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I recently ran my credit score and discovered that unbeknownst to me there was evidently a $60 medical co-pay from last year that I never paid (they sent the bill to an old address and due to it being a low $$$ didn't bother calling.)

I know that due to it being a medical bill and that it is under $100 it won't affect my credit score for current formulas.

However, I am planning on buying a house in NYC in the next few years ($2 million plus) and my understanding is that the current mortgage companies use a older version of fico for calculations and I would still penalize me for this infraction.

I want to remove the collections from my credit report entirely. I phoned the collections agency and they said that they don't do pay to delete but if I paid in full then they would request to the credit companies to remove it from my account and it would be deleted in ~60 days ... which sounds like a pay to delete just phrased differently.

Can the collections agency actually have the credit report agencies delete the infraction or are they just lying to get me to pay the bill?

If they are lying what other options do I have at my disposal? Part of me wonders if because the bill is so low if I could just hire a lawyer to scare the collections agency into removing the infraction rather than have to pay for a long drawn out legal fight. Like I said the actual money is less important to me than the effect to my credit score.

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    Get the promise in writing. – ceejayoz Jul 14 '20 at 13:57
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No, collections agencies won't tell the credit reporting agencies to delete a legitimately late or delinquent payment. They might lie and say that, but if it is a legitimate debt, the most they will do is to indicate that the charge was paid in full, and when.

A medical bill for an amount of approximately $100 CAN affect your credit score, for purposes of getting a credit card. I know this because I had a similar situation to you-- I moved across the country and never received that piece of forwarded mail containing my doctor's bill co-pay.

I only found out about it because I was declined after applying for a new credit card. By then, the bill was 5 months late, so that it showed as seriously delinquent (over 90 days) on my credit report (FICO/Experian) and had been referred to a collections agency. I had no other late bill payments, my other credit card was current and had a record of 5 years of on time payment, no public record entries, and I had bought a car with a GMAC loan (no co-signer) and paid it off in full, no late payments.

I promptly contacted the collections agency, and paid the $80.00 debt. I asked if the record of it could be removed from my credit report. The collections agency told me that they would record it as paid in full. However, it was true that I had had a bill that was 90+ days overdue and had been referred to collections, so they would not remove it.

Next, I contacted the original physician who had issued the bill; they couldn't help.

Next, I contacted Equifax, Experian et al (the credit reporting agencies). They told me they would not remove the record of late payment, because it was true, but I could make a consumer statement explaining what happened. This would be attached to my credit report. I did that.

I applied for a credit card about a year later. I was denied again, due to having had a seriously delinquent past account, that same $80, even though I had paid it in full, and had provided an explanation regarding the circumstances. It will take between five and seven years for that bill to drop off your credit report, once you have paid it.

Different criteria are used for secured borrowing such as a mortgage or auto loan. If paid, your medical bill probably won't have any negative impact on your ability to get a mortgage in a few years, as that is collateralized by the house. Regardless, pay the medical bill now, get a receipt and a full statement from the collections agency that the bill has been paid IN FULL.

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  • Collections agencies and other creditors ARE the ones who determine a debt's validity, not the reporting agencies, who only report what's sent to them. Creditors have the ability to amend or redact data as circumstances of creditor accounts change. – RiverNet Jun 22 at 2:32
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    @RiverNet thank you for your comment. I updated my answer with further specifics in order to make it clear that it was the collections agency who refused to make any change, not the credit reporting company. – Ellie Kesselman Jun 27 at 12:18
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Any creditor has the ability to modify its reporting on your bureau reports, but if the debt is valid then most generally won't when it comes to collection agencies.

Keep in mind that the act of paying the debt, or any situation where the creditor/collection agency updates your information causes a restart of the seven-year period the item will remain on your report. That clock on that period begins from the date of last activity on the account.

You can always negotiate with the collection agency and offer to pay the full amount owed immediately in exchange for either removing the item or ensuring it is properly updated to show as paid, even though in that instance it will still show as a collection account, just with a zero balance. What effect that has on the scoring models of the bureaus is not entirely clear, since it is a well-guarded secret specifically how those models work (to keep people from gaming the models).

Whatever agreement you make with the collection agency, GET IT IN WRITING BEFORE YOU PAY. Once you hand over your money it's done and if they lied to you then there's nothing you'll really be able to do about it. If they agree to delete the record then their written agreement should state specifically that.

The reason they told you it can take ~60 days is because it depends on when their reporting cycle runs, plus the bureaus can sometimes take as long as 90 days to update items on file (although that is very rare these days since it's a competitive business).

Remember that collection agencies frequently acquire accounts at a steep discount to their actual value, so there's always negotiating room on the settlement amount, but if you pay less than the full amount then they can report that as well (partial settlement rather than paid-in-full), so there could still be more of a potential negative consequence attached to that than just going ahead and paying it all. Besides, you said it's only around$100, so it isn't exactly a budget-breaker, right?

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They can, or they will mark the debt paid in full, which is really all you need. When applying for a mortgage, the lenders typically, do not like any kind of outstanding debt on your credit report. Despite not making any material difference to your score, most lenders would balk at lending you any amount for a home with this $60 outstanding debt on your report.

It seems silly, but there are a lot of silly things about mortgage lending that have grown out of the need to reduce fraud.

As the comment says, get the agreement in writing. Also save that email or whatever, and pay the debt in full with a throwaway credit card or by money order. Debt collectors are known to sell the debt to another company shortly after collecting. Also if you give them full access to your checking account through a debit card or whatever, they have been known to take much more then the agreed upon amount. They are pretty sleazy and cannot be trusted.

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You can either request a goodwill adjustment from the collection agency, it is basically a letter explaining your situation, such as you want to purchase a house but can't because of the collection on your credit report, and you're kindly asking them to remove the collection out of goodwill.

Or you can demand that the collection agency validate the debt.

Under section 809 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, collection agencies are required to validate debts they are attempting to collect if you request that they do so.

If they are unable to validate the debt, you can ask them to remove it from your credit report.

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