debt

Denying debt won't make it disappear

Steve Bucciq_v2.gifDear Debt Adviser,
I have a very high credit card debt that I was paying on regularly for quite some time. However, my husband lost his job and payments became harder. 

Eventually, the debt was turned over to collections. I tried debt consolidation but that became very expensive and my debt was not decreasing (and the collectors said they didn't work with consolidation companies). 

I finally quit the consolidation and went into denial. Now I am receiving letters that I'll be sued. I would like to make payments but they refuse to take anything and want a lump sum payment, which is impossible! 

Is there a statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for this debt? Does it begin when you're issued the card? Or does it start when it is actually turned over to collections? If the collection company changes, does it begin again? 
-- Tara

a_v2.gifDear Tara,
You went where? Into denial? I'll have to call you Cleopatra, queen of "de-nile!"

Seriously, I'm glad you and your husband are facing your problems. I have a saying that debts, unlike wine, do not improve with age. I know how frustrating it can be to live with seemingly insurmountable debts, but there is help available. You don't have to hide and you don't have to put up with unrealistic repayment demands.

The statute of limitations varies by state and type of debt. The clock begins to run when you make your last payment. Once the statute of limitations is reached, it doesn't make debts go away. But it does make them uncollectible in court.

So, if (hypothetically) the statute of limitations in your state is three years for credit card debts, it will kick in after three years without any payment. A change in the collector does not reset the clock. However, you should be aware that any partial payment you make does restart the clock on the statute of limitations.

I always recommend that whenever possible, people do their best to repay their debts. If the collector is being unreasonable and you cannot make the payment they demand and you are near or over the statute of limitations in your state, you may want to consult an attorney to see what options you have.

Next, your bad experience with a debt consolidation company may have been the result of the company you chose. Most legitimate creditors and many collectors will work with a bonafide credit-counseling agency. Why? Because the creditor or collector gets its money without having to do any work.

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I suggest you reconsider this approach and contact a nonprofit agency with a lot of experience that is independently accredited. You can find one at DebtAdvice.org or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies Web site.

If this is all too late and you get a summons for a court hearing, be sure to show up. No sailing away into denial again!

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