(Updated: January 11, 2017. Article originally written 7-15-15 and is updated regularly to reflect current debt collection information.)
There’s no denying collection accounts will decrease a good credit score. But having multiple collection accounts can leave your score in dire condition.
Debts often change hands. It’s not unusual to have more than one debt collector on credit reports for the same debt. Sometimes, a creditor will place a debt with a collector, and if that agency doesn’t collect the debt within a certain amount of time, it goes back to the creditor, either to be placed with another agency or sold off entirely.
But only one debt collector should be reporting an unpaid debt. This is not the same as the original creditor. When an account is charged-off by the original creditor it can remain on your credit reports for up to 7 years. If the original creditor transfers or sells the account to a debt collector, that debt collector may also report the debt. That would leave two instances of the negative account reporting. But that should be it.
Debt collectors may attempt to collect a debt for several months but then sell it to another debt collector. The new debt collector may begin reporting the debt but the previous debt collector should not continue to report the debt since it they are no longer attempting collection.
Even if a debt collector tells you they can report the debt as sold or transferred and continue to report it, this is not true. Neither the FCRA nor the FDCPA requires a first debt collector to delete their reporting once they are no longer pursuing collection efforts and the debt remains unpaid. Technically it can stay on your credit report because it is an accurate representation of the account’s history. However, most debt collectors will delete their reporting on debts they are no longer pursuing. Plus, duplicate reporting of the same debt constitutes inaccurate credit reporting which is a violation of the FCRA.
Can you imagine how detrimental it would be to a credit report and score if every debt collector who purchased and sold one debt could remain on credit reports for 7 years? Your credit report and scores would suffer tremendously if this were allowed.
Unpaid collection accounts can get sold from debt collector to another, leaving your credit report with multiple collection accounts for one debt. It is up to you to review your credit reports to make sure you do not have multiple debt collectors reporting for the same debt.
What to do about Multiple Reporting
Send a letter to the credit bureaus to request the debt collector that no longer owns the debt be DELETED. Here are two different ways you can dispute with the credit bureaus:
1. Challenge the debt collector’s authority like this: “The debt collector does not have collection authority on this account, please delete.”
2. Challenge the debt collector’s authority like this: “This debt collector represents an inactive debt and is duplicate reporting.” The collection agency will have to validate the debt by proving it is an active debt. The credit bureaus should determine the debt is the same account and the multiples will be deleted.
3. Contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if the credit bureaus refuse to delete multiple collection agencies reporting on the same debt.
Whenever you’re dealing with debt collectors, keep an eye on your credit to make sure your accounts have been properly reported.