Can my wages be garnished for a 7 year old debt?

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Can my wages be garnished for a 7 year old debt?

I received a letter from a lawyer about a credit card debt from 7 years ago. I did make some payments but due to hard times things became tight. While I have paid off some past due accounts and in the process of paying off others, I don’t recall this particular bill, since I have current accounts with both credit cards. The file according to court documents was destroyed last year. First they say we are going to court and then they say they want me to call them to make some type of payment arrangement.

Asked on August 24, 2011 Florida

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Typically, the key in a case such as this is when the last date of activity was. There is something known as the "statute of limitations". This is the period of time in which a creditor/debt collector can bring a lawsuit against you for a debt. If too much time as gone by, you can no longer be sued. In FL the statute of limitations on credit card debt is 4 years. Therefore, if the date of last activity was more than that your creditor/debt collector can file suit against you in court.

However, the date of last activity starts from the time that you were late or the late payment went into collection, not from the last time you made a payment on the account. Further, the SOL can also re-start from the time that you make any promise to repay or even acknowledgement that the debt is yours. So if you did either the statute may have been extended, as it were.

Additionally, aside from the SOL, you may have another out. According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) you have the right to request a collection agency validate the debt they are trying to collect. Essentially, the collection agency must show that you owe the original creditor the debt, not the collection agency attempting to collect the debt. Legally this is what is known as "debt validation"

For a proper validation of a debt, the FDCPA requires proof of the validity of an alleged debt, not merely “verification” of your name and amount of an alleged debt. Proper validation should be in the form of documentation from the original creditor, not the debt collector (i.e. they must provide proof you owe the debt to the original creditor, not to them).

Documentation can be account statements or payment history from the original creditor, a copy of the original signed loan agreement, or a credit card application with terms and interest rates. However, some unscrupulous collection agencies will simply send a printed form from generated from their own computers because they have no original proof from the creditor (typically no back up or supporting documentation from the original creditor is obtained because it costs extra). A consumer can receive improper documentation posing as debt validation. For example, a piece of paper entitled “Validation of Debt” or “Verification of Debt” or even a computer generated form made to look like a billing statement from the original creditor. This is not sufficient for debt validation.

Bottom line between a possible SOL defense and the fact that your file has been lost, there appears no way that this collector can sue you in court. In that event you still may owe the money but practically speaking there is no way that they can collect it from you.


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