Cynthia, a debt collections removal enthusiast, wants everyone to know the ins and outs of having inaccurate account information removed.
Medical debt can be a huge problem for those trying to build up their credit scores to buy a home, get an auto loan, or even submit a rental application. Once you receive a bill in the mail (the remaining charge that your insurance doesn't cover), it's important to do what you can to pay it before it goes to collections. If you have run your credit and found a negative collection on your report, in particular, one you know you don't owe, the prospect of getting it removed can seem daunting. Read on to learn more!
My Medical Collections Journey
I have a lot of personal experience when it comes to removing debt collections. At one point, I had over $80,000 worth of medical debt in collections after a car accident. These bills went to medical debt collection agencies and firms before the litigation was complete. Even though all my medical debts were paid off in my settlement, medical debt collection calls and letters kept rolling in. This was after the bills had been paid, and this was just one of many incorrect claims. Over the years, with diligence and a little research, I have managed to get all claims removed. How did I do it? A little luck and a lot of research. Hopefully, I can help you get your debts removed too.
In this article I discuss:
- What a Collections Agency Is
- How to Check Your Credit Report
- How to Get Medical Collections off of Your Credit Report
- Common Questions About Refuting Medical Collections
What Is a Collection Agency?
Collection agencies are third party companies that buy debt from an established business (such as a hospital or a bank) for a fraction of the debt amount. These agencies pursue you for the full amount owed, even though they bought your debt for only a fraction of that.
Why Are Paid Bills in Collection Agencies?
What many people don't know is that hospitals will often sell medical debts to collection agencies—even when those debts have been partially paid! Medical debt collection yields profit for the hospital who sells the debt at a low price, and for the collector who then hounds you for the payments. Furthermore, it's been possible for them historically to place the same debt on your credit report multiple times. This is called double-dipping.
What Is Double-Dipping?
Also known as double jeopardy, medical collection agencies do what's called "double-dip" and sporadically hit your credit report with old debts that have already been paid. What this means is if a debt wasn't paid in a timely manner (which in some cases is quite arbitrary) the collection agency could sell the debt to another collection agency. This results in multiple negative hits to your credit report. Fortunately, a 2015 court ruling changed this; now, legally, a collection agency that sells its a debt to another must remove its unpaid debt from your credit report.
Because my hospital visits took place pre-2015, I wasn't protected by this ruling. Not to mention I hadn't owed money to the hospital anyway due to my Medicaid coverage and insurance settlement. Fortunately, I ended up finding an easy way to get the medical debt removed, which I talk about below in "How do I Get Medical Collections off of My Credit Report?". After dealing with double-dipping, money-hungry debt collection agencies, you learn a few things.
How to Check Your Credit Report
I run my credit reports every year, and you should too. You can obtain a copy from all three credit bureaus once a year—get this—for free! When you receive your credit reports, this is where you can make note of all the debt collections, who owns them, and their contact information.
How to Run Your Credit Report
- Visit annualcreditreport.com to obtain your credit reports online. There are ways to call or receive your credit reports by mail; for those, visit the Federal Trade Commission website. Do not pay for or try to get credit reports through any other website; a number of fake websites exist with the sole goal of stealing your information! That's right; they're after your social security number and other pertinent information.
- The three companies you can get your credit reports through are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
- After retrieving all three of your credit reports, be sure the information on each report matches what you know about yourself. Did you take out a student loan in 2005? Did you apply for a car loan in 2015? Are a few of your previous addresses (accurately) listed? If any of this information does not match what you know to be true in your personal life, consider contacting the credit company in writing and inquiring about the mistake. It's possible someone attempted to take out a loan in your name.
Identifying False Information
If something shows up on your credit report that you don't recognize, write the company that created your credit report immediately. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the credit reporting company and the company providing information are responsible for removing the incorrect information from your credit report.
Read More From Toughnickel
Once you have all three copies of your credit report, check each of them for errors as I've suggested above. A red flag for me on my credit report was a large medical debt collection from the birth of my son. At the time I was covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield through work and I qualified for pregnancy Medicaid that picked up the remaining balance after insurance. There was no way the bill, and thus, the collection, was legit; I did not owe that debt.
When I dealt with that particular debt, I found an easy way to remove medical debts in collections from my credit report, which I discuss below in "How I Refuted My Collection".
How Do I Get Medical Collections off of My Credit Report?
The first move you'll make is writing a debt validation letter. It's important to submit the letter within 30 days of being contacted by the debt collector. Do not call the debt collector because it's important to get everything in writing.
The collector must stop collection efforts until they find proof that the debt still exists. In my case, there was no proof that I owed the money; the hospital had sold the debt to the collection agency before Medicaid had covered the expense.
