Pay for Delete; Top Lies Debt Collectors Will Tell You

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I have news for you: paying off your delinquent accounts won’t fix your credit. The delinquencies will still have to age-off once you’ve paid them. Increased awareness of this fact has led some to try an unorthodox tactic: pay the collection agency to delete the derogatory entry. If it works — presto — it’s as if the delinquency never existed in the first place.

Unfortunately, it can be like pulling teeth to get a collection agency to agree to to do this. Collection agencies usually cite one of a few different reasons for their unwillingness to delete delinquent-but-valid accounts from your credit report.

All of the following excuses are absolute lies:

“Our company doesn’t delete collection accounts from credit reports.”

That simply can’t be true. In the case of fraud or identity theft, a collection agency is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to delete derogatory entries from credit reports.

On a more mundane front: honest people make mistakes, even the ones working in billing departments. Sometimes collection agencies will be forced to delete items that mistakenly went to collections for the simple fact that someone somewhere screwed up.

Realistically, the debt collector is actually saying, “I’m sorry. This job isn’t worth a warm bucket of piss and I don’t have the authority to delete items from credit reports.”

Guess what, a collection manager — a real manager — certainly does. When in doubt, escalate. Just make sure you’re talking to a real collection manager and not a co-worker pretending to be a manager, which is a common tactic.

“I’m sorry, the credit bureaus won’t let our company delete items from your report.”

Well, sure they will. All collection agencies are required to have this ability for the same reasons as lie #1.

This really is a variation on the first lie, except the collection agent is making the credit bureaus the “bad guy” instead of their company and its internal policies.

They’re just trying to cut you off at the pass and prevent an escalation to a collection manager.

“We can’t delete valid items from your credit report; it’s a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).”

Let me be clear: bull shit.

Let’s establish a few facts here:

  • The “Big Three” credit bureaus aren’t the government; they’re private entities subject to some specific laws.
  • There is no requirement that any company or organization report to Transunion, Equifiax, Experian, or anybody else.
  • Therefore, reporting anything to them is entirely voluntary.
  • Because reporting to a credit bureau is voluntary, deletion — effectively remaining silent on a matter — is entirely permissible.

So it’s pretty clear once we step through the logic of what’s really going on that there is nothing illegal, immoral, or even shady about making your payment to a collection agency contingent upon deletion.

“We will agree to your terms verbally. We won’t agree to your terms in writing.”

When all else fails, collection agencies will fall back on “we’ll agree to whatever you say (just to get you off the phone) but we won’t put it in writing.”

This isn’t the oldest trick in the book, but it’s pretty close. The hope is that you’ll fall for this tactic, pay your bill, and not notice that no deletion has taken place. With no written proof, you’ll have a hard time getting a supervisor to budge or a lawyer to take your case.

So why the push back?

So what’s really going on here? Why are collection agencies so reticent to agree to accept payment contingent upon deletion? The answer is simple. There is no conspiracy; people are just lazy. Collection agencies don’t want to do this because of the simple fact that it’s more work.

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