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Do you have to pay a debt that’s not on your credit report?

You’re getting calls or other notices from a creditor or collection agency on a debt they say you owe. However, you don’t see it on your credit report. They must be mistaken, right? Not necessarily.

Although most companies report consumers’ debts to at least one major credit reporting agency, they’re not required to. While that might help your credit score, that doesn’t mean you don’t owe the money — along with interest and fees. Further, the debt can always end up on your credit report later.

If you’re hearing from a collection agency about a debt you don’t recall, find out who the original creditor was. They may have “charged off” the debt and turned it over to a collector. The debt may be listed on your credit report under the creditor’s name. If you can’t locate any record of the debt, ask the people contacting you to provide you with information and documentation showing the history of the debt.

It’s important to find out how old the debt you’re being held responsible for is. State laws vary, but here in New York, debtors have a statute of limitations of six years to take action to collect a debt. If it’s older than that, New York’s Division of Consumer Protection advises consumers to inform collectors that they’ll only pay a debt if a court determines that they’re required to do so.

If you’re not sure what to do about a persistent creditor, if you don’t believe you owe the money they’re trying to collect or if you are considering bankruptcy to seek relief from overwhelming debt, get professional guidance. An experienced attorney can answer your questions and help you find the best option for your situation.

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