Q: How should I respond to a letter from a collection agency regarding a time-barred debt?
The alleged debt is over 14 years old. The letter, and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, says I have 30 days to dispute the debt or they will assume it is valid. Most online advice I read tells me, whether I think the debt is valid or not, to send them a letter and ask for more information. However, I want to be careful that I don't inadvertently acknowledge the debt. I don't even want to confirm for them that they have a valid address for me (they don't seem to have my telephone number). So I am thinking that silence is my best response, especially since I am not dealing with phone calls. Is there anything to be gained by writing them within 30 days? Will it hurt anything if I don't write them within 30 days, other than probably receiving more letters? Will my lack of dispute be considered a legal acknowledgment of the debt? If they were to try to sue me, would this failure to communicate with them in the first 30 days hurt my case?
A: You should ask that the debt be validated. It won't be an admission if the debt is valid or not. Also, it is good if they know your address, so if they do decide to sue you they will have a good address to send the summons and complaint. When you get sued, its important to respond to the complaint and assert in your answer any affirmative defenses that you may have. The affirmative defense that the "Statute of Limitations" has run is important to put in the answer to the complaint. If you do not list it in your affirmative defenses in the complaint, the defenses will be waived. Additionally, if you get sued, I advise you to seek the advise of an attorney.
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