Getting behind on bills due to a period of unemployment can happen to anyone, and has happened to many Americans since 2008. Paying past due balances is a very tricky proposition because you can actually do more harm than good in some instances. Before paying off anything or even speaking with sleazy debt collectors, pull a free credit report from the major 3 credit bureaus. http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/cnwin0203/three.html Make sure you get them free, as a Massachusetts resident you're entitled to one per year. They'll try to sell you an upgrade, don't waste your money. Once you've got all three, you can dispute each negative line of credit. Some may be inaccurate, some may have incorrect information. If you look up how to repair your credit, via google search or library, there is a lot of good info on how to get bad credit info removed from your reports. I actually have helped many friends and some past clients "doctor" their reports to get a car loan or mortgage at a better rate. Just use common sense, and don't fall for companies who promise to get your scores really high for a few bucks. Most people can do it themselves for the cost of time, research, letter writing, and postage. The stuff you can't get wiped off, you can then try to negotiate a settlement that even states paid in full/never late as part of your negotiation. Just get it all in writing before you give them your money. A debt collector will lie and do anything to separate you from your hard earned money and most of them have paid pennies for your charged off debts.