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One-third of Americans have an account in collections

Oct 16, 2014 Philip Burgess

One-third of Americans have an account in collections

For many consumers, having to speak to a debt collection agent might seem like a daunting task. Many people associate this with having done something wrong - i.e. failing to pay a bill on time. Actually, once an account is in collections, chances are good that this bill has been ignored a number of times.

Things happen - sometimes unexpected expenses crop up and individuals simply don't have enough saved to cover what's owed. Other times, notices can be lost in the mail, the charges could be fraudulent and/or something had to give when money got tight.

However, consumers should know that this is nothing to be ashamed of - after all, the best debt recovery agents are willing to work with debtors to create a repayment plan that works for everyone. The organization that is owed money can be reimbursed, and the individual who pays can do so on a schedule that works and doesn't put his or her family underwater, financially. Moreover, something that might comfort consumers is the fact that, according to recent research, more than one in three Americans has at least one account in collections.

Many Americans in talks with collectors

A recent study undertaken by the Urban Institute looked into 7 million TransUnion consumer credit reports and determined that 35 percent of American households have at least one account that's in the hands of debt collection agencies.

That being said, "Credit Card Debt Survival Guide" author Mel Thompson noted that the majority of these debts are old and minor sums, usually of less than $100. Perhaps because this figure represents more than 100 million consumers, Thompson noted that the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau are becoming more involved in the situation, especially in regard to Americans with credit card debt. This indicates that recovery agents are increasingly going to have to provide paperwork proving the debt and that they hold ownership of the account in question.

According to The Associated Press, the Urban Institute also revealed that 20 percent of Americans who have a credit record have no debt in their portfolio. Moreover, the source pointed out that of the 35.1 percent with an account in collections, the average debt in question amounted to approximately $5,178.

What does this mean for collectors?
In a word, this situation indicates that it is likely a good time for collectors to hone their craft and jump into the industry with both feet. There's a lot of unpaid debt in the United States and, especially with some economic experts predicting that the nation will undergo another fiscal downfall in 2015, there's no time like the present to pump some cash back into markets.

And while many recovery agents are sure to be excited about the business prospects, this means that company administrators have to be vigilant about two things in particular. They must make sure:

  • Veteran debt collectors are keeping up with new technologies and strategies - and that requires them to abide by the latest rules and regulations
  • New employees are being taught about the emerging laws and are being made well aware of best practices from day one

As long as recovery agencies make certain they are training newly onboarded workers and simultaneously updating those who have been in the business for a long time, they can cover all of their bases. After all, even one broken law can place a number of recovered accounts into flux and adversely affect the company on a reputational, legal and economic standing for years to come.

Corporations need to make sure all involved are following best practices, and the possibilities are almost endless for successful firms that play by the rules.