There Is No Law That Removes Medical Debt From Credit Reports After Four Years - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

There Is No Law That Removes Medical Debt From Credit Reports After Four Years

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    No Law That Removes Medical Debt From Credit After 4 Years

    The NBC 5 Responds team addresses some of the myths about medical debt, and gives advice on how to handle it. (Published Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018)

    NBC 5 Responds logged several hundred calls in the past week, many telling stories of the debt they face and no idea how to dig out.

    We turned to the Director of SMU's Civil Clinic, Mary Spector.

    Spector and her students at SMU have been helping North Texans deal with consumer issues like Medical debt for more than 20 years.

    "It's very very difficult for a consumer to sort through the medical debt," said Spector.

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    Most of the questions you asked, she's heard repeatedly.

    Elexis from Addison asked if it was true that a new law forced medical debt off of a credit report after four years.

    It doesn't. Medical debt in most cases will stay there up to seven years before you can ask that it be deleted.

    That 7-year clock can be reset if you make any type of deal with the debt collector to pay the bill over time. Know this before you make any agreement.

    "The collector tries to reage it, but the time should start when you occurred the original debt," said Spector.

    So why's everyone talking about this new four year law?

    The law states that after four years debt collectors can't take you to court they can't file a lawsuit after four years. 

    If you are sued or asked to appear in court within four years, take it seriously.

    "Ignoring it, not showing up in court, on the day you're supposed to means the collector is going to win without anything and they can take a default judgment and it's more valuable than the unpaid debt," 

    That's because they can now go to your bank and garnish the money in your checking or savings accounts.

    Many of you called us to say how do you get the debt collectors to stop calling you over and over again.

    "There are state and federal law to protect consumers who are being harassed by creditors. Phone calls can’t come before 8 in the morning and 9 at night," said Spector.

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    She says you should log the calls and turn them in to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    Another way to get them to stop calling is to just ask.

    "You can say don’t contact me, and if they continue to contact you after that that can be a violation," said Spector.

    Professor Spector recommends asking them to stop in writing and copying the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    You may have heard that agency could be dismantled by lawmakers but Spector says they’re still up and running right now and should help make sure the rules are followed.

    There are lots of resources and legal advice like SMU’s clinic which can help you make some of these tough decisions.  Spector says one of the best self help sites out there is texaslawhelp.org.

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