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Can debt collectors report to credit bureaus when they haven't contacted me yet?

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  • Where in the world? Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 20:51
  • @BernhardDöbler USA Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 21:37
  • Note that this can happen because they tried and failed--as in they have wrong contact info for you. Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 0:16

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No. A debt collector is legally required to contact you before reporting the debt to credit bureaus. If they fail to do so, you have some options.

File a complaint

According to consumerfinance.gov:

Before a debt collector can report your debt to a credit reporting company, the debt collector must do any one of the following:

  • Speak with you in person about the debt,
  • Speak with you by telephone about the debt,
  • Mail you a letter about the debt and wait a reasonable amount of time (generally 14 days) for a notice that the letter wasn’t delivered, or
  • Send you an electronic communication about the debt and wait a reasonable amount of time (generally 14 days) for a notice that the message wasn’t delivered.

If a debt collector sends you a validation notice about a debt, it means they have satisfied their requirement to contact you and, in general, can begin to report the debt to credit reporting companies.

When can a debt collector report my debt to a credit reporting company? - Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

If a debt collector has failed to contact you via one of these approved methods, you are entitled to file a complaint with the CFPB. You can follow the linked source for more info.

Sue for damages

If you can articulate damages, it may even be possible to sue for them. According to the FTC:

What can I do if I think a debt collector broke the law?

Besides reporting them, you can sue a collector in a state or federal court. You’ll need to file your lawsuit within one year of when the collector broke the law. If you lost wages or had medical bills because of the things the debt collector did, you can sue for those damages. If you can’t prove damages, the judge can still award you up to $1,000, plus reimburse you for attorney’s fees and court costs. However, even if a court finds a debt collector violated the FDCPA, you may still owe the debt.

Debt Collection FAQs - FTC

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  • They can always claim that they tried to call you, or that they sent a letter. Not their problem if you didn't receive it. So this is purely theoretical and not any real protection.
    – Aganju
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 1:29
  • @Aganju Looking at the wording, they need to actually get you on the telephone line, trying isn't enough. Mailing is a different matter, but my guess is that if they said that they mailed thousands of letters that they didn't actually mail (i.e. if the situation were actual fraud and not just a one-off mistake), there would be some kind of paper trail leading back to them. Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 2:33
  • Yes, I am also wondering about the mail. If I move and don't receive it, will they be able to report to the credit people? Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 5:32
  • @JobHunter69 The bottom line is that the law requires the collector to try to get in contact with you in one of the ways listed. There are any number of ways, your fault, their fault, or nobody's fault, that you may not receive a message successfully from them as per the intent of the law. Therefore there is always a chance that they could report your debt without you successfully receiving the message. Only after the fact could you potentially determine whose fault it was that you didn't receive the message, and react accordingly. Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 6:02

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