Writing a Medical Debt Validation Letter
There are a few things to keep in mind when sending a medical dispute letter. Here are a few phrases to include in your letter:
- I am requesting that [medical debt collection firm name] provide debt validation for [account number listed on credit report].
- If (medical collection firm name) can not provide adequate validation within the 30-day time frame, all debts should be immediately removed from all three major credit reports.
- I request all further correspondence regarding this debt collection to be sent via mail. Do not contact me by phone.
Tips for Crafting a Medical Debt Validation Letter
Here are a few more useful tips for refuting claims.
- Know what you need. Debt validation in the form of an original bill and detailed statement of procedures is required for the collection agency to keep the claim.
- Give them 30 days. Debt validation should be received by you no later than 30 days from receipt of this request. Giving the firm 30 days is just polite; you need to give them two weeks to meet your demands.
- Use your manners. Always be polite in any contact with a medical debt collection agency.
- Stick to the facts. When writing your letter, stick to the facts, and provide enough necessary evidence that they can determine the false nature of the debt.
- Do not copy and paste a dispute letter from the internet. Keep in mind when sending any form of dispute letter to a credit bureau copying and pasting is never a good idea. Write your disputes in your own words. I often get emails from people stating a dispute was denied. Through corresponding with them, I find that they used a template dispute letter they found on the internet. This is not recommended; credit bureaus do use software to check for duplications.
- Send letters by certified mail. Most websites recommend sending a letter by certified mail with a signature required. In my case, I emailed the debt collector my debt validation letter, which worked just fine as well. It may be tempting to just mail a standard letter to a medical debt collection agency, but if you fail to send a certified letter, there is no record of you sending your validation letter, which makes it impossible to prove the debt collector received it. Certified mail sends you a receipt once the addressee has received the mail. You can send certified mail through USPS here.
- Stay organized during the refuting process. I keep a budget planning notebook. Writing out each individual medical debt and all the information in the ledger really helps you to organize the information you find on your credit report. It allows me to separate the smaller collections from the larger ones, and it also allows me to separate them by date and company. If you have multiple debts going to the same medical collection company you can send multiple letters at once. You will easily be able to mark the collections off when you receive a reply.
Once you have mailed your letters, one of two things will happen: Either you will get a letter stating the debt has been deleted, or they will validate your debt. If your debt is medical debt, carefully assess how the collector validates it. It may be in violation of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act; more on that later).
How I Refuted My Collection
Initially, I contacted Medicaid, as they should have picked up the balance owed for the medical procedure. They said that without an original bill, they could not assist me. I then sent a very well-written and polite email to the medical debt collection agency. Since I knew Medicaid would pay the debt, I had no fear of contacting the medical debt agency for an original bill.
Two days later I received a reply. The medical debt collection agency informed me they could not provide me with an original bill and said they had been forced to delete my debt collection account. The debt quickly vanished from my credit report; it happened in less than a week!
A Summary of Refuting a Collection (and Removing the Debt Collection From Your Credit Report!)
Since my first successful removal of a collection report, I have learned a bit more about how to dispute medical debts in collection. I do not recommend sending an email as I did in the story above. Here are some basic rules to follow when dealing with medical debt collection agencies:
- Do not call collection agencies.
- Send a well-written, non-aggressive letter disputing the debt.
- Send only certified mail, with signature confirmation.
- Make copies of the triplicate credit reports.
- Use a planner to track the date you send each letter to each debt collector.
Common Questions About Refuting Medical Collections
A number of questions around HIPAA, responses to your letters, and next steps may remain for you. Here I attempt to clear up some common questions and misconceptions regarding debt removal and HIPAA.
Are My Medical Debt Validations in Violation of HIPAA?
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, if debt to a medical facility goes unpaid, the facility has the right to take measures to collect the debt, including selling your personal information to a medical debt collector. Fortunately, the information that can be provided to the collector is limited to your
- social security number,
- payment history, and
- location and name of the facility you were treated in.
While this seems like a lot of information, the medical facility can not disclose the nature of your treatment to the collector. If by chance a medical collection does provide you with the details of your medical bill (i.e., treatment) they may be in direct violation of HIPAA regulations, facing fines (payable to you).
What to Do If the Collections Agency Is in Violation of HIPAA
If you suspect the medical debt validation you receive is in violation of HIPAA, send a follow-up letter stating that you know they have directly violated the regulations of the HIPAA Act of 1996. Strikedebt.com offers an excellent example from which a letter can be modeled. Inform them that you never signed a HIPAA form to authorize them to have access to the information. You may also include that you intend to pursue filing a legal complaint unless they immediately delete this item from your report and stop all attempts to collect. Of course, you want that in writing too.
Can Medical Collections be Removed From Credit Report Due to HIPAA?
