Get a message from ConServe Collections saying you owe them money? If you’re wondering if it’s a scam, you’re not alone. Most likely, a debt you owed to another company was transferred to ConServe Collections. Either that, or it’s a mistake.
Fortunately, you have powers under federal law to help you find out more about this debt. We outline what your rights are and how to exercise them below.
Table of Contents
What is ConServe Collections?
ConServe Collections (also known as Continental Service Group, Inc.) is a debt collection agency. It was established in 1985 and is based in Fairpoint, New York. 1
ConServe collects for educational and financial institutions, commercial lenders, and government agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 2
- Skip tracing (locating people who owe debts)
- Account scoring (predicting how likely a debt is to be collectible)
- Letter service programs (sending letters to debtors)
Who does ConServe Collections collect for?
ConServe Collections frequently collects the following types of debt:
- Tax debt
- Private student loans
ConServe Collections and the IRS
The IRS selected ConServe as one of just a few agencies to service its Private Debt Collection program in 2016, and they renewed their contract with ConServe in 2021. 8
Currently, only the following agencies collect for the IRS:
Though you may be contacted by a ConServe representative, you should only make your payments directly to the IRS. You can pay them electronically or via check addressed to the US Treasury.
Do not make payments to any non-IRS accounts. Anyone who asks you to send a payment directly to them or to a third-party account is a scammer.
To verify that you owe the debts ConServe claims, check your account on the IRS website.
Note: Even if ConServe is collecting taxes that you legitimately owe, your unpaid taxes won’t affect your credit score (unlike other debts that you might owe ConServe Collections).
ConServe Collections and US Department of Education
Since 2004, ConServe has held several contracts to collect student loans on behalf of the US Department of Education. 7
The Department of Education ended their most recent contract with ConServe in 2021, which means they no longer collect federal student loans, although they still collect private student loan debt. 9
Is ConServe Collections a scam?
No, ConServe Collections isn’t a scam. They’re a legitimate debt collections agency that works with the IRS and other government agencies. They have also been certified by ACA International since 2001. 10
That being said, scammers may still claim to represent ConServe Collections when they contact you. For this reason, it’s important to verify the debts they contact you about before making a payment. You can do this by logging into ConServe’s online portal or by contacting the company directly using the contact information below.
ConServe Collections may still behave unethically
Even though ConServe Collections isn’t a scam, it’s possible they’ll still do something that violates your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Your rights (and how you can enforce them) are outlined further down in this article.
VIDEO: ConServe Collections in 2 Minutes—Fix Your Credit Report & Know Your Rights
Why is ConServe Collections calling me?
ConServe Collections will call, email, or mail you if you have unsettled debt (or they think you do).
Because ConServe Collections deals with student loan collections, this might mean you’ve defaulted on your student loan payments. If that sounds like a possibility, you should make sure you understand how student loans differ from other types of debts before you decide on your next move.
Characteristics of student loan debt
Student loans are somewhat infamous. They’re many people’s first introduction to the world of debt and credit (since student loans impact your credit scores), and they have a reputation for being harder to get rid of and easier for debt collection agencies to collect than other kinds of debt, such as personal loans and auto loans.
It is true that special regulations govern the collection of student loan debt. For instance, many student loans have no statute of limitations (meaning they never expire and become time-barred debt). Moreover, debt collectors often have the power to garnish your wages or otherwise compel you to pay overdue student loans without taking you to court, which isn’t possible for other types of debt. 11
While that sounds intimidating, most of those special regulations only apply to federal student loans (i.e., loans issued by the US Department of Education). ConServe Collections collects private student loans, which means that they have to follow essentially the same rules as they would if they were collecting on other loans or credit accounts.
However, private student loans do differ from other loans in one very important aspect: they can be difficult to discharge in bankruptcy. We’ll explain this in more detail near the end of this article.
What to do when ConServe Collections contacts you about your debt
It’s best that you don’t ignore your debt collectors, as tempting as it may be. When ConServe Collections calls you, ask them to send a written notice detailing the debt they’re collecting, known as a debt validation letter, if they haven’t already.
In accordance with the FDCPA, all debt collectors are required to send this letter within 5 days of first contacting you. 12 It must contain the following information:
- The amount you owe
- Your name
- A statement informing you of your right to dispute the debt within 30 days of receiving their letter
- A statement informing you that if you dispute the debt in writing, they must mail you evidence of the debt within the 30 days
- A statement informing you that within 30 days after you’ve received the letter, you can send them a written request to provide the name and address of the original creditor
ConServe Collections representatives will keep trying to contact you unless you either pay your collections or reach an agreement with them or your loan provider.
