What can I expect when my debts have been sent to a collection agency?

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  • Hearing from a collection agency will typically mean you have fallen behind enough on a bill for your creditor or service provider (utility bill, medical debt) to have given up trying to get you to pay.
  • When it comes to credit card bills, you can start hearing from collection agencies after just a few missed payments. But most often your bank will send accounts out to collection agencies, collection law firms, or sell the debt to a debt buyer, after you go past the 180 days late mark.
  • Collection agencies that are only paid once they get you to pay, will write to you and call you. If you are ignoring the phone calls, you will typically know who got your account from the mail you receive.
  • If your creditor sells your account to a debt buyer, some will write to you and tell you who they sold it to. Other times you will first learn of the debt sale when you are hearing from the debt buyer themselves, or collection agencies the debt buyer will send accounts to. And there are times where you will be able to tell who got your account by new entries on your credit reports.
  • If your account was sent to a collection law firm, they may not be all that active with collection phone calls, but will typically write to you at least once.
  • You can resolve a debt at all of the above stages of collection. But who is collecting can make a difference in the strategy used to settle, and how good of a settlement can be achieved. Some accounts are best settled with outside collection agencies after 180 days being late. And other accounts have no shot at the flexible payment terms you may need unless they are sold to a debt buyer.
  • The more accounts you have in different stages of collection, and placed with different agencies, the more important it can become to troubleshoot your action plan and prioritize creditors and collection agencies using known behaviors and deals they make.
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