If you ever received a phone call or letter asking you to pay a debt that you are not sure you owe, you may be the target of zombie debt collectors.

If you ever received a phone call or letter asking you to pay a debt that you are not sure you owe, you may be the target of zombie debt collectors.

According to a 2013 Federal Trade Commission report, approximately 30 percent of debts purchased by debt buyers were at least six years old, placing them beyond or near the end of statute of limitations in many states.

The following are legal steps to take if Zombie Debt is chasing you, courtesy of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM):

• Be aware that the law enforcement officials and prosecuting attorneys do not make phone calls attempting to collect debt. It is quite common for unscrupulous debt collectors to make phone calls posing as law enforcement and telling consumers that they will soon be arrested if they do not pay a debt.

• Never give out any information on the phone regarding an alleged debt. Demand verification of the debt in writing.

• Never give out any information regarding your credit card, debit card or bank account on the phone. No legitimate debt collector will demand this information on the phone.

• Never make a partial payment on a debt that you think is beyond the statute of limitations. A partial payment may “reset” the statute of limitations. Most credit card debt has a five-year statute of limitations. If you are unsure of the debt, do not start making payments without consulting an attorney.

• You should only communicate with collection agents in writing. If they will not write you, then refuse to speak with them. Remember, if you are speaking to a debt collector on the phone, they are winning.

• If you need assistance fighting zombie debt, you may qualify for free legal assistance from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, which provides legal assistance for people with low incomes. Call 1-800-444-0514 or visit the Online Resources Legal Services of Eastern Missouri Consumer Law Program at http://www.lsem.org/lsem-services/consumer-law-program/.

Statewide Information on Missouri Legal Aid & Consumer Law is available at http://www.lsmo.org/library/consumer. To contact the National Consumer Law Center, visit http://www.nclc.org/.