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If you’re reading this article, a company called Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC (PRA Group) has probably contacted you, and you may be wondering how to remove them from your credit report. PRA Group is a collection agency that buys old debts from lenders and companies that have been unable to collect the debts themselves.

How PRA Group works

It buys multiple accounts with old debt from companies that have given up and “charged off” the accounts. In other words, when the original creditor has been unsuccessful in collecting on a debt, it will write off the debt as a loss. This is a charge-off.

Companies can still make a small amount of money by selling off their old debt to third-party collection agencies. This is where PRA Group comes into the picture. It will buy old debt for pennies on the dollar. By purchasing old debt, it becomes the debt collector, gambling that it can collect on the debt and make a profit.

PRA Group is not a scam. If you're hearing from this Norfolk, Virginia-based collection agency, you owe it money, and it has a strong incentive to collect on your debt.

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How to deal with PRA Group

When you hear from PRA Group (or any other debt collector), let the agency know that you know your rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) outlines your rights as a consumer. You can dictate how and when a debt collector contacts you.

First, you should insist that PRA Group sends all future communication in writing and via snail mail. This action will stop the collection calls and collection letters. But it also has a more important role to play: Communicating in writing creates a paper trail, so you can show evidence of agreements.

You can write to PRA Group at its main address:

PRA Group 120 Corporate Boulevard STE 1, Norfolk, VA 23502-4952

The agency's website, www.portfoliorecovery.com, includes additional contact info if needed.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is dealing with collection agencies over the phone. They often make agreements that the collection agency doesn’t honor.

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Steps to remove PRA Group from your credit report

When you owe PRA Group money, it will also report your account to the three credit reporting agencies. Having a debt collection company on your credit report could pull down your credit score by as much as 100 points, and that’s if you had excellent credit to begin with. Borrowing money will become more difficult. In addition to settling the debt, you'll also want to remove this collection from your credit report with all three credit bureaus.

Here's how to make that happen:

  • Make them prove the debt is yours
  • Negotiate a pay-for-delete agreement
  • Hire a professional to help

1. Make them prove the debt is yours

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and FDCPA require the major credit bureaus to report only accurate information about your debt. So, if the PRA Group entry on your credit report is inaccurate, it should be easy to get it removed.

Debt buyers, like PRA Group, buy hundreds of accounts at a time from credit card companies, like CapitalOne and Discover, from student loan servicers and from lenders. There's a chance some details about your account got lost in the transfer from the original creditor. If so, you can remove the debt from your credit report.

Of course, it's even possible the debt was never yours to begin with. Sometimes, creditors type Social Security numbers incorrectly. It’s also possible that the debt belongs to someone who has a similar name or address.

Disputing accounts this way doesn't always work. The creditor may have accurately reported the debt, and if it's inaccurate, PRA Group could simply fix the errors and relist the debt.

Debt validation deadline

You have to act quickly to use this strategy. The law gives you 30 days from the first time PRA Group contacts you to request debt validation. If you wait longer than 30 days, the debt collector has no legal obligation to investigate your debt's accuracy.

If you'd like to give this a try, use a sample debt validation letter. Send it to PRA Group, at the address above, as quickly as possible. If the agency can't validate your debt, it must stop trying to collect and remove the debt from your credit report.

2. Negotiate a pay-for-delete agreement

If you’re unsuccessful with the debt validation method, or if it’s been more than 30 days since PRA group first contacted you, it's time to consider a pay-for-delete agreement. This is a great way to remove the collection from your credit report because it harnesses the power of your payment. Remember, debt buyers make a profit when you make a payment on your old debt. You can use your payment as an incentive to have PRA Group remove the negative information from your credit reports.

You don't have to pay off the full amount. In fact, since it’s likely that PRA Group bought your old debt for much less than your balance, they'll make a profit even if you pay only half the balance — or even less. You can start a conversation that could lead to an agreement by offering to pay 50% of what you owe.

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Delete and remove the account

Here's the important part: Before making a payment, make sure PRA group will delete the account from your credit history and cancel the entire balance of your debt after you make your payment. Get this agreement in writing before making a payment or beginning a payment plan.

Only after you've agreed on an amount in writing — and agreed that the amount will cancel your debt and remove it from the credit bureaus — should you write a check. Don't give a debt collection agency your bank account numbers. You should follow up in 30 days to make sure PRA Group has removed the collection account from your credit report. If it hasn't, write another letter demanding that they fulfill the agreement and send a copy of your pay-for-delete agreement as a friendly reminder.

If you still don't get results, let your state attorney general's office know and file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Better Business Bureau. The Federal Trade Commission could levy fines against debt collectors that violate your rights.

3. Hire a professional to help

Some consumers don't have time to write letters to debt collectors. If you feel this way, you should consider hiring a professional credit repair company, such as Lexington Law.

Lexington Law Firm knows all about debt collectors' efforts to intimidate consumers. They'll cut through the red tape and get results within a couple of months. Lexington Law can typically get stuff removed from your credit report a lot quicker than you could on your own.

Knowing your rights helps protect you

Be sure you know your rights before contacting this debt collector. For example, PRA Group cannot:

  • Threaten you with criminal action: Debt in the United States doesn't go through the criminal court system. However, PRA Group could sue you and try to garnish your wages in civil court. A wage garnishment would require PRA Group to get a default judgment against you, followed by a judge's order to garnish wages.
  • Call you at work: It also can't make phone calls to your friends, family members or employers about your debt.
  • Call phone numbers you've asked them not to call: The FDCPA gives you the right to decide which contact information debt collectors use. For example, PRA Group cannot send robocalls to your cell phone if you ask them to stop. As mentioned above, insist on communication in writing and good old-fashioned snail mail.
  • Sue you after the statute of limitations has expired: Each state has a statute of limitations that sets an expiration date on a debt collector's ability to win a lawsuit. A lawsuit filed after the statute expires won't hold up. However, this doesn't mean you no longer owe the money or that it will stop hurting your credit.

If you're not sure about your rights, or whether PRA Group has violated them, seek legal advice from an attorney in your area.

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How to get your free credit report

The CFPB gives you access to your credit reports once a year, free of charge, at www.annualcreditreport.com. Monitoring your credit report will be key to getting PRA Group off your credit reports and out of your life for good.

Update: This article has been updated to reflect the current contact information for the PRA Group.

Disclaimer: This story was originally published on August 19, 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/