(WMC TV) - I received an e-mail this week from a viewer who says she was laid off in 2007. She started falling behind on her credit card bill.
You know what comes next.
A collection agency's after her now, five years later.
She asked me about a statute of limitations on how long a creditor has to sue you for an outstanding credit card debt.
According to BankRate.com's debt statute of limitations guide, Tennessee's statute of limitations is six years on a credit card debt. Arkansas is five years. In Mississippi, it's three years. Any threat to sue beyond those years in those states is not only a violation of state law, but also a violation of the federal Fair Debt Collections Act.
That does not mean, however, that when the statute is up, that debt disappears from your credit report. Quite the contrary: it stays on your credit report.
You want to clear it, you have to pay it -- and attempts to pay it can start the clock all over again on the statute of limitations.
Thomas Nitzsche, media relations coordinator for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions, said another wrinkle is the creditor can bypass your state's statute of limitations depending on where it sues.
Nitzsche said a creditor can sue you for an outstanding credit card debt:
* IN THE STATE WHERE THE CREDIT CARD COMPANY IS BASED
* IN THE STATE WHERE YOU LIVED WHEN YOU OPENED THE ACCOUNT
* IN THE STATE WHERE YOU LIVE NOW
* IN THE STATE WHERE MOST OF THE OUTSTANDING CHARGES WERE MADE.
The statute of limitations depends on where the creditor decides to file suit.
So it's a gamble. My advice: don't roll the dice.
Contact your credit card company and negotiate a payment plan.