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Debt Collectors Have a Third of Americans in Crosshairs

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Get two friends together. Statistically speaking, one of you has a secret shame: you're getting targeted by debt collectors for an unpaid bill. According to a new Urban Institute report (PDF) analyzing data provided by credit bureau TransUnion, 35.1 percent of consumers have a debt currently in collections on their files. Sometimes they're not even that large. Of them, 10 percent of consumers had debts for less than $125, which included items like being behind on their gym and membership fees, unpaid parking tickets and utility bills. Compared to an average household income of $72,254, the average amount of debt in collections was $5,178. Besides the hassles of trying to pay it down, delinquent debts can ding credit scores and dent job and apartment hunting prospects. Consumers can check their credit history for free at annualcreditreport.com to see if they have any unpaid debts currently being reported.

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- Ben Popken

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