Is “zombie debt” haunting Western New Yorkers?


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Sen. Charles Schumer is taking up the issue: “We all know a zombie is somebody who comes back from the dead. ‘Zombie Debt’ is debt that comes back from the dead–that you really don’t owe the debt. It is false, or you paid it back already.”

For those consumers, it can be a nightmare–old debt that has been paid off, discharged in bankruptcy, or charged off by a bank—that is brought back from the dead to haunt them, by debt collectors, like the now defunct 4 Star Resolution agency in Buffalo, that was just indicted by a federal grand jury, this week.

Attorney Matthew Parham said, it is illegal to collect most zombie debt, “Nevertheless, people get phone calls and contacts from debt buyers who are claiming that they have the right to collect these.”

Parham is an attorney for the Western New York Law Center, and has to fight off zombie debt collectors for his clients every day, but Parham said aggressive debt collectors are sometimes more interested in getting their money than obeying the law.

“I am sure it is leading to some people who shouldn’t be paying money to these companies, paying money to them.”

Consumers can be haunted by these debts in many ways: a creditor fails to report your old debt to the credit reporting agencies, or they can show up as errors on your credit report.

“It is difficult, under current law, for consumers to correct their credit reports. They sort of have to jump through a lot of hoops to do that.”

Sen. Schumer is co-sponsoring a bill, called the Consumer Reporting Fairness Act, that would empower federal authorities, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), to crack down on those abusive practices.

“These ‘bottom crawlers’ say you still owe the debt, and a lot of people get scared, and worried that their credit rating will be affected. So they pay it again, and that is outrageous.”

Schumer reports nearly 2,400 New Yorkers filed complaints of false debt collections or false credit reporting to federal authorities.

Nearly 500 of those complaints came from Western New York, and if you have been the victim of zombie debt, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or call the CFPB at 855-411-2372.

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