All HIPAA paperwork is not the same. Depending on how the document is written when you sign off on it prior to getting the medical treatment, it may include that they can share detailed information with debt collectors. As with anything that requires your signature, fully reading, and understanding what you are agreeing to is critical. This way you will understand if they are indeed able to share your details with specific entities. Entities that may include those they employ in the pursuit of obtaining the balance owed. If the HIPAA document you signed did not specify this, you may have a case.
What to Do If the Medical Collection Agency Fails to Reply
If the medical debt collection agency fails to reply to your letter, you have a bit of work to do. This is where your certified mail receipts come in handy, plus those triplicate letters. Now you will compose a letter to all the major credit bureaus: this is why I said "copies in triplicate." You can make copies of your certified mail receipts to send as well.
Your letter should include the following:
- I've made an attempt to validate a debt on my credit report.
- I have yet to receive any validation or reply from the medical collection agency since they have failed to comply with my request, or even contact me.
- Ask that the debt be immediately removed.
- It is also a good idea to include your contact information for followup from the bureaus.
Be polite: No debt collector or someone at a bureau is going to respond nicely to any hostile letters.
What If the Debt Collector Agrees to Delete My Debt but Does Not?
This is approached the same way as failure to reply. In this case, you send a copy of the agreement to delete the debt—in addition to all your other paperwork included in the case about failing to respond of course.
Disputing Collections That Resulted From a Data Breach
I also have personal experience with medical providers and data breaches. Over the past few years, I have gotten several letters from medical facilities letting me know that medical providers and insurances I have used in the past have had data breaches.
These breaches compromised my personal information. As a result, I decided to run my credit reports again to look for any issues. As suspected, there were medical debts showing up that had already been paid. These were some of the easiest collections I have ever removed from my reports.
I disputed directly with the credit bureaus by sending the following:
"My details have been included in data breaches. I cannot confirm that this debt is valid as it appears to be a debt that was already paid."
Simple yet effective. Within 24 hours I had a response and confirmation from the bureaus that the debts that were in collections had been removed. If you have had your personal information included in a data breach this may be an option to get duplicate debts removed for you as well.
How to Refute a Credit Report Error That's not the Result of Medical Debt
You'll do similar work for the credit reporting company to get the false debt removed from your report. According to the FTC, the first step towards removing an inaccurate claim is to write to the credit reporting company using what's called a dispute letter. In the letter, acknowledge each piece of inaccurate information and detail why it is inaccurate. This letter should include supporting documentation that the claim in question is false.
Once you've prepared your letter, if you're sending it in the mail, send it by certified mail and arrange that a return receipt is sent to you upon the arrival of your document.
How to Delete the Debt If the Debt is Yours and You Still Owe It
If you know the debt is yours, you can work directly with the debt collectors for pay for deletion and negotiate for less than the balance owed in most cases. I have several detailed articles covering many angles of dealing with debt collections.
Still Have Questions About Debt Removal From Your Credit Report?
If I haven't yet answered your question above, be sure to check the Q&A section below! If you still can't find a resolution, feel free to ask in the comments below.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Does the method described in this article to remove medical debt still work?
Answer: Yes, I am still having luck removing medical debts from a shady collection company that keeps attempting to charge me for medical bills that were previously paid. I have had two removed as recently as mid-March of 2020. Keep in mind this is situational, it may not work for everyone. If you know for a fact that the debt is yours and you owe it, you should negotiate a for pay for deletion and can even offer to pay less than the balance. Debt is as unique as the individuals who owe it, and this is not a cure all for removing debts for everyone.
Question: In this article, you said regarding the HIPAA loophole they could not provide necessary info after asking "the right questions". Could you explain what those "right questions" were for the HIPAA loophole?
Answer: When I asked them to validate the debt and send any supporting documents for the services this bill was for. The debt collector could not provide details regarding the debt in question without violating HIPPA. When you are dealing with debt collectors you should only provide them with what little details you see on the debt in question as it shows on your credit report. Date of debt and account number listed on your credit report. I have also written a few other detailed articles highlighting how to correspond with debt collectors that you may find useful as well.
Question: If a debt collection agency sends me the date of service and how much I owe is that validation?
Answer: Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, there are requirements that must be included in a validation letter from a collection agency. Without seeing an actual notice, it is hard to determine if you indeed have a clear validation or not. Though I can say validations should include more than the date and how much is owed.
Question: I disputed a medical collection through Experian and Experian denied the dispute to remove the debt. The debt is not mine; I have never used the medical service this collection agent is trying to collect the debt for. What can I do to refute Experian's claim to debt?
Answer: In this case, it appears you may need to contact the collection agency and attempt to figure out why they are reporting a debt that does not belong to you for services you never used. If a credit bureau denies your dispute it could be in how it was worded, or that not enough detail was included to support the claim of the debt being invalid against whatever documentation the debt collector can provide to the contrary. Also, check into any possible data breaches at the medical facilities you have used. I have found that my information was included in several over the years through medical providers, and it has caused a lot of similar issues for me to deal with.
