SPOKANE, Wash. - Do you have a debt collector who's hounding you for payments? You may not be alone.
A new study shows that one in three Americans with a credit history has been put into collections. That comes out to 77 million Americans.
The debt in collections range from as little as $25 to as much as $125,000, but the average amount owed was $5,200.
Nevada had the highest percentage of residents with debt in collections at 47%.They also had the highest average amount that was owed, with the average being more than $7,000.
On the other hand, North Dakota has the lowest percentage in the nation. Just 19% of residents are in collections.
With credit cards, a debt won't go into collections unless it's more than six months past due. But time frames for other kinds of payments, like medical bills or parking tickets can vary.
And once a debt goes into collection, it can really hurt your credit.
Experts say leaving a debt in collections can influence employers' hiring decisions, restrict access to mortgages and even increase your insurance costs.
Even worse, the case can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. Even after you've completely paid it off, lowering your credit score for years.
Experts say your score will take the biggest hit when it first goes into collection status, then less as time goes on.
Of course, it doesn't help your credit score either when your payments are "past due" before they head to collections, so it's best to pay bills on time.