debt

6 ways not to reset the clock on old debt

Be cautious discussing debt
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Be cautious discussing debt

When it comes to discussing old debt with a collector, it pays to be careful.

"I think the primary thing -- the surprising thing -- is that (consumers) can restart the statute of limitations so easily," says Robert Hobbs, deputy director for the National Consumer Law Center and author of "Fair Debt Collection." If they're not careful, they can restart the clock on a debt they didn't even know about, he says.

All it takes is acknowledging the debt is yours, and you can restart your state's time clock on forced collections, he says.

So what do you do if you want to discuss the debt because you need more information to determine if it is yours, or if you want to investigate payment options without restarting the collections clock? Adopt the hypothetical approach, says Hobbs.

For example:

  • "I don't believe this is my debt. Can you tell me more about it?"
  • "I'm not saying this is mine, but I'd certainly not like to talk to you anymore. What would it take to settle it?"

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