Question: I have multiple medical debt collection accounts on my credit from a few years ago when I was covered by pregnancy Medicaid with no out of pocket costs. What steps can I take to have these debts removed?
Answer: When something like this happens, you need to contact Medicaid (or any insurance company you may have had) and see if you can be provided with supporting documentation that the debts were paid by them. If you can obtain that, then you can dispute with the credit bureaus directly to have them removed.
Question: Can asking for validation of a debt, disputing a debt, or contacting a collection agency in any way restart the clock on the debt?
Answer: From personal experience, I have disputed debt and it has not started the statute over. Requesting a validation or contacting the debt collection agency can restart the statute of limitations over. If you are dealing with debts and collections it is always best to deal with the newest debts first. As it would not make sense to give the chance for the statute to start over on a debt that is close to falling off your reports.
Question: What do I do if I have been making payments on my debt and am on my last payment, can I send a payment to delete letter?
Answer: If you were already making payments and only owe one more then you are better off to just pay the past payment. The collection will then be closed, and it should also have been reporting the payments you had been making. At this point take paying it off as a win, your score will improve some once it is closed.
Question: I recently noticed a medical debt collection on one of my credit reports. It is not showing up on the other reports though. Is this worth going through the steps for debt validation and removal since it is only reporting on one of my credit reports and not others? Is it a good sign that it is an inaccurately reported debt since it is only reporting to one credit bureau?
Answer: It is plausible it is showing on only one report because the others aren't current. Sometimes a debt only appears on one or two of your credit bureau reports and not the other one. It can still negatively impact credit scores.
Collection agencies don't always report to all the bureaus as many people will pay erroneous debts as soon as they notice them. They make loads of money from people not checking and questioning the validity of collection accounts.
Would I personally work towards validating the debt and pursuing removal? Yes I would. Especially if it paid with insurance coverage, or is a potential an error.
It is completely conceivable it could be off base debt obligation, yet I truly can't address your own obligations and what could be invalid debts for you.
If the debt has any potential in being invalid why would you leave it on any of your credit reports? Collection accounts have negative impacts on credit scores no matter if only on one bureau report or all. You are out nothing but time in trying to get this debt collection removed.
Question: I noticed a new entry on two of my credit reports this month. I do not recognize this company, nor have I used any service I can match it. I’ve received no calls or mail from them. Should I go ahead and send these erroneous debtors the debt validation letter or wait for a call or letter from them giving me the opportunity to validate the debt?
Answer: If you are sure that you have never used this company (be sure to look for the original creditor if this is a collection agency just in case). Then you can dispute directly with the credit bureaus and not even send a validation letter if you choose. I would wonder if you legitimately have never used this creditor if your information was included in a data breach. I would keep a close eye on your reports to see if anything else pops up. Given that these are new, and you just noticed them there is no harm in disputing directly for their removal. If the dispute is denied, then you can send validation or initiate contact to figure out why this is on your reports.
Question: Would it be possible to use some of this information to possibly remove some non-medical debts as well?
Answer: This article specifically deals with the removal of medical debt. You can still use the information about validating debts, contacting debt collection agencies, and negotiating pay for deletion contracts with other creditors or debts you need to resolve. You may find an article I have written about dealing with debt collectors and mistakes to avoid valuable too. https://toughnickel.com/personal-finance/4-Mistake...
© 2016 Cynthia Hoover
Trust Issues on August 22, 2020:
Hi! I had a student loan which was i believe, falsely marked as a "negative" account, it was a federal loan over payment, dates say it was opened and closed on the same day in 2013, and that it was paid in full. Why would that be a negative mark? I disputed it but it was found to be accurate. What should i do?
Also, a shady lending company checked my report 5x (once was a hard inquiry amd the others were soft) even though i have a credit freeze on my account and i never even authorized them to pull it. And i declined any offer they sent me, asked them to remove the hard pull, and they sent me denial of loan report which made me revert back to find out quick way to fix credit score .
TBH the best way I found ( which I have also used ) was hiring programmers/Hackers to fix my score by adding trade-lines and even ended up deleting the same student loan the freaking credit companies claim was right .
I am still dumbfounded but I deeply urge you to hire these guys Sniffingnose AT RepairMan DOTcom with ease because they had great customer service on those forums. The only Cons is that they are expensive .
Divo Gleen on August 19, 2020:
I also had a very similar experience about 4 months when I added my cousin brother as AU on my credit , He ended up messing up my credit score with his young blood . my credit score drained from 790 - 540 and I already had 4 Med bills which I reckon ended up contributing to the draining. I hired one repair company which said it will take 6 months to have just one derogatory item removed . Are you kidding me ? I made more research and found Sniffingnose ATrepairmanDOTcom on CK forum where they had 89% reviews on credit score repair. To get the story short, it took 13 days from them to remove 3 Med bills(debt) and they ended up adding trade-line which in-turn boosted me right back (plus extra 11 points to my initially score ).
