>I thought there was something like a 7-10 year statute of limitations on debt collection.
>Can they come back after all these years and add something negative to my credit rating?
They should be able to. The credit ratings are collections of information about what you did. Whether there’s a statute of limititations is not the same thing. It’s one issue whether the law would go after you, but it’s quite another whether the law would go after somebody else who is only keeping track of your history.
>Or is this, as I suspect, a company that buys “old debt” and just pockets it if some sucker actually pays after 15+ years?
>No, since you are not paying it back to the people who lent it to you. All you are doing is making a scamster collection agency richer. This just convinces them to use even more immoral and illegal tricks to collect cash from naifs. Paying money to such people is an immoral act.
DrDeth’s suggestion that a collection agency collecting on this debt is a scam, and that you should pay the debt not to them but to the original lender, is inaccurate on both counts, I believe. Since debt collecting is a difficult and uncertain art, there has undertandably been a specialization of skills in the formation of collection agencies, who try to become more efficient at it than their customers were. The original lender accepted money from the debt collector to transfer this weakened asset to them, and the agency had no guarantee their investment would pay off. If it does pay off, they are the ones entitled to it. You will note that, not only did they pay the original lender for the debt, but they also put some work into it, which by your OP is the reason you are considering all these things.