You have the right to have the debt validated within 30 days of a written request. This means the agency must get information they may or may not have and compare it with your debt and you. In addition you can ask for proof of the debt. all activity must cease until validation is complete
If the agency does not validate the debt they cannot collect it.
Dispute the debt
You are entitled to dispute the debt and report to the credit reporting agencies that you dispute the debt. You should send a written dispute to all three bureaus TRW Trans-union and Equifax .
Run a credit check on yourself
All three bureaus allow a free annual check on your own credit and you should wait until you have filed a dispute to run the check to see it appear.
Negotiating with a collector
If you are sure the agency is licensed in your state and the debt is valid and you are concerned about your credit, you may pay or negotiate the debt. If you just pay the agency may report a paid collection, not good. However if you negotiate to have the reporting deleted it does happen on rare occasions and usually only when you can visit the agency with cash in hand. If they will deal with you get a signed statement that No credit reporting will happen and the present report will be stricken.
Then give them the cash.
Information is key
Under the FDPCA you have the right to have all communcation in written form and this will help you keep track of the case. You have to demand this in writing.
They need to know where you work and bank to collect the money from you so you should not tell them or confirm any background information. The collector's job is to get the money from you and information will make it easier. Keep your mouth sut and talk instead about the debt.