Q: Do credit reporting bureaus deal with American debts or foreign debts? Before I contact them, are there any pointers you can give me?

A: I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean by American debts, unless you’re referring to credit card debts charged to credit cards issued in America, and mortgages for properties located in the U.S.

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are the three largest credit reporting bureaus in the U.S. There are a few smaller ones as well.

Credit reporting agencies and bureaus are essentially huge repositories of each individual’s financial data. So if a credit reports an on-time payment, late payment, or collection of an account that’s tied to your Social Security number, that information is collected by the credit reporting bureaus.

Currently, the credit reporting bureaus focus solely on U.S. citizens, permanent residents and anyone else who has an American credit card or credit account or other debts and credit issues that arise in the United States.

So, if you are a U.S. citizen living in a foreign country and fail to pay a utility bill in that foreign country, the U.S. credit reporting bureaus will not end up gathering that information. But if you are a foreign national living in the U.S. and fail to pay a utility bill or other payment, that information may be gathered and used by the three big credit reporting bureaus.

If you need help paying off your credit cards or improving your debt, each of the credit reporting bureaus maintains a free education site on its website that will guide you. The Federal Trade Commission has additional information on paying down debts at www.ftc.gov.