If you’ve found yourself in a position to pay off some overdue debt, then congratulations are in order. Paying your debts isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also the first step toward rebuilding a healthy credit score and a better financial life.
But sometimes paying off past-due debt isn’t as easy as it seems — finding out which debt collectors you owe can be a challenge.
This article will explain how you can find out which collectors you owe and how much you owe them. It will also offer tips and credit repair help for those folks who have a lot of negative items on their credit report. So, ready to get started?
Step 1: Get Organized
In determining how much you owe and to which debt collectors, the first step is getting organized. You will need to pull together all of your bills and statements and do your best to arrive at an amount for each debt. This will also be useful information to have when you get to Step 3 in the process.
Step 2: Obtain Copies of Your Credit Reports
You’ll need copies of your credit report from the three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can do this all in one place at annualcreditreport.com, the only place that offers all three credit reports for free, no strings attached.
However, you’re only allowed one free credit report from each bureau each year on annualcreditreport.com, so if you’ve already claimed your free reports, you’ll have to purchase updated reports elsewhere.
You can get all three bureaus’ reports and your FICO credit scores by visiting the myFICO website.
Review these reports carefully to verify the debts listed are accurate and belong to you.
Step 3: Contact the Original Creditor(s)
Contact each of the original creditors that you owe money to. Even if you think that debt has gone to collection, it’s important to contact the creditor to verify how much they believe you owe. If the creditor no longer has the debt, they should still be able to tell you how much they wrote off as uncollectable.
Step 4: Reconcile Your Information
Reconcile the information on your credit reports with what you found in your records and from the original creditors. Collection agencies will report debts to the credit bureaus and, in doing so, will list their contact information. Use this information to identify which creditors you owe and exactly how much.
Step 5: Determine Extra Fees the Agency is Charging
Step 5 is perhaps the most important step in this process. When a debt goes to collection, the agency that acquires your debt can (and almost always does) add extra fees and expense charges to the original amount.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a collection agency can charge a “reasonable” fee for their efforts. However, there are limits to what they can charge, and they must state how much of the amount you owe is their fee.
Remember, a debt collector must also show proof of the debt you owe when you ask for it. This means the amount they assumed from the original creditor must be clearly identified. Also know that the difference between the amount you originally owed and how much the collection agency says you now owe is a negotiable figure.
For Additional Help, Contact a Credit Repair Agency
For those who have a lot of negative items on their credit report, or who just need help with credit repair in general, there is assistance available.
Check out our credit repair services and reviews section for a list of the top-rated credit repair agencies and what they offer. These are trusted services that can help you to figure out your debts and get your credit back on track.
Remember, the best way to ensure you are on top of credit issues is to stay educated. We have articles and guides about all sorts of credit-related topics, from debt relief to credit repair to understanding your credit report. Be sure to read as much as you can about these important issues, and you’ll be on the right track to getting your credit back in shape.