Paying “Zombie Debt” in New Jersey Can Cause Big Problems

Many people believe that they should not delay when it comes to paying off their debts and getting back on the road to being in a good financial position. However, you could be in for a big – and not so nice – surprise if you send a check to a debt collector seeking payment on an old debt.

Of course, your debts can accumulate over time, particularly as the interest on the unpaid principal balance mounts, and leave you in a very difficult spot. Even if you can only make a small dent in your overall debt balance, you may think, every little bit helps. But the truth is that paying off old debts could actually hurt you.

Harassment by Debt Collectors over Zombie Debt

If you have significant debts, you’ve probably been contacted by a debt collector. Many debt collectors are aggressive and skirt the law when it comes to pressuring a debtor to make good on the balance. Although debtors do have protections against creditors who are overly insistent on phone calls or in letters seeking payment, the problem is that some debtors get so frustrated by the debt collectors’ tactics that they actually end up encouraging the borderline-illegal behavior by giving in to the demands and paying off the debts.

Worse yet, some debtors make the tough decision to pay off an old debt that isn’t even legitimate anymore. This is known as “zombie debt,” which means that it is an unpaid debt that the creditor no longer has a legal right to sue for. Creditors have a set window in which they can try to collect on certain debts. Once this window has lapsed, the borrower is no longer liable in a civil court.

The time period for legally collecting debts varies from state to state. For instance, the statute of limitations for most debts in New Jersey is six years. Once six years have elapsed, a debt collector can no longer legally sue you for the debt.

So what’s the problem with making a small payment on an old “zombie” debt? If you send even a tiny amount of money to a debt collector to cover part of an old debt for which the statute of limitations has come and gone, you could wind up being sued for the entire debt! That’s because paying off part of a debt restarts the clock for paying back the whole amount. Suddenly, you could find yourself being barraged by collections agencies seeking additional payments.

To learn more, check out the article, “The One Time It’s OK Not to Pay off a Debt.”


Debtors have rights. If you have been contacted by a debt collector about an old debt, or if you are simply looking for assistance with debt consolidation, you need to talk to a qualified debt management attorney. Joel R. Spivack, Esq., is an experienced debt relief and bankruptcy lawyer who can help you with debt-related issues in New Jersey. Contact Joel Spivack today to schedule a free consultation and explore your available options.

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Attorney Joel R. Spivack is an experienced bankruptcy and residential real estate transactions lawyer in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Clients come to us for legal services, but what we really provide is peace of mind. For more than 30 years, Attorney Spivack has helped people make wise, informed decisions about bankruptcy filings, debt relief options and residential real estate transactions.
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