Ask The Experts: My Old Debt Is Coming Back to Haunt Me

Q. Recently I was contacted by some collector claiming that I owed Bally Total fitness over $6000. Now I cancelled my membership with in three days in West Palm beach in October 2001 and I was told it has been taken care of. Now the collector said that he is cutting me a deal to pay $2000 otherwise at the end of the month its reflecting on my credit report. I'm hoping to buy a house someday. I need some advice!!! -Mildred

A. Mildred - First things first... did you sign something that obligated you to a contract with Bally? You refer to canceling your agreement within the 3 day cooling off period but did you do this in writing? Did you keep copies of it?

Second things second...If the debt was incurred in Florida in 2001 then it's too late for it to be reported to the credit bureaus. They only have 7 years to report it from the date it went delinquent. IF they report it then the collection agency and the credit bureaus could be guilty of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. I'd suggest getting your credit reports and scores NOW and then again in a few months so you have a memorialized before and after snapshot of your credit in case they do report it.

And last but not least...the statute of limitations to pursue you legally for the debt expired long ago. It's 6 years in Florida and also 6 years in New York. So, regardless of where you lived during this debacle, it's too late to sue you for the debt.

You'll want to point all of these things out the next time the collector calls you. You might also want to brush up on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Do this BEFORE you have your next conversation with the collector. Pepper your conversation with some tidbits you learned about collection laws and you probably won't hear from them again.

And you'll want to document EVERYTHING including their company name, his name, times he called, topic of conversation, etc etc. If they do try to ruin your credit then you'll have ammo for your lawsuit. Call me if you need an expert witness!!

>>Read previous Ask The Expert posts
>>Question for our experts? Email them here

John Ulzheimer is a nationally recognized credit expert, president of Consumer Education for

highlight_ask_the_experts_blue.jpg and contributor to On The Money. Learn more about him at