I cant stress this enough , Never add a young individual to your credit line because they might not just know the hassle it takes to build up credit score. FYI these programmers guys are definitely more expensive than the credit repair companies but I didn't care much cos I went for a loan right away with better credit score. You have your GO if you are also finding hard time repairing your credit .
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on May 26, 2020:
There are many free credit monitoring services that will let you know if your information has been compromised in a data breach. My doctors offices and lab testing facilities have sent me letters about data breaches. If you get a letter confirming a data breach contained your information be sure to hang on to it.
Amber on May 22, 2020:
How do we find out if we we're involved with data breech?
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on March 18, 2020:
Page, Thanks so much for taking a moment to comment.
page on March 18, 2020:
such an informative post, thank you for sharing!
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on March 13, 2020:
If she was on your insurance at the time that may explain it. As I mention in the article do not call debt collectors. My best suggestion to you is dispute these debts and collections directly with the credit bureaus. I recently just had two more removed that were fraudulent medical debts. My reason for my dispute was that simply 'My medical information has been included in several data breaches with insurance providers and medical facilities', (that is a fact for me unfortunately). Just be as detailed as you can be in your disputes with the credit bureaus, if you have any supporting documentation that debts are not valid you can even upload those digitally when filing a dispute (paperwork you may have for the settlement with the hospital). Alternatively you can attempt removal with without documentation, but if you have the documents on hand, send them in with your dispute. When disputing you do not need to deal with the fraudulent agency that is attempting to collect the medical debt you can simply file your dispute with each credit bureau. I have my decision for removal of the debt off my credit reports in 3 days, it is a really easy process. If you use Credit Karma, you can even file your dispute through them.
LaTersa Denise on March 09, 2020:
These are some great tips especially seeing that I’m working on my credit . Great post
Rhonda on February 18, 2020:
I keep receiving debt collection notices for my daughter, who is now 21. She was in the hospital in 2016 for an extended amount of time but these collection notices are from a totally different hospital (that she wasn't even in). All of her bills from her stay have been paid through a settlement with the hospital. These notices are coming in my name (she was legally an adult at the time) and they are going on my credit report. How do I deal with this issue? These are all fake collections. When I called the first one, they couldn't give me any information except what hospital it was at (which was quite a distance from the hospital she was in). Please help.
Rondahh on January 09, 2020:
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Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on January 05, 2020:
At that point it is really up to you. Do you wish to give them additional time to reply/validate the debt or not. You can attempt removal now since you were only given balance owed if I understand correctly. The choice is yours, you can attempt to dispute since they did not send supporting documentation that validates the debt.
Dedaof3 on October 14, 2019:
Hello Cynthia, its Been a Month since I posted. Are you Still replying to this post? Hopefully my comments get lost Amongst this post..
Dedaof3 on September 11, 2019:
Hello Cynthia, First Thank You So much for this great Source of Information. Secondly, i sent a Certified letter to the collection agency requesting them to verify the debt in an Original bill and detailed statement however they responded with just a statement saying information is confirmed with a balance. This is not in any form a validation of a detailed statement and procedure which was required at my request. My Question is do I Contact them again to inform them that this is not the required information needed? Or Am i to imediately contact the three credit bureaus to make them aware that the Collection agency has not comply with my request ?
Any information given i will be most grateful for Thank you
Lakeisha S on June 22, 2019:
Thank you so much for sharing
Val on May 21, 2019:
So what if the debt is STILL with the Hospital ? What if the actual Hospital is reporting the debt?
Davis104u on May 19, 2019:
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Jeff on May 06, 2019:
@Valerie, the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) make is so that you have the right to an *accurate* credit report. As such, if a debt collector states you owe them anything and reports it to one of the credit reporting agencies, it is *their* responsibility to validate the debt once you challenge it. Do it in writing, CMRRR(certified mail, return receipt request) once they recieve it, they have 30 days to prove they have a legal right to collect the debt, or remove it from your report. If you've revoked your HIPAA authorizations from the care provider, and paid the debt to them.. the care provider has no "permissible purpose" to communicate with the collection agency any information about your account. Since the care provider can't communicate with the debt collector, the collector can't prove their claim. They *must* remove it from your credit reports.
Valerie on May 01, 2019:
Great idea! What do you do in a case where you have tequested validation and the debt collector refers you to the original creditor for that information. Ive had that happen (before i read this article) when i called the debt collector for the information and was told i needed to contact the hospital from which it came from.
order lab tests on April 30, 2019:
thank you so much! I know this will work for me
Peggy Townsend on April 15, 2019:
My husband and i want to purchase a home and so we have been doing everything we could to improve our credit score. And I found your article on line by accident. And what i learned from it has given me hope that we will be able to buy our first home sooner then we expected! Thank yoh
Brent on March 19, 2019:
In the article it lists a few things we should include in the validation letter, is there any particular portion of the law that we should include which confirms that they must comply?