However, there are several restrictions on how ConServe Collections can go about contacting you.
Restrictions on ConServe Collections
- Call you multiple times per day
- Call you at night (before 8 am or after 9 pm, your time)
- Call you at work if you tell them you can’t receive calls at work
- Make automated calls or send pre-recorded messages telling you to make payments
- Contact any third party, including your family, friends, or coworkers, to discuss your debt
- Intimidate you or threaten to harm you, sue you, arrest you, or damage your credit
- Lie about your debt and try to collect more than you owe
- Accuse you of breaking the law or claim that not paying might result in jail time (you can’t go to jail over unpaid debt, unless you owe money to the IRS because you intentionally committed tax fraud)
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your rights by reading the FDCPA and Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Can I sue ConServe Collections for harassment?
Yes, you can sue ConServe Collections for harassment. If you can show that the debt collection company has violated your rights under the FDCPA, then you can collect $1,000 in statutory damages for each violation as well as payment for any damages that you’ve sustained as a result of their violation. 12 ConServe Collections will also be required to pay your attorney fees and court costs.
How to file a complaint against ConServe Collections
If ConServe Collections has violated your rights under the FDCPA or done something illegal, then you can report them to the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or your state attorney general. From there, you’ll be able to find out whether you can also sue ConServe Collections.
Another option is filing a complaint on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website, but this might not have the outcome you’re hoping for. Bear in mind that the BBB is actually a private organization that has no affiliation with the US government. They’ll forward your complaint to ConServe Collections, but there’s no guarantee that the agency will address it in a satisfactory manner. What’s more, if your dispute is sent to an arbitrator, then you may give up your right to take ConServe Collections to court.
How to get ConServe Collections off your credit report
If your credit score is suffering as a result of ConServe Collections debt, then don’t worry. You can get their collection accounts off your credit report by following these steps:
- Tell ConServe Collections to stop calling you
- Send a debt verification letter
- Explore your repayment options
- Send a credit dispute letter
- Request a goodwill deletion
- Negotiate for “pay for delete” or a debt settlement
Everyone should follow the first two steps. The ones after that are situational, and you should follow the ones that are appropriate for your circumstances.
Before you do anything else: Ask ConServe Collections to stop calling you
It’s important to keep a paper trail of all your communications with ConServe Collections, so make sure to only communicate with them in writing. If you ask them to stop calling you and only communicate via letter or email, then they’re legally obligated to do so. 12 This should be your first step.
Make sure to date your letters and send them by certified mail. If you’re not sure where to start, then check out the sample letters provided by the CFPB.
Next: Send a debt verification letter
Sending a debt verification letter asking the collection agency to provide evidence of your debt is one of the quickest and easiest ways of getting rid of a debt item in your credit history. It’s also an easy way of figuring out if the debt collector is a scam agency.
When you send a debt verification letter, third-party collectors like ConServe Collections are required by law to show evidence that you have an outstanding debt. If they can’t do that, then they have no choice but to delete it from your records. 13
Once ConServe Collections receives your debt verification letter, they’re also required by law to stop contacting you about your debt until they’ve sent you evidence that you actually owe it. 12
A lot of the time, debt collection agencies don’t have adequate evidence, whether you owe the listed amount or not. If ConServe Collections isn’t able to verify your debt (or if you discover that the debt is more than a few years old), then proceed to the next step.
On the other hand, if it turns out that your debt is both legitimate and recent, then proceed to one of the steps after that, depending on your circumstances.
If the debt is old or invalid: Send a credit dispute letter to the three credit bureaus
You can write a credit dispute letter to Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion to delete the collection account from your credit report if you believe your debt went into default by mistake. It’s a good idea to also send a letter to ConServe Collections and your original loan provider so that all parties have complete information when investigating the matter.
When you dispute the item on your credit report, make sure to send along any supporting documentation that you have on hand. Credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute. If they don’t, then they’re legally obligated to remove the debt item. 13
If you’ve already paid the debt: Request a goodwill deletion
If your outstanding debts were sent to ConServe Collections but you later paid them off, you may be able to get the collection account removed from your credit report by asking for something called a goodwill deletion or goodwill adjustment. To do this, send a goodwill letter to ConServe Collections explaining the circumstances that led to your delinquency.
