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Within your lifetime, you may have a period of financial distress. Especially in the current COVID-19 pandemic, medical, credit card or other financial service bills may start to pile up.

If you're unable to pay your original creditor, your debt may pass to a debt recovery agency, earning a collection letter and possibly a stain on your credit report. The credit bureau agencies, Experian, Transunion and Equifax, may lower your credit score by 50 points or more, resulting in higher interest rates for any future lending ventures.

Credit Collection Services, known as CCS for short, is one of the largest debt collection agencies in the U.S., based in Massachusetts. This company is a part of the CCS Companies, so when you look at your credit report, you may see a collection account with the creditor listed as “CCS,” “CCS Collections,” “CCSUSA,” “Credit Control Services” or “Credit Collection Services.”

If you’re getting hassled by CCS, which represents many high-profile American creditors, you should know about their shady tactics when it comes to debt collection and credit reporting.

That said, by taking the right steps, you can stop the annoying and distressing calls.

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How to remove Credit Collection Services from your credit report

Now, let’s get into the details. Right off the bat, whether you’ve been getting phone calls from CCS or received a letter from them, send a debt verification letter to the company, which requests written communication only.

Why? This ensures that there is always a written record of what transpires between you and CCS. Sending a letter through certified mail, which requires a signature upon delivery, provides proof that CCS received the letter.

With phone calls, there won’t be a record. Mail is the best way to protect yourself.

1. Have them prove the debt is yours

Now, let’s move forward to the next step, which you must complete within 30 days of the first time that CCS gets in touch with you. Keep this deadline in mind and act fast. Things will be harder for you if you don’t.

Send the company a letter asking them to show you proof that the debt in question is rightfully yours. It’s perfectly legal and proper to make this request, generally called a debt validation letter.

Why ask for proof?

CCS is a debt purchasing company, and most likely purchased the debt. This means that you’re not dealing with the initial creditor. Since CCS bought the debt, the company may not be able to prove that it’s valid. The company may lack data related to the debt, or possibly, the debt data isn’t complete or is inaccurate. It is not uncommon for companies to mix up contact information.

If CCS is unable to validate your debt, the company must, by law to stop trying to collect on it. The company will also need to remove the negative entry from your credit report.

You can contact CCS at the address below:

Credit Collection Services
725 Canton Street
Norwood, MA 02062-2679

Phone numbers: 617-965-2000 or 877-870-1000
Website: https://www.ccsusa.com/
Office hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Despite earning a "B" from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), CCS earned over 1,000 complaints to the BBB regarding inaccurate or false reporting. There are also numerous complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, stating the same grievances.

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2. Negotiate to remove the collection

Sometimes, the debt validation letter doesn’t work out. The company may be able to validate the debt, making you legally responsible to repay the debt. Unfortunately, this means the negative entry remains and that the company is free to continue contacting you, with the aim of getting money from you.

If the debt validation letter doesn’t work out, don’t give up hope. Keep in mind that the end goal of all collection agencies is to get money. To negotiate, you should offer to pay half of what you owe or settle on a payment plan, on the condition that CCS will remove the negative entry from your credit report upon receipt of payment.

CCS may haggle with you. Always negotiate and do everything else in writing. Never, ever do it over the phone!

If you reach an agreement, avoid granting the company access to your bank account. Instead, send a check through certified mail to maintain a paper trail for your protection. After 30 days, follow up with a letter to make certain that it removes the negative entry from your credit report. If it hasn’t, send yet another letter requesting that they do this.

3. Hire a professional

Lastly, if you’re the type of person who would rather have a professional credit repair company handle it, and just be done with the whole thing, check out Credit Saint. They can usually remove collections a lot quicker than you may be able to.

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Knowing your Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) rights

Harassing calls from a debt collection company tend to trigger a range of unpleasant emotions, from anxiety, fear, anger, frustration and beyond.

Unfortunately, a lot of people who get these calls just don’t understand their rights. The truth is that debt collectors actually have a set of rules they have to follow when attempting to collect on a debt. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces these rules, which are collectively known as the FDCPA, and prevents debt collectors from harassing you.

Therefore, if you’re contacted by a debt collector, simply state that you understand your rights under the FDCPA.

Here's a brief list stating your rights:

  • CCS cannot suggest that they can have you arrested or imprisoned, as it’s illegal to do so.
  • They are not allowed to harass or threaten you in any way.
  • They can’t harass you at work if you state you're not allowed to receive calls.
  • They must provide documentation proving the validity of their claim at your request (debt verification).
  • They cannot send letters with the appearance of an official government or court letter.
  • They may not threaten you with legal action, whether wage garnishment or harm to your credit, without following through.
  • They can only call you between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. in your time zone, not theirs.

With this in mind, here is the process to remove CCS from your credit report.

Tips for dealing with CCS

When you type up the letter, make sure that you mention the fact that you’re aware of your rights as the FDCPA outlines them. Debt collecting services are required to provide proof of your debt, which can often be difficult for them to do.

Additionally, there is a statute of limitations placed on your debt, limiting the amount of time the credit reporting agency may sue you for repayment. Each statute varies from state to state, so be sure to research your state's specific laws concerning credit suits.

Written communication simplifies everything. It’s all there in black and white. If trouble arises, such as a lawsuit directed at you via CCS, you’ll have your paper trail. So, make sure that you send the debt verification letter. It’s really important!

Update: This article has been updated to reflect the current CFPB and BBB complaints against CCS. The BBB rating for CCS has been updated as well as CCS’s current contact information.

Disclaimer: This story was originally published on October 12, 2017 on BetterCreditBlog.org. To find the most relevant information concerning collections or credit card inquiries, please visit: https://money.com/how-to-remove-collections-from-credit-report/ or https://money.com/get-items-removed-from-credit-report/