Josephine on February 25, 2019:
Hello, I have a few bills on my credit report when I went to the ER due to complications of pregnancy and I had Medicaid. What do i have to do with these cases to get them removed? I seen your brief information and was hoping you could elaborate a little more for me. Thank You
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Fred on January 22, 2019:
Put no contact
Jennifer on January 06, 2019:
I was thrilled to find your article, as I have been looking all over for the information you provide. I have a few questions that I hope you can answer.
First of all, if I disputed a collection through Credit Karma, saying I was not aware of the debt, that after reading some of the comments, realized I probably shouldn't have said, however it was the truth. So, if TransUnion said that the debt met the FRCA regulations, then do I then start with a debt validation, by letter this time, or what would my next step be, since I don't have great proof of the first contact?
Secondly, I have one debt that has been listed 3 different times by 3 different collection agencies. I have proof from credit reports of this. In fact the 2nd collection agency only listed the debt for a month or two and removed it. Should i send any of that, or mention any of that in the letter to the current debt collection agency. Also the actual debt started, or opened in 2014, but the newest collection agency has the date opened of just a few months ago, is that correct or legal?
Lastly, if you have the same collection agency, representing the same original creditor, all the same, and having the same date, it's a x-ray original creditor, if they gave different accounts for the same day & same amount, is that possible, or would that be a dispute?
Thanks so much for your help in these questions.
JesseMann on December 21, 2018:
Was looking for an answer for this situation and was pleasantly surprised to find it was written from someone I know from Facebook. :)
devona on November 21, 2018:
I have sent a letter the collection agent has not sent me anything ,but credit beureau sid account was verified and meet FRCA Requirements. but collection never sent me anything.
student here! on November 09, 2018:
thank you so much ! i know this will work for me , my issue here is thaty some bureas removed and some did not:( and they validated them. buty now 2nd step will be applty!!! savior! will update soon!! thank u !!!
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on November 05, 2018:
Shannon thanks for the comment. This can be effective in some cases for those who are just trying to get out of a debt they do in fact owe. However, their debt would then just be reported by another entity in most cases, or the original creditor will in some cases begin reporting the debt again. Sad to say but there are many medical debt collection agencies that do in fact report debts that have been paid. I am currently fighting with yet another collection agency over medical bills they are reporting that were indeed paid during litigation after a car wreck many years ago. It seems as far as credit goes there is not much regulation as to the reporting of medical debt. A quick look at the BBB website and I see over 2,000 complaints for the company attempting to collected my medical debts right now. My best advice to everyone is keep meticulous records of your medical appointments. A medical debt in collections can really pull down your credit scores.
SHANNON on October 31, 2018:
Is this advice for people actually disputing the bills or for people that are just trying to get out of paying something they really do owe?
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on September 13, 2018:
Pam, if it is a medical debt that has went to collections it is really worth a try! All it takes to try is a little time and effort. Worst case it does not get removed, best case it does become removed and your score improves. Best of luck to you.
pam nelcon on August 01, 2018:
Does the Ambulence ride to emergency fall in the category of a Medical Debt for which I can write a Validation letter?
juan c on July 31, 2018:
i have typed about 12 letters all using the same template, with different account numbers and different collection agencies,
however these debts are all medical and all range between 100 to 400 the highest being 400, when i type these letters and send them via certified mail since about 10 of these letters go to the same collection company can i send 12 letters inside one envelope?
one letter per account disputed not all on one paper. i hope i am explaining myself.
Lisa on July 29, 2018:
What if there isn’t an account number listed on the credit report? It just list the date opened and the amount. Should I write this in place of the account number
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on July 21, 2018:
You send the violation letter to the debt collection agency.
Tiffany on July 19, 2018:
So should I send the validation letter to the CRA or the collection agency?
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on July 01, 2018:
Buffie Trease, first see what the Statue of limitations is for your state on debt reporting. If you are lucky enough to live in a state that only allows the debt to remain on your report for 5 years, just wait it out. Is there anything in in writing that shows your details could have been compromised? If so you could possibly skip dealing with the debt collection agency and go straight to disputing. If you have some form of documentation that your identity was compromised submit those to the credit bureaus with a dispute.
Worst case you need to negotiate pay for deletion. You can attempt to negotiate for a third of the debt. Keeping in mind you never communicate by phone with any debt collectors. You will need something in writing on company letter head. This way if they fail to delete once paid you can dispute with credit bureaus and provide proof of the agreement.
