How Can I Find Out Which Collection Agency I Owe?

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Third-party debt collectors are companies who collect debts on behalf of the company you originally created the debt with. Because you're not directly involved with the sale or assignment of a debt to a collection agency, you naturally wouldn't know which collection agency has your debt.

Ordinarily, you know which debt collector you owe because they've called, sent letters, or have listed the account on your credit report. However, there may be an instance where you know you have an account in collections, but you don't know which collection agency has the debt. Here are four ways you can find out which collection agency or agencies you owe.

Ask the Original Creditor

If you know your debt has been sent to a collection agency, you can find out which collection agency you owe by calling the original creditor - the business that you originally had an account with. The original creditor may be able to tell you which collection agency the account was assigned or sold to because it's listed in your account details. However, the original creditor may not the current debt collector if the debt has been resold to second or third collection agency.

Depending on whether the debt has been assigned or sold to a collection agency or junk debt buyer, the original creditor may not accept payment from you or even discuss the account with you. If you want to take care of the account, you can contact the collection agency to find out what you owe and how to pay the balance.

Before paying, you can ask the debt collector to send proof of the debt by sending a written debt validation letter.

Check Your Credit Report

A second way to find out which collection agency you owe is to check your credit reports. Most collection agencies report debts to the credit bureaus, so you may find the name and phone number of the collection agency on a recent copy of credit report. There’s no way to know if a particular collection agency reported your debt to one credit bureau or all three, so you’ll have to check your credit reports with each of the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Collections that are brand new or that are more than seven years old may not show up on your credit report.

Check Your Voicemail and Caller ID

If you’ve been getting phone calls from a debt collector, you can figure out the name of the collection agency. You can locate a collection agency even with just the phone number from your caller ID or voicemail by typing the number into a search engine. The search result may contain results from websites such as where other people have shared information about who called from that number and the nature of the call.

Certain collection agencies only handle certain types of debt, e.g. medical debt or past due cable bills. Searching the phone number of the collection agency can help you figure out who you owe money to and why.

You could return the collection agency's phone call, but be careful about calling debt collectors without first preparing. Expect the debt collector attempt to collect payment from you once they get you on the phone.

Wait for Them to Call You

When you can’t find out anything from the original creditor, the debt’s not listed on your credit report, and you haven’t received phone calls about the debt, you can only wait for the debt collector to contact you. Old debts often switch to a different collection agency within several months, so eventually the debt will move to a collection agency that can be found using one of the methods listed above.