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If a collector calls you about a debt that's old or that you don't think you owe, you can protect yourself by taking certain steps, like not talking to the collector (you don't want to inadvertently give the collector useful collection information or, even worse, admit you owe a debt that isn't yours or say something that revives a debt after the statute of limitations has run) and requesting validation of the debt.
(To learn more about what you should—and should not—do when a debt collector calls, read Handling Debt Collection Calls: Do's and Don'ts.) If you need help dealing with abusive debt collectors—or if you're facing a collections lawsuit—consider talking to an attorney to find out what to do in your particular circumstances.
Zombie debt is typically purchased from the original creditor (or even from another debt collection agency) for pennies on the dollar.
Reports of debt collectors trying to collect on debt that is very old or even no longer owed—called "zombie" debt—have been on the rise in recent years.
These collectors (often called debt scavengers) purchase large amounts of old debt for pennies on the dollar, and then begin hounding the consumer to pay up.
Zombie debt and debt scavengers can be intimidating to unsuspecting consumers.
Collectors use tactics to scare or trick people into paying these debts, often when the consumer no longer has any legal obligation to pay them.
Zombie debt collectors and debt scavengers often use illegal or questionable tactics to get consumers to pay old debts.