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Z Is For Zombie (Debt)

We’ve already talked about the fact that Harlan Ellison is the inspiration for the bankruptcy alphabet.  He ended his Chocolate Alphabet with “Z Is For Zombie” so I thought it fitting if I did the same for you.

In the world of bankruptcy, there is nothing more frightening than a zombie.  Not the flesh-eating, lumbering undead that shuffles down the street in search of living bodies upon which to feast.

I’m talking about zombie debt.

What Is Zombie Debt?

Zombie debt is that old bill that resurfaces in the form of a debt collection letter or lawsuit long after you thought you’d buried it forever.  Perhaps it’s an 11-year old PayPal bill, or maybe it’s a dead bill collector’s signature mysteriously showing up on affidavits filed with the court.

Often, zombie debt shows up in the form of debt collection harassment after bankruptcy.  The amount due is discharged in a Chapter 7 or paid off in a Chapter 13, then collection efforts begin anew months or years after the fact.

Why Zombie Debt Is Profitable

Collection agencies figure that if you got into debt once, you’ll likely do it again.  And if you do, the bill collector can comfortably claim that the amount due is a consequence of a new debt that you’ve failed to pay.

“This wasn’t included in your bankruptcy,” they’ll say.  And you’ll believe them because after all, who would lie about something like that?

In the end, you’ll cut the people a check if only to be left alone.

What To Do When Confronted By A Zombie

If you’re facing a zombie in a movie, you run as fast as you can.  It’s a bad idea to run into a house and bolt the door because that traps you rather than putting more space between you and the undead.

In the zombie debt scenario, your best bet is to stand your ground and fight.  Dispute the debt with the collector by following the procedures in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  File a request for reinvestigation with the credit reporting agencies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Defend the lawsuit and countersue if you’ve got legal grounds to do so.

If anyone fails to do their part under the law, find a lawyer to help you.  That’s what I do, so if you’re nearby feel free to drop me a line and we’ll talk.  If not, hunt down a lawyer in your neighborhood to lend a hand.

Whatever you do, don’t left the zombies win.

Image credit: Leo Reynolds

By |December 31st, 2011|

About the Author:

I've been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I'm a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.
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