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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the statute of limitations for credit card debt in Pennsylvania? If the statute of limitations period has passed, can the debt collector still pursue the debt?

The limited time window in which debt collectors and creditors can sue debtors for nonpayment of credit card bills in Pennsylvania is 4 years. The statute applies to "written contracts" or "open accounts. In most cases, once the statute of limitations on a case "runs out," the legal claim is not valid any longer. It is worthy to note that the statute of limitations does not prevent debt collectors from attempting to collect on debts - the debt does not go away. They just cannot successfully sue to collect the debts. In some states, it's usually up to the defendant to show that the debt is time-barred under the statute of limitations. Many consumers choose to ignore court notices about old debts. In most states, the statute of limitations is clear-cut, however, in some states the laws are ambiguous where the laws governing contracts are interpreted by the courts when they are applied to individual circumstances. It is advised to attain an experienced consumer lawyer to represent you in either case.

What debts are covered under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?

The Act covers personal, family, and household debts, including money you owe on a personal credit card account, an auto loan, a medical bill, and your mortgage. The FDCPA doesn't cover debts you incurred to run a business.

How can I stop a debt collector from contacting me?

If a collector contacts you about a debt, you may want to talk to them at least once to see if you can resolve the matter – even if you don't think you owe the debt, can't repay it immediately, or think that the collector is contacting you by mistake. If you decide after speaking with the debt collector that you don't want the collector to contact you again, let them know in writing to stop contacting you. Be sure to make a copy of your letter and send the original by certified mail. Pay for a "return receipt" so you'll be able to document what the collector received. When the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again except: (1) to tell you there will be no further contact or (2) to let you know that they or the creditor intend to take a specific action, like filing a lawsuit. Sending a letter to a debt collector which you owe money to does not get rid of the debt, but it should stop the contact. The creditor or the debt collector can still sue you to collect the debt.

What should I do if a debt collector sues me?

If a debt collector ends up filing a lawsuit against you to collect a debt, respond to the lawsuit by the date specified in the court papers (summons) by the date specified to preserve your rights. Although some choose to defend themselves, it is wise to use an attorney since they can help you deal with the creditors, their legal team and the Judge without you having to worry about it. A knowledgeable attorney will know that there is often a defense that can be applied that will provide you with leverage to either win your case or resolve the situation in a way that is more beneficial to you than getting a default judgment.

What protections do I have if I think a debt collector has violated the law?

You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win your case, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, such as lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, plus the attorney's fees and court costs even if you can't prove that you suffered actual damages. A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector's net worth, whichever amount is lower.

Should I pay a debt collector with a post-dated check?

On occasion, debt collectors will pressure the consumer to make a payment with a post-dated check. Be wary, as numerous problems can arise, including collectors depositing the checks prior to the date specified on the checks. The FDCPA prohibits soliciting post-dated checks if they will be used to threaten consumers with criminal prosecution for bouncing checks, however, the law allows debt collectors to accept post-dated checks. If the date on the check is more than five days away, debt collectors who intend to cash checks prematurely ARE REQUIRED to notify consumers in writing at least three business days before they deposit the checks.