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on July 01, 2018:
Jackie2019 looks as if the way that is worded you have basically given permissions for them to indeed share your details with debt collectors. As 'other third party payers' is a very lose term and can be argued that it covers any and all agents that would be pursuing the debt. Your best bet is likely to negotiate a payment plan, with pay for deletion criteria.
Jackie2019 on June 30, 2018:
Cynthia, I love your article. My concern primarily is that the form I signed says :
"I hereby Authorize _ Group to disclose to employer groups, insurance companies, government agencies or other third party payors and their agents or to utilization management companies, information in the form of verbal conversations, copies of the patient medical record and/or other documents concerning medical care or treatment that may be necessary for the payment on my behalf, for services rendered to the above named patient, which may include retrieval of my history".
ANY help so greatly appreciated.
Buffie Trease on June 29, 2018:
Hi, thanks for this article! I ran across it because I was looking up information on cleaning up my credit report and am hoping for your advice. On my credit karma report, I have 3 medical bills being reported in my name, all from a CBO Group (are you possibly familiar with them?) that are dated four years ago. I am not 100% sure they are valid, as all of my personal information has been compromised when my former employer failed to secure the information from our background checks (twice) and I've seen evidence of at least one person using my identity in California. However it is possible that they are valid. My original plan was to try to settle them, but then I ran across your article. So, I guess my question is, since they may be valid should I first send a validation request only on the lowest bill, so that if I am on the hook for the balance I don't have to try to come up with all the funds right away? I am currently in school, so my finances are pretty tight. Also, if it is validated, how much would you recommend I try to settle for? Anyway, any advice you have would be appreciated! Thanks :)
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on June 19, 2018:
Actually when it comes to court summons the best thing to do is seek legal advice. Most attorneys offer free consultations that you can use to get an idea of what the next steps to take are. You can respond by filing the Production of Documentation, however depending on the summons and terms used they may well be within rights to include information that would normally violate HIPPA laws. Legal documents can be a tricky thing, and it is always best to ensure you understand completely what they entail. The burden of proof falls to you in this situation to prove reasonably they do not have cause to pursue the debt. You should always appear it is often possible to avoid wage garnishments (if your state allows those for the debt should they win, if it would be a hardship for your family.
tycope on June 19, 2018:
I was served this morning from an Attorney office for a medical debt owed to a hospital from 2011. The Statue of Limitations will end on 08/17/2018. After researching I think it would be wise to respond by filing a Production of Documentation with the court. However I have research the web and can't seem to find one that is fitting for my situation due to them being for credit card debt. Should I include anything about HIPPA Laws in this? This article was great and thanks in advance!
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on June 16, 2018:
MC before you pay that medical debt send a certified letter to the collection agency. If you pay that debt without negotiating a pay for deletion and getting it in writing first it will still be on your credit report. The letter does not have to be anything fancy, but you want to send it certified mail as with any debt collection correspondence. Something simple 'I am prepared to settle this debt in full if (insert debt collection agency name) can agree in writing that the collection will be removed from my credit report once payment is made. Then do nothing until you hear back from them. Sometimes it takes a few back and forth letters to get them to agree. Once you have a letter with their company letter head agreeing to delete the collection once you pay then you can pay it. If they fail to delete the debt after as long as you have that letter with them agreeing to remove it, you can submit it along with a canceled check/receipt of payment to the credit bureau(s) for deletion. Best of luck to you!
MC on June 14, 2018:
I just received a medical debt collection communication from the MCA yesterday (though dated May 31). It is not a large total and I am happy to pay it, though I am more worried about it showing up on my credit report. Is taking your advice in the blog the best plan of action or is it best to pay it? I called the hospital and they said it's best to pay the collector instead of the hospital, but I'm not sure I believe them. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! :)
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on May 28, 2018:
Amber Cosby that is a complicated situation. Yes and No would be the best repose I can come up with. The best info I offer in this article is to never contact a debt collection firm via phone for any reason. When you called them you may have given verbal authorization for them to access your records. Collection agencies end up getting permission via phone without the caller even noticing. Anyone looking to contact a debt collector should always use certified mail to do so.
What you can try is contacting a law office that offers free consultations. Most will let you know right away if there was a violation of your rights under any circumstances. Then you can continue alone without representation with the above guide for debt removal. Or you may opt to allow them to help you if you so choose. Remember a consultation is only that, a consult and you are not obligated to use their services.
In this instance not knowing what was discussed via phone, I would suggest a consult. It is free, and only takes a little of your time to see what way you need to proceed. You may also find a firm willing to do so over the phone.
Amber Cosby on May 23, 2018:
NEED HELP! I recently received a letter in the mail from an Attorney stating the amount due, and if payment was not received they will move forward with collection activity. At the bottom of the letter it states "This communication is from a debt collector." So I called the office and asked for a debt validation that explains the amount owed and what it is for. The Attorney/Debt Collector sent me an email a few days later with the invoice attached. The invoice had my name, address, and a full list of treatments they did with how much each treatment cost beside them. Is this a HIPAA Violation?
