Halloween warning: Zombie debt can be scary

It could come crawling out of its crypt on Halloween, covered in cobwebs and dust. It is the zombie debt, and a financial expert warns that debt collectors may try to haunt you with the debt, though it might not actually be a valid debt for any number of reasons.

"As the name suggests, zombie debt is debt that you thought was dead, but has come back to life," said the expert. In fact, zombie debt is a bill you don't actually owe. In many cases, consumers have already paid the debts, and in other situations, the statute of limitations has expired and in still other circumstances, the debt was never yours.

A recent news article points out that debt collectors are probably not going to lend a sympathetic ear when you tell them that the debt is not yours or that it was taken care of in the past. Regardless of where their sympathies might lie, collectors have to respect your consumer rights as outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

When a debt collector contacts you about a debt or bill you do not owe, you can demand written verification of the debt. That verification must be sent within 5 days of the collector contacting you.

If, after receiving the verification, you send to the collector (within 30 days) a notice of your own saying you don't owe the debt, the collector has to stop contacting you.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has sample letters that you can use for your letter to the debt collector. If the collector persists in trying to collect the zombie debt, you can fight back with the help of a Philadelphia consumer protection attorney who knows how to protect your rights and interests.

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