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ConsumerWatch: Old Credit Debt Surprises Consumer

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Unpaid debts can come back to haunt consumers, even if they think that the statute of limitations has passed.

When Zinab Kidane went to her bank a few weeks ago she discovered her account had been levied. According to Kidane, the claim was for a 10-year-old Circuit City debt she thought had been cleared since the 4 year California statute had passed for her untouched debt. But according to Consumer Attorney Chris Schreiber, if a debt collector files a lawsuit before the 4 year expiration the statute of limitation stops running.

That’s exactly what happened in Kidanes’ case. Circuit City sold the debt in 2002 and the debt collector sued Kidane in 2006.

“Once they go into court – and they typically wait until the last minute to go into court – that lawsuit essentially stops the statute for the debt collector,” Schreiber said.

It doesn’t stop interest from being added onto the balance. Kidane originally owed $900. Now she’s being sued for nearly $7000.

Kidane said she has now learned a valuable lesson.

“I’m not going to do any credit cards,” she said. “That’s enough for me.”

The statute of limitation doesn’t prevent debt collectors from coming after unpaid debts. They simply can’t file a lawsuit after 4 years. If a credit card was opened in a different state, statute of limitations can vary anywhere from 3 years to 10 years.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

More from Julie Watts
  • Jay

    People need to know that they can and should fight these lawsuits in court. The creditors (who are really called junk debt buyers, they buy old debt for pennies on the dollar) are notorious for suing for thousands over the original amount owed and if the debtor does nothing which is often the case, the creditor wins the full amount and can garnish wages, impose levy’s, etc. to collect the debt.
    If you do fight the lawsuit and go to court, you are standing up for your rights and forcing the creditor to PROVE the amount they claim you owe. Many of these lawsuits get dropped during this process and it often can take months, giving the debtor more time to save money.

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