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Have you been getting phone calls lately about past debts you barely remember? This might have you wondering how long debt collectors can pursue old debts. Here’s what you need to know, including the rules that apply in Texas.

How Does Debt Collection Work?

If an account remains unpaid 30 days after the due date, it is labeled delinquent. Your creditor may start calling or notifying you of the late payment. If you still fail to pay, your creditor might sell your debt to a collection agency, giving them the right to start hounding you.

The Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection

The statute of limitations is a law setting the maximum time after an event that legal proceedings may take place. The statute of limitations varies by state and the dispute involved. In the case of consumer debt in Texas, collectors can only sue you if the debt is less than four years old.

Once the statute of limitations expires, debt collectors can no longer sue you in court, but they may still attempt to collect on old debts by calling you, coming to your house, or harassing you in other ways. If they do, avoid immediately claiming responsibility for the debt, especially if you can’t remember it. After all, debt collectors can make mistakes, or they could be con artists trying to collect fake debts.

To ensure the debt and the collection agency are legitimate, tell the collector you won’t discuss your debts until you receive a written validation notice. This should arrive in the mail within five days of the phone call with your name, the name of the original creditor, the amount owed, and your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Verify the information before deciding how to proceed.

Should You Pay a Debt After the Statute of Limitations has Expired?

Some say you shouldn’t worry about the debt once you can no longer be taken to court. Others feel a moral obligation to repay what they owe. There are also credit score implications to consider.

If you decide to pay off old debt, be wary of doing so without setting up a new payment agreement with your creditor. Making payments out of the blue could reset the statute of limitations and make it legal for debt collectors to sue. Protect yourself by signing a contract stating you won’t be sued if you follow the agreed-upon terms.

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