If you are being hounded by a debt collector, it may feel like there’s nothing to be happy about. But if a creditor is pestering you to repay a debt that is beyond its statute of limitations, you may have reason to be happy after all.

That’s because beyond a certain timeframe, a creditor cannot win a court verdict whereby you would have to pay back what you owe. Depending on the type of debt incurred, and whether the contract for the debt was oral or written, the statute of limitations is either five or ten years. So if your debt is more than five or ten years old, depending on the debt, you may not be in as much trouble as you think.

If the creditor has engaged a debt collection agency to recoup their money, the debt collector may still try to get you to pay the money back. But their calls have no legal teeth beyond the statute of limitations. They may still try to recoup the debt by calling you, but you can write to the debt collection agency and ask them to stop contacting you about the debt. If you are outside the statute of limitations, the calls have to cease. Furthermore, the creditor cannot win a judgment against you.

If debt collectors are harassing you, the first thing to do is to find out if your debt is beyond the statute of limitations. You may also want to contact an experienced consumer protection attorney who can help you evaluate your options and protect your rights.