One of the most common misunderstandings about the debt collection industry is that many consumers believe that debt collectors can only come after them if they provide a social security number at the time the debt is incurred.

However, those consumers often find that this is not the case once those debts make their way onto a credit report.

These misunderstandings are surprisingly common in the medical debt collection space, as many hospital patients are treated and released without ever providing their social security numbers.

Whether you just uncovered an old medical debt or are struggling with an aggressive collector, the best way to deal with any collection situation is to know exactly what is going on and where you stand. Let’s take a closer look at how debt collectors might be able to operate without knowing a social security number.

Understanding the Reporting Requirements

The first thing that you need to comprehend is that there are no social security number requirements for reporting a delinquent debt to any of the popular credit report bureaus. In fact, the only information required to report an outstanding debt is the debtor’s full name, the amount owed, and the address on file, even if that address is incorrect.

The credit bureaus are responsible for taking this information and using it to assign a debt to the right person, which can be extremely difficult in many cases.

Plenty of mistakes happen as a part of this process, and each credit bureau has its own system for removing inaccurate information on file. If you notice something strange on your credit report, following that credit bureau’s process for reporting erroneous information is the best place to start.

The Creditor Probably Has Your SSN Anyway

Another common misconception about social security numbers and delinquent debts is that creditors can often find your number even if you don’t provide it. Sometimes, this can be as simple as pulling it off of the credit report they check when offering you credit in the first place.

With this in mind, even though the creditor doesn’t need the SSN, they likely have it anyway, even if you didn’t give it to them, so your best bet will always be to work to settle any legitimate debts rather than attempt to sneak out via a loophole argument.

Why Should You Attempt to Settle These Unpaid Debts?

As a general rule, any unpaid debts on your credit report will pull down your overall credit score, making it less likely for you to qualify for credit in the future. Having delinquent debts in your history is even worse.

Any outstanding debt on your credit report will also bring down your debt-to-income ratio. This will also make it more challenging to qualiy for new loans, and once you pass a certain threshold, you will find yourself ineligible for several of the best loan products.

Any delinquent debts on your credit report are also likely to have penalties and interest accompanying them, so those debts may be getting larger if you aren’t constantly improving them.

Bottom Line: Don’t attempt to weasel your way out of legitimate debts. Pay them off the right way and get your credit report clean so that you can build the life you want starting today!