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on May 13, 2018:
Jessica, it is worth a try. Though it often is situational for each individual persons debts. If you are not in a position to pay the medical debts, then you can try the method I have outlined and see what happens.
Jessica Eller on May 08, 2018:
Hey, so I have 2 medical collection accounts on my credit report. I want to get them removed, but I haven't paid them. Do I still do what you suggested?
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on April 13, 2018:
Daphne, I still use this method to get medical debts removed today. Most recently I had one deleted from my credit report last month. Patient details such as details of procedures and diagnosis are protected under HIPPA. Without having signed anything beyond the basic HIPAA your details should not available. Other than dates of appointments and costs. The only shared details of your treatments are if they are for treatments. Patient treatment such as a Doctor sending X-Rays to a specialist for a referral.
HIPAA Privacy Rule will permit disclosures for public health and research purposes, under certain conditions . Of course, reading the agreement you sign with a medical profession when you sign a HIPAA release form with them would be best. This will let you know if there are any specifics stated that your agreeing to allow them to share your medical records should you default.
There is no guaranteed to way to clear debts off your credit report other than paying them in full. This method worked for me and has continued to do so. Though it is often situational and every person's debts are a unique situation. If you want to test it out to take care of some of your debts start with a lower cost collection with the oldest day (closer to falling off your reports). If it works great, you can move onto others on the report. If it does not work for you then you haven't lost anything other than a little time invested in writing letters. Best of luck to you, I hope you find that this works for you!
Daphne Dawn Herbert on April 13, 2018:
I am confused by this, from what I have read on government sites, the debt collection agencies are allowed to that information, especially once you've requested the validation. Otherwise this law would just wreck companies attempting to collect medical debt, right? I am very confused by this and have gotten soo much different information as I try to fix this situation. I am young and have found a lot of medical debt from when I just turned 18 that i don't know why its there. Its ruining my future but i don't know the best way to fix it. I'm concerned that requesting the validation will void any HIPAA argument.
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on April 05, 2018:
Marilyn the best thing to do in that situation is not to ignore it. First see if you can set up a free consultation with a lawyer in your area. Most will do a free consult and during the consult they can give you an idea of your legal standing and how to proceed. If you choose to hire them for litigation would be up to you and your financial situation. Make sure you have plenty of documentation as well. The situation with litigation and debt is even if the collection agency obtains a judgement for the balance owed and your still unable to pay it, they really are not gaining anything. With the exception of wage garnishment, and potentially attaching your tax returns until the debt is paid off. It is important that you keep records and documentation even if you proceed without a lawyer and appear in court if a date is indeed set (if this happens you will be formally served with court documents). It is best to bring up that any wage attachments or garnishments would put a hardship on your family. That depends on the state you live in, not all will allow for garnishments of wages for debts. In the case of litigation odds are they can indeed verify that the bill belongs to you and is owed, that is not to say that a mistake did not happen. You may consider that if you owe the debt attempting to discuss a payment option that could suit your situation and rid yourself of the court case if they except.
Marilyn on April 05, 2018:
What if a Hospital sends the so called medical bill to an attorney and He is threatening to bring you to court for the medical bill?
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on April 05, 2018:
Dennis I personally find it best to do an individual letter for each debt. This way if they cannot validate the medical debt and you submit the paper trail you create with certified letters to the three major credit bureau to get the medical debt removed from you credit reports it is easily verifiable information for them. Create a single letter with multiple debts and accounts listed could cause a bit of confusion for whoever works in the dispute departments. It also lumps them all together for the debt collection agencies and while it maybe a time saver as far as writing and mailing letters it may prove easier for them to validate the debts as being yours when you dispute multiples in a single letter. Hope that helps, and best of luck to you!
DENNIS VERESCHAGI on April 05, 2018:
if i have more than one account at a collection company is it ok to ask for there validation, all them in one letter
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on April 02, 2018:
Jaime thank you so much, I am glad you enjoyed it! Best of luck to you getting the debts taken care of!
Jaime on April 02, 2018:
Thank you so much Cynthia! I am going to draft the letter today! I will keep you posted. This blog has been golden. Thank you again.
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on April 02, 2018:
Dennis thank you for the comment, the steps are outlined in the article. The first step in attempting to remove medical debt collections is contacting the debt collection agency first.
DENNIS VERESCHAGI on April 01, 2018:
so are you saying to send this letter to validate to the collection companies or the credit bureaus
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on March 29, 2018:
Jaime, check the dates and statue of limitations on reporting for the state in which you reside. If the debts are close to meeting the statutes for reporting cut offs with your state