however, the collector cannot report the debt to a credit bureau or take any legal action to collect the debt, such as a judgment or other court action.

All this said, if after nine years you don't see any humor in this situation, then I suggest you hire my cousin Fred as a contingency lawyer and sue for damages. What damages? I don't know, but I'll bet Fred will come up with some!

Good luck!

The Debt Adviser, Steve Bucci, is the president of Money Management International Financial Education Foundation and the author of "Credit Repair Kit for Dummies." Visit MMI for additional debt advice or to ask a question of the Debt Adviser go to the "Ask the Experts" page and select "debt" as the topic.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Nov. 28, 2006
Read more Debt Adviser columnsAsk a question
Dealing with old debt
Statutes of limitation for old debt
Bankrate Debt Management Guide
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