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That doesn't stop debt collectors from continuing to pursue it. Something about a clock reset if you all the sudden admit it was your debt.

Nothing ever stops debt collectors from continuing to pursue a debt, at least not until the debt is paid off or settled. Debt collectors can buy old 'zombie' debt for less than pennies on the dollar - so if they only manage to get a few people to pay them something, the purchase will probably be a profitable one for them. However, debt collectors have limited options to threaten/harm you with once some time has passed. (Plus, as already pointed out in this thread, you can request that they contact you only by mail.)

The most common way for debt collectors to harm you is to place a derogatory mark on your credit report. For the first 7 years and 180 days after the delinquency occurred they are allowed to do so. However, the technique of re-aging the debt to keep it on your credit report longer than that time frame is no longer legally allowed. If collectors attempt to do so by doing things like changing the account number to make it appear that it's a new debt, the debtor can sue them in court for $1000 per violation plus attorney fees, and potentially even more if the debtor can show they were damaged by the illegal reporting. Here is an example of a large verdict against a debt collector trying to collect illegally (although this is not a 're-aging' case): http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/federal_jury_says_law...

The other way that debt collectors can potentially harm you that has a time limit is to get a lien/judgment against you. The time limit here is based on your state's statute of limitations, which generally runs between 2 and 6 years, although there are some states that have statute of limitations as long as 30 years under some circumstances.

Unlike re-aging a debt on your credit report, the statute of limitations can be restarted, if you confirm to the debt collector that the debt is yours. To prevent this, you should never tell a debt collector that the debt was yours. Rather, you should tell them that they need to provide you with a validation of the debt - make them prove that you are the one who incurred the debt.

AJ
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