This is usually only an option if you’ve already paid the debt in full, and it’s more likely to work if your missed payments were caused by something outside your control like an unexpected layoff or expensive medical bills.
You’ll want to include any supporting evidence or documentation you have, including:
- An explanation for why your payments were late
- Records demonstrating that you usually pay your other debts on time
- Examples of how the negative mark is affecting your life, such as making it difficult for you to take out a mortgage
You can also call ConServe Collections on the phone, although there’s a chance that the person you end up speaking to won’t have the authority to make changes to your records.
It’s important to bear in mind that sending a goodwill letter is a long shot, and ConServe Collections is under no obligation to change your report. However, it doesn’t cost you anything, so there’s no reason not to try.
If you haven’t paid the debt: Negotiate “pay for delete” or a debt settlement
If you still owe the debt and it’s too soon to get it removed from your credit report, you’ll probably have to pay it. However, with pay for delete or a debt settlement, you might be able to convince ConServe Collections to settle for less than the amount you owe or remove their record of your debt after you’ve paid it.
If you have private student loan debt, you should know that these approaches probably won’t work—it’s harder to negotiate when you have this type of debt, as compared with other types like credit card debt. This is especially true when your outstanding debts are very large. That said, there’s still no harm in trying.
Pay for delete
A pay-for-delete request is different from a goodwill letter because it applies to debts that you haven’t yet paid off. It’s an exchange where you agree to pay off your debt, and in return, ConServe Collections promises to remove the negative mark on your credit report that’s associated with it.
The first step is to use a pay-for-delete letter template to draft your letter and send it to ConServe Collections. It’s very important to get written confirmation that they’ll remove the collection from your credit report once you’re all paid up.
Once you’ve received written confirmation from ConServe Collections and paid your debt, you should monitor your credit reports to make sure that they follow through. If the collection account is still on your credit report in a couple of months, then follow up with them and use the letter they sent you to remind them of their obligation.
If you’ve defaulted on your debts more than once or you owe a very large amount, then there’s a chance that ConServe Collections will accept less than the full amount you owe (a practice known as debt settlement).
Before negotiating, you should carefully review your financial situation and come up with a realistic amount to offer. If you want, you can negotiate through a debt settlement agency, but be wary of scammers and avoid companies that charge you large amounts upfront.
Alternatively, you can just speak to someone from ConServe Collections over the phone. However, you should make sure to get the agreement in writing before you make any payments.
Bear in mind that debt settlements still hurt your credit score, and like most other negative marks, they’ll remain on your credit report for up to seven years. 14 With that said, lenders will probably look more favorably on a settled debt than a debt in collection.
If you can’t pay your debt to ConServe Collections, can you declare bankruptcy?
Ordinarily, if you become overwhelmed by debts that you have no prospect of paying off, you can declare bankruptcy and “discharge” them (get rid of them without paying them off).
If ConServe Collections is trying to collect debts other than student loans, you may be able to get out of paying them this way, although it isn’t something you should do lightly. Bankruptcy severely damages your credit score and remains on your credit report for 7 to 10 years, so it’s a last-resort option.
Moreover, if ConServe Collections is trying to collect a private student loan debt, this method might not be available to you. As mentioned, student loans can be very hard to discharge through bankruptcy.
How bankruptcy and student loans work
Bankruptcy is regulated by the US Bankruptcy Code of 1978, which applies stricter standards to student loans than other types of debts. In general, it’s only possible to discharge student loans if you can prove that paying them would constitute an “undue hardship”—in other words, that paying them would make it impossible for you to afford basic necessities and maintain a minimally acceptable standard of living. 15
Debtors have challenged this in court several times. Recent rulings have held that, while all federal student loans are subject to the restrictions in the US Bankruptcy Code, not all private loans are (although some are). 16
The upshot is that it can be hard to tell whether it will be possible to discharge private student loans through bankruptcy or not.
If you’re considering declaring bankruptcy to stop ConServe Collections from collecting your private student loan debt, speak with a student loan or bankruptcy attorney first. Bankruptcy is an extreme step, and you want to make sure it will actually solve your problem before you commit.
If you feel overwhelmed, consider getting help from a credit repair company
If you feel like you might be in over your head, then seek professional assistance from a credit repair expert to remove ConServe Collections collection items from your credit report. This can save you time and help you avoid the frustration of trying to remove their negative marks on your own.