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