Debt Buyers and Zombie Debts

Debt Buyers and Zombie Debts

Defend debt collection lawsuits - fend off the "vultures!"

Seattle 206-529-5195 | Spokane 509-252-1899

A debt collection lawsuit is like a vulture that swoops down on a consumer to pick at whatever is left of his assets after the other animals — such as medical bills, credit cards, payday loans, and predatory auto loans — have feasted on him.  If you have been served with one or more of these lawsuits, a consumer protection attorney can help you fend off these “vultures,” fight the lawsuit, and help you find your way out of the debt collection “desert.”

Many debt collection lawsuits I see in my practice are brought by junk debt buyer collection agencies, companies that buy old junk debts for pennies on the dollar and then sue consumers to collect on the debts or alleged debts not owed.  In my opinion, these junk debt buyers don’t really provide anything useful or positive in our economy.  The defaulted accounts, often credit card debts, were usually written off by the original creditors long ago before they were sold to the debt buyers.  The debt buyer business model is to obtain default judgments against consumers and then execute those judgments. Stop junk debt buyer collection agencies and their dirty tricks.  

Night of the Living “Debt”: a horror story

What’s worse is that many of these lawsuits are filed without adequate proof that the plaintiff debt buyer has the right to sue the consumer or that the plaintiff even owns the debt – alleged debts not owed.  Many of these credit card debts are time-barred and past the statute of limitations, and the debt buyer can’t prove ownership of the account, but they sue you anyway. Old debts that come back from the dead are known as “zombie debts”  or “junk debts.” Zombie debts rise up from their graves after you think they’re dead and gone.  They are bought and sold with no record that they were paid, settled, discharged in bankruptcy, or not even yours (as in the case of identity theft).  

It is a very sad situation that dozens of default judgments are entered against consumers every week, when many of these lawsuits should be dismissed for lack of evidence against the consumer. That’s un-American, and that’s not how the game should be played.  

Zombie debts - night of the living debt - time barred debt

If you have been served with a lawsuit, contact a consumer protection lawyer right away! Don’t let the paperwork pile up on the kitchen table!  If you don’t file and serve your answer within 20 days, the plaintiff can obtain a default judgment against you without notice. 

And, don’t make any payments on the debt!! You don’t want to reactivate an old debt that otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to collect.  

Don’t become a statistic and fall prey to “vultures” or “zombie debt” — call a consumer protection attorney to determine what your options and rights are.

Debt collectors and debt buyers can engage in some dirty tricks to obtain default judgments against consumers.  One of them is the unfiled complaint: the no case number summons.

So, some creepy guy comes to your door and asks if it is you, then hands you some papers and dashes off.  You look at the papers and discover you’ve been sued for a debt.

Only there’s one problem: there’s no case number on the paperwork.  You go down to the courthouse and the court clerk looks at you like you’re from Mars (and then maybe points to the little sign that says “we do not give legal advice and please do not ask”).  You try to file an Answer, but there’s no court file and there’s no case in their system.  You assume that this is a scam or that there’s nothing you can do.  Then, months later, you find out that some collection agency is going to garnish your wages.

Sound familiar?  I hope not, but I hear this story all the time from consumers who can’t believe that someone can start a lawsuit against them without filing the lawsuit with the court.  Unfortunately, our civil procedure rules provide that a plaintiff can start a lawsuit by either serving or filing the summons and complaint.

If you are served with a lawsuit, and there’s no case number, you still need to respond by serving a Notice of Appearance on the plaintiff within 20 days of service of the summons and complaint.  The summons should explain this, but for many people (and don’t feel bad) it is still about as clear as mud — and that works to the collectors’ advantage.

Better yet, call a consumer protection lawyer as soon as you possibly can so that you can possibly avoid having to deal with the court system alone.  It isn’t designed to be a place where you make friends.  And yes, a busy courthouse can feel like you’re shooting an episode of some zombie TV show…..

You can call me, SaraEllen Hutchison, at 206-529-5195 or 509-252-1899.  Depending on the particulars of your situation, I may be able to take your case on contingency, with no up-front costs to you.  If credit card debt has come back to haunt you in the form of a lawsuit, call a lawyer right away. 

I am a member of NACA, the National Association of Consumer Advocates.


 Attorney SaraEllen Hutchison, PLLC
Serving Seattle, Spokane, Everett, Tacoma, Vancouver, Olympia, Tri Cities, Yakima, Wenatchee, King County, Snohomish County, Pierce County and all of Washington State