How to Find Out if a Bill Collector Is Legitimate

When you're young and laying the foundations for your life, the last thing you want is bad credit dragging you down. When the debt collector calls, you may rush to make good on your payment, but if you can't recall the debt or you believe you have paid it, you should confirm the legitimacy of the bill collector.

Step 1

Request written proof of the debt. According to the Better Business Bureau, a debt collection agency must provide a validation notice within five days of contacting you about the debt. According to Joel D. Leiderman, senior associate attorney with Forster & Garbus in Commack, N.Y., the validation notice should include information about your rights and details about the collection agency, including its contact information.

Step 2

Check whether the business is listed with your state attorney general's office or the Better Business Bureau ( See if either of the agencies has received negative reports about the bill collector.

Step 3

Call the collection agency that has purportedly contacted you. Use the number that is listed on its website or in the white pages, if the number is different from the one the bill collector gave you. Ask whether that collection agency is the one that contacted you and whether the person who contacted you works for that agency. According to Leiderman, scam artists may use the names of real collection agencies.

Step 4

Access a credit report from a company like TransUnion (, Equifax ( or Experian ( The name of the original creditor will appear on the report and you can contact them to find out if the collection agency has been authorized to collect the debt.

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