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I had excellent credit, large amount of savings, and opened a wine bar. As money drained, and debts accrued the landlords got selfish and I didn't have the funds to fight it in court (at the time), so I tried to shoe-string it. Ended up homeless (literally) and lost everything and was steeped in cards, community finance loans, etc., without ability to pay. The landlords sold my assets illegally locked doors and took my computer and files (a different issue), and some creditors took my equipment I believe. I assume my furnishings were sold to help pay some things.

There was a lot of overlap and confusion and I was particularly disadvantaged in not having my information/papers and not having a dime available to even have a phone. Several scraping by years went by starting with minimum-wage and trying to get back into my profession, which I'm happy to finally start getting back on my feet - my professional colleagues do not know that I slept in my car for months and showered at a gym!

I'm pretty sure I know the answer is probably to save up for an attorney or something now that I have a paying job, but I know somewhere there is a myriad of weird debts that I do want to pay back. My question is How can I find out who I owe what still, after several years of not having a phone or address or access to my files and paperwork that I meticulously kept record? Is there a government service that keeps these tabs?

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    Not sure what kind of "weird" debts you wish to reconcile but if it's been years and you've been working for a while now and nobody has contacted you then just stay low until they cannot legally go after you anymore. I'm no expert but if you start reconciling a debt with one collector then you might alert all of them. If you had some personal debts to friends or family then certainly reach out to them and make amends. However, to answer the question in your title, money.stackexchange.com/a/104370/25694 is definitely a good answer. I wish you the best. – MonkeyZeus Jan 22 at 20:20
  • How many years is several? – stannius Jan 25 at 17:29
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    @stannius - I'm back on my feet after 2 years and 1 month after my 'crash'. – Mikey Jan 25 at 18:18
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Your credit report should list all debts that have been reported against you. You are entitled to one free credit report every twelve months through AnnualCreditReport.com. All you need to provide are a social security number and date of birth. Any identifying questions they ask of you should be from your report (e.g. you don't need to give them a current address).

Some tips for you on your journey:

  • Be careful searching for "free credit report" - some of these are bait-and-switch schemes that coerce you into subscribing to some credit monitoring or ID protection in order to get your "free" credit report
  • Don't contact any lenders on the report until you are prepared to pay the full amount in cash. Contacting them might reset the clock on how old the debt is any might make it harder to settle later.
  • Don't offer to pay the full balance up-front. Most likely the debts have been written off and can be settled for pennies on the dollar.
  • If you do settle a debt, get EVERYTHING in writing (e-mail is sufficient) and make sure your payment is for "settlement in full". Debt collectors are notorious for taking a payment and applying it only to late fees and other extraneous charges that do nothing to reduce what you owe.
  • Don't give electronic access to any bank accounts under any circumstances. Pay everything by paper check (and keep copies), wire transfer, or prepaid debit card. You don't want to give them the ability to take more than what you agreed to.
  • Don't feel legally obligated to pay old debts. If you want to settle to clear your conscience, that's fine, but it's likely that the debts have been written off and are just a part of the business of lending money. Banks expect a portion of borrowers to default, so you're not harming anyone if you don't initiate contact after they've started ignoring you.
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    "Don't give electronic access to any bank accounts under any circumstances. Pay everything by paper check (and keep copies)." Of course you don't give electronic access to your bank account to anyone (using your credentials). But what is the advantage of sending old-style cheques? (I know that they are still in use in USA, but I also know that wire transfers become more and more used.) – glglgl Jan 22 at 16:26
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    @glglgl Wire transfer would probably be fine (though expensive). I was thinking more of ACH transactions, not username/passwords. I would not trust them to not clear out your account. Another option would be a prepaid debit card that NOT tied to your bank account. – D Stanley Jan 22 at 16:34
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    Regarding the 2nd bullet, you can contact a creditor without resetting the clock on the statute of limitations, if you want to see what evidence of the debt they have, you are entitled to that, but research what you can and can't say without resetting that clock before making contact. Regarding the last bullet, bankruptcy sucks, but there are far worse things in life, weigh your options carefully, it's not always wise to repay debts. – Hart CO Jan 22 at 17:11
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    @DStanley Ok. I am always astonished how different the payment systems of different contries can be. In Germany, wire transfer payments don't cost anything (except maybe, depending on the cost plan of your account, the price of one transaction of maybe 10 or 20 ct), are unreversable (usually). Direct debits can be reverted. In USA, it semms to be the complete opposite… – glglgl Jan 22 at 17:59
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    "Pay everything by paper check" is extremely bad advice. A paper check is electronic access to your bank account and should never be given to anyone you don't fully trust. Use cashier's checks only. Other than that your advice is good but this seriously needs to be changed. – R.. Jan 23 at 2:00

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