Collection agencies work on their own behalf -- they do not work for original creditors or banks. They simply purchase delinquent debts from banks and finance companies at a lesser value than the outstanding amount, then they attempt to make a profit by collecting on the entire balance due. These collectors are often obscure and, therefore, difficult to track down. But there are methods available to pinpoint information about them.
Start with the original creditor. For example, if the loan originally was with Bank of America, call BoFA's customer service or collection line and ask which collection agencies they use. Some creditors will be forthcoming, some will not. At the very least, get the original account number for the delinquent debt, as it will simplify and hone your search.
Pull a copy of your credit report. Go to Annualcreditreport.com or a similar site for a free copy, then print it out. Locate the delinquent account on the credit report, using the account number that you previously obtained. There should also be an assigning collection agency listed on the report.
Do a Web search to find the company. Often, these companies will have websites where you can contact a collections representative to make payment arrangements. There should also be a "Contact Us" tab where you can obtain at least a 1-800 number.
Contact the Federal Trade Commission if you still cannot find contact information about a particular collection agency. (See "Resources" in this article for more information.) Contact a representative with expertise in debt management, who can guide you to the right resource or person to investigate a collection agency.
Do not pay a collection agency until you are fully cognizant of the debt owed and the legitimacy of the collection agency. There are many sites and false companies simply out to defraud unwitting consumers. Ensure you have all the information and documentation to support their collection activities.
Based in Eugene, Ore., Duncan Jenkins has been writing finance-related articles since 2008. His specialties include personal finance advice, mortgage/equity loans and credit management. Jenkins obtained his bachelor's degree in English from Clark University.