Collection companies have done a great job over the years of convincing consumers that paying off collections will raise their credit scores. Many are actually surprised to learn that paying off collections will actually lower their credit scores.
Collections are usually reported on the credit as a “9” status or collection account. This means the account has already been “written off” and assigned to collections by the creditor. Once an account is reported this way on the credit report, the damage to the credit score is irreversible, unless that item is removed completely from the report. If the account is paid off, the collection company reports that the account now has a $0 balance, but they do not usually delete the item off the report.
The account has already become a collection, and the risk of the consumer defaulting on another account is already very high, due to that collection. So their credit score will not go any higher if it is paid off, because paying off a collection after the fact, doesn’t lower the risk of defaulting in the future.
However, the DATE OF LAST ACTIVITY is updated to the date the account was paid off. So if that account was sent to collections 3 years ago, the date of last activity is 3 years old and the impact to the credit score is not as much. But if the consumer pays off that collection today, they just update the date of last activity to today’s date, sometimes causing the scores to go DOWN as a result.
Credit Advisory Group