Have you ever been chased for old debts before, perhaps debts that you’ve long since forgotten about or never even knew that you had? It can be a frightening prospect, to receive a letter or phone call from a debt collector asking you to pay up for a debt completely out of the blue.
This situation can often happen in the case of small debts owed from old mobile phone bills that have been forgotten about as you moved service providers. Or catalogue debts that continue to build through high interest being added on, even though you thought you’ve paid such debts off in the past. In fact, many different types of debt get forgotten about for various reasons. Old debts can also crop up if you’ve been a victim of fraud or someone has taken out a credit card or loan on your behalf.If you have a Sheriff Court decree against you, the creditor will have up to 20 years to enforce the decree. In this case you won’t be able to dispute that you owe the debt.
What do if you’re being chased for old debts?
If you’re contacted by a debt collector for old debts, under no circumstances should you acknowledge the debt unless you know for a fact that it’s your recent debt and you do need to pay it.
You’ll probably feel put on the spot or a bit shocked at receiving a phone call or letter demanding payment for old debts, but don’t let your emotions get in way of the fact-finding mission that you’ll need to embark upon at this point.
Look through your bank statements and any other records to see if the debt is indeed yours and whether it’s more than 5 years old, before officially responding to the debt collector. If you have no record of such debt or you know that a debt is more than 5 years old, you can then take the following steps:
1). Make sure you don’t have a decree against you. You can check this on your credit report if you’re not sure.
2. Write to the debt collection agency or creditor and ask them to give you the information they hold about you in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1988.
3. Once you know the details the debt collection agency or creditor has on you, you can write to them again to let them know that the debt in question has become time barred and remind them of their obligations under the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973.There are some very useful sample letters you can use for steps 2 and 3 on the Debt Watchdog website.
Keep things official - in writing
Always communicate in writing when you’re liaising with debt collection agencies or creditors – even if they’ve contacted you by phone in the first instance. Stay on the phone long enough to get their correspondence address and then continue with anything further in writing. That way you’ll have a written record of any correspondence from you to them and you’ll know exactly what you’ve said (and what you haven’t). Keep copies and always post by recorded delivery.
There are unfortunately some shady debt collection agencies around who will try to convince you that you owe money when you really don’t. Such companies have even been known to forge signatures from letters to add onto fake credit agreements or debt acknowledgement letters!To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, never sign any of the letters you send in to debt collection agencies. Just type your name in capitals instead. Those cases are few and far between but it’s better to be on the safe side than not!
It’s important to know your rights and be aware of the steps you should take if this situation ever happens to you. If you’re getting chased for old debts, don’t panic. First of all, find out if the debt is yours and if it’s been left unacknowledged for 5 years or more.
If you believe an old debt to be statute barred, communicate with the debt collection agency or creditor in writing and remember not to sign any letters just in case. The Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 is in place to protect you, should your debts be time barred.