Pay With Caution

Elizabeth got a credit card when she was 17 and ran up some debt. The balance has grown over the years, and she wonders if she owes this money or if a statute of limitations has passed.

QUESTION: Elizabeth in Washington got a credit card when she was 17 and ran up some debt a long time ago. The balance has grown over the years, and she wonders if she owes this money or if a statute of limitations has passed. Dave says that as a minor, she can’t enter into a contract, but there’s another kind of danger to worry about here.

ANSWER: There is a statute of limitations and the debt is not collectible because a minor cannot enter into a contract in any state. Legally they can’t collect it. But what they can do is screw up your credit for the rest of your life, and they are in the process of doing that. And, you owe the money because you took stuff from their store and didn’t pay for it.

If the balance is $350, then I would explain two things to them when you call them. First, they are past the statute of limitations and you are considering suing them. The second is that you were a minor when you signed up for this and the store which signed you up can be sued as well and you just might go after everyone because you are sick of being harassed about this.

However, since you did take stuff from the store, offer them $150 to settle this. Get it in writing that the account is settled in full. It’s not worth $150 to have screwed with it for a decade. Don’t allow them to have electronic access to your checking account because they will clean you out.

As old as this card is, you are dealing with the ultimate in bottom feeders. These are web-based debt buyers that are buying old debt that is not collectible, and they paid two or three cents on the dollar for this garbage. It’s not collectible because it’s past the statute of limitations and you were 17 when you signed for it. They know all of that or they should. You are dealing with scum. You can’t trust anything they say.

Once you get their settlement offer in writing, then you keep a copy of that letter and a copy of the cashier’s check that you send them stapled to that letter in a file for the rest of your life because I guarantee you they will not clear the file. They will try to collect on it later. I would pay this on the basis of morally you owe it, and it’s not worth the hassle.