How Do I Figure Out Who Owns This Old Collection Debt?

concerned woman doing research online

"I have a radiology bill that was never paid by my workers comp and went to collections. It has been a couple of years now and I would like to get this account taken care of. How do I track down whichever collection agency owns the account? And how do I handle this situation? I do not have any phone calls, letters, or any information on the account." – Tracy

Hi Tracy,

The first step is to pull a copy of your credit report. Stop by to pull a report from one of the three major credit bureaus.

Now take a look at your report – specifically, look at the Creditor Account Information section and the Collection Agency Account Information section. Between the two you should be able to locate the debt in question.

The creditor or collector reporting the debt should also have some contact information listed. When you contact the collector, ask them to send you something in writing showing where the debt originated, how much the debt is, and how that number was arrived at (collectors are allowed to add fees to the debts they’ve purchased).

Once you’ve verified the debt it’s up to you to make an arrangement with the collector to pay it off. You can pay it in full or negotiate a settlement. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you understand the ramifications and that everything is agreed to in writing.

And if the debt isn’t on your credit report at all? You may want to pull your reports from the other major reporting bureaus to see if they show the debt. If no one shows the debt, continue to routinely monitor your credit report going forward, but for now there’s not much you need to do. If it’s not on your credit report, it should have no impact on your credit score or your ability to obtain credit. Just keep in mind that as long as it’s a valid debt, it could show up later, and at a very inconvenient time, so stay alert and keep monitoring your credit report.

If you get antsy, you can always start at the beginning and contact the original creditor. There's a good chance they'll be able to point you toward wherever the debt went next. You can use this method to track the debt from stop to stop (and just hope it hasn't changed hands too many times).

Finally, be sure to check the statutes of limitation on debt in your state before putting too much effort into finding an old debt. It's entirely possible that enough time has gone by that you're no longer legally obligated to repay the debt, in which probably don't want to do that.

Good luck!

Tagged in Debt collection, Understanding your credit report

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI. All typos are a stylistic choice, honest.