It's common sense, right? Seems that way from the outside, at least.
In reality, people who get sued on an old debt-- usually a medical debt or credit card-- very frequently cover their eyes and hope it makes them invisible, so to speak. They ignore the Summons and Complaint and skip the court date, and that's that. The debt collector, unchallenged, gets a default judgment against them, and at some indeterminate point in the next 10 years starts garnishing their wages or levying their bank account.
In August, This American Life aired a segment showing what happens when a consumer sued for an old debt actually shows up to the hearing. Incredibly, many collectors do not account for this happening, and are totally unprepared for it! The collector in this segment, serial federal law violator LVNV Funding, dropped the case immediately when the person it was suing showed up and asked LVNV to offer some proof that the debt it was trying to collect was even real. This is a high bar for collectors to make, since often collectors buy debts by the spreadsheet, and ultimately possess little more than a row on an Excel document backing up their claims for thousands of dollars against a complete stranger.
All this leads to the most valuable pieces of advice you'll ever get if you find yourself in this position: answer the lawsuit and show up to court. You have little to lose, and chances are you'll successfully call their bluff.
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