By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Have you ever been reported to a collection agency after you failed to pay a bill or a debt?  If so, you’re not alone. A study released by the Urban Institute finds that 35 percent of people with credit reports have delinquencies that are in collections.

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Unpaid credit cards, outstanding medical bills, even past-due gym memberships and cellphone contracts can end up with a collection agency.

“Your credit report will be impacted as soon as you delinquent,” says Patty Hasson, President of Clarifi, a leading non-profit credit counseling agency.  According to Hasson, “The further along in that cycle you go, not paying that bill, it’s going to have a greater impact. It will show up on your credit report, and then it will negatively impact your credit score and cause it to fall.

The debt amount in collections varies widely by person. The nationwide average is $5,178, although in our region it’s a bit lower. In New Jersey it’s $4,309, Pennsylvania is $4,952, and Delaware $5,133.

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The main thing to remember says Hasson, “The worst thing you can do is to ignore something that is on your credit report.”

Since most people don’t check their credit report on a regular basis, they often don’t know about collections notations that could be negatively affecting their credit, whether those notations are accurate or not.

You can check your credit report for FREE at

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