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I received a debt collection call a few months ago from a professional debt collector for a debt I didn't recognize, followed by a written notice. I wrote back that I dispute the debt and requested verification. Now I've received a verification letter, and I'm not sure what to do next.

The verification letter has my name and some correct information about a hospital stay in 2019. It names the "assignor" as a medical services company I've never heard of. Googling shows they are a specialist company for a specialty unrelated to my hospital stay. The letter includes brief documentation about my hospital stay, but nothing listing any work done by the assignor company or naming them at all. The documentation lists my insurance information correctly, but my insurance company has no record of any claim being filed. I never received a bill from the assignor.

In short, although they have some of my personal medical information, I don't believe that they ever performed any service for me, and the documentation the debt collector has provided certainly does not show that they did.

I've read about the FDCPA, but all the info I've found gets pretty vague after requesting the validation letter. The letter I received correctly identifies me, but the documentation doesn't in any way show that a debt was incurred, and I don't believe one was.

My inclination is to write back pointing out that there's nothing in their documentation to indicate that any work was done or that any debt is owed. The amount of the debt is only $600, so if there's anything useful I can do before the "get a lawyer" step, that would be preferable. Both me and the debt collector are located in California, USA.

What do you do when a debt collector's verification letter correctly identifies you, but does not appear to identify or support a claimed debt?

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  • Besides the suggestions in the answer below, I would ask the hospital if they could tell you anything about this company related to your stay. Hospitals often contract out various services (even for things done there); the complete billing can be very complex. Jan 31 at 3:35
  • It sounds like they verified you but didn't verify anything about the procedure they billed for. Jan 31 at 22:06

2 Answers 2

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Contact the creditor/assignor.

The Debt Validation Letter contains the name and address of the original creditor so that you can contact them and verify the claim. Hospitals commonly use services of multiple parties which may end up billing you or your insurance company separately.

Act promptly to avoid defaulting.

If you feel something you lawfully requested in your validation letter was not provided, you may point this out and request it again.

For example, in your letter you can specifically request from the collector:

  • Proof I owe the debt
  • The amount of the debt
  • The age of the debt
  • Your ownership of the debt
  • Your debt collector license, or right to collect on the debt in my state
  • A calculation of whether the statute of limitations has expired for collecting the debt.
  • The last action taken on the account

See Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (pdf) Section 809 "Validation of debts"

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  • Can you explain a little bit more what you mean by "you may point this out and request it again" and the list below it? I don't see anything in the FDCPA covering this. Is there some legal protection that prevents it from being a default while I wait to receive an answer? Or are you just saying that I'm literally physically able to write a letter and ask these things?
    – Robert
    Jan 25 at 18:10
  • I've added a link to the source (see pages 11-13)
    – Matthew K
    Jan 31 at 3:23
  • I'm not sure how that section applies. I have already disputed the validity of the debt and they responded with a verification letter. Nothing in section 809 explains how to continue to dispute the debt after receiving the verification letter. Nothing in section 809 supports your claim that I can point out and re-request missing items from your list. Where are you getting that?
    – Robert
    Jan 31 at 19:50
  • It sounds like you have a different question than the one on this post. You may want to create a new post "How do I dispute a debt after receiving a letter of validation." Using the documentation you’ve gotten from the validation letter, try to see if the original creditor has a record of a purchase or loan showing you owe something. If a disputed debt is particularly hard to disprove and the collector files a lawsuit to collect it, you may need to hire an attorney to represent you in court.
    – Matthew K
    Feb 1 at 21:07
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Surprise bills are often issued by specialists such as pathologists and hospitalists, who are out-of-network for your insurance even when the hospital is in-network.

Consider that the bill is as likely to be a surprise bill as it is to be an erroneous bill.

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