How Long Does a Creditor Have to Collect a Debt?

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The average statute of limitations, or the number of years a debtor has to seek payment or sue, is three to six years, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The exact time frame varies by state and the type of debt under collection.

Debt collectors must follow state and federal laws. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prevents certain practices across all states. One provision includes the refusal of contact by the consumer to the debtor. Written confirmation by the consumer prevents the debtor from calling or writing except under certain conditions. Once a consumer hires an attorney, the debt collector must only contact the attorney.