The answer to your question depends largely on the statue of limitations in your state. A statute of limitations (SOL) is the time period during which a creditor can take legal action (i.e., sue you) to enforce a debt. In Alabama, the statute of limitations for written contracts is six years from the date of last payment on the account, and three years for open accounts (credit cards), but you can research other states and facts here: http://www.bills.com/collection-laws/
From your question, I cannot tell how long ago you made your last payment, so I cannot tell you whether or not the SOL on this account has expired. If your state’s SOL for collection of credit card debt has expired, the creditor should be time-barred from suing you to collect on this debt. Keep in mind that in most states, the SOL begins running from the date you last made a payment on the account; the payment you made to the collector recently, even though you closed the account to prevent the payment from being processed, may affect the expiration of the SOL on this account, depending on Alabama state law. I would encourage you to consult with an attorney in Alabama to help you determine if the SOL has expired on this account, and if it has not, when it will expire. You should also keep in mind that the expiration of the SOL does not prevent a creditor from calling you to collect on the debt; it simply provides you an absolute defense in court if the creditor files suit. In many cases, you can stop collection calls by sending a cease and desist letter to the creditor–for an example cease and desist letter, you can visit http://credit.about.com/od/debtcollection/a/ceaseanddesist.htm
In order to garnish your wages, levy your bank accounts, or take any other enforcement action against you, the creditor would be required to file a lawsuit and obtain a judgment against you in your state courts. If your state’s statute of limitations has expired, a lawsuit is probably not a major concern. Even if it has not expired, creditors do not usually sue consumers for the collection of delinquent credit card accounts; I would be surprised if the statements made by this collector are more than empty threats used to intimidate you into making a payment you could not afford. In a worst case scenario, if the creditor does sue you and obtain a judgment, it can only garnish 25% of your after tax income, not 30% as the collector stated. While the slightly smaller garnishment may not be a great comfort, it should show you that this collector is not well versed in state and federal laws regarding enforcement of judgments. Finally, the collection agency’s statements regarding filing “federal charges” against you are absolutely bogus; no collection agency is capable of filing federal criminal charges against debtors. These statements are threats meant to intimidate you, and may be a violation of federal law themselves (the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act). To learn more about federal collection laws, I encourage you to visit the Federal Trade Commission website at http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fdcpajump.shtm. If you feel that this collection agency has violated your rights under the FDCPA, you may wish to consult with a consumer rights attorney in your area to discuss filing a lawsuit against this agency.
If, after speaking with an attorney, you determine that the SOL has expired on this account, you will likely not need to worry about this debt; sending a cease and desist letter to the collection agency to stop the phone calls should be the only action required on your part. However, if you find that the SOL has not expired and that the debt is still owed and collectible, you may want to consider one of the various debt relief options available to consumers, such as credit counseling or debt negotiation. For example, a debt negotiation firm may be able to help you negotiate a settlement of the debt with the collector, possibly settling the account for as little as 40% to 50% of the balance of the debt. You may also be able to negotiate a settlement of the debt yourself. To learn more about the different debt relief solutions which could help you in resolving this debt, I encourage you to visit the Bills.com Debt Help page at http://www.bills.com/debt-help/
As for your credit report, you can request free copies of your reports by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. You should be able to view your credit report online, which should be much faster than requesting that the report be mailed to you. Once you have received copies of your reports, you should carefully review them to make sure that all listings, especially the listings appearing in the “derogatory” category, belong to you and are being reported accurately. Credit reports are notoriously inaccurate, with consumers frequently finding listings of derogatory accounts that never belonged to them or that were paid off years ago. If you find any inaccurate listings, you should dispute them with the appropriate credit bureau. The Federal Trade Commission provides a comprehensive guide to disputing items on your credit report, available at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre21.shtm Clearing up inaccurate derogatory accounts may significantly improve your credit score, depending on the number of inaccurate listings you find on your reports.
You should keep in mind that your state’s SOL has little to do with how long accounts can appear on your credit report. The length of time credit accounts can appear on your credit report is governed by federal law, specifically the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Generally speaking, negative listings will appear your credit report for seven years, while bankruptcies will appear for ten. A new company purchasing your account cannot lengthen the time that the account can appear on your credit report. Be careful, though, because many debt purchasers try to change the date of last activity on old accounts so they appear on your credit report for a longer time. You need to pull your credit report and carefully review the accounts in question to make sure that no unauthorized changes have been made. If you find any suspicious information on your credit report, you should dispute the listings with the credit bureaus. The Federal Trade Commission offers a helpful guide to disputing credit listings, available at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre21.shtm
To find out more about credit, credit scoring, and credit reports, I encourage you to visit the Bills.com Credit Resources page at http://www.bills.com/credit
I wish you the best of luck in resolving this debt, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.