What to do about old debts and how to prevent credit surprises

People in Arizona sometimes find unpaid bills on their credit reports that they didn't realize existed. It is not unheard of for people to have debt of which they'd forgotten or were never aware until after it is turned over to a collection agency. Fortunately, there are things people can do to resolve these issues and possibly prevent future surprises.

Checking one's credit report is the best way to learn of any outstanding debts. People have the right to obtain one free credit report annually from the top three credit companies. One of the most common sources of debt found on a credit report is health care. Unfortunately, due to privacy laws, credit agencies are not allowed to include anything in reports that could reveal a specific medical condition. This might mean that the name of the treatment facility, types of services rendered and other identifying information is left out of reports. For someone who doesn't know where the bills came from, this could make tracking down who to pay challenging.

If someone is able to identify the source of a bill and pay the person before it goes to collection, that's ideal, but for debt already sold to a collection agency people must then address all inquiries to the agency. Contacting an agency representative is the first step to uncovering what bill are for and how to pay they off. This would also be where to start if the agency made a mistake and assigned debt to the wrong person.

For those who owe money and are unable to pay it off, consulting an attorney about available debt relief options might be the best way to handle the situation. An attorney could also assist someone whose credit reports reflect obligations that doesn't belong to them.

Source: Credit.com, "How Do I Figure Out Where This 4-Year-Old Debt Came From?", Gerri Detweiler , June 19, 2014

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