I happened to glance at my credit report and one of the agencies shows that I have a debt of just over $100 in collections. It appears to be from an emergency room in a previous state (I moved about 6 months ago). I think my family did use that emergency room but I was always very prompt to pay off any bills I got. Anyway, I left a forwarding address and have not changed my number, but neither the hospital nor any collections agency has ever contacted me about it.

To be clear I'm not certain if this is from the ER we used, nor do I know who the collections agency might be. It would be some work to figure that information out and quite a bit more to determine if it's a legit debt.

My question is whether there is any reason I should put the effort into looking into this debt and maybe paying it. I can think of some reasons why I might not:

  • I don't see evidence that anyone is following up on this...if I contact them, will this be akin to replying "do not contact me" to a spammer---just lets them know you are a live one and encourages them?
  • My credit score doesn't matter much. I own my home outright and have no debts. I don't see that changing. And my scores are all in the high 700s even with this issue. Not sure if correcting or paying this debt will help my credit anyway.
  • I don't want to reset any statute of limitations that may be working in my favor.
  • I get angry dealing with bureaucrats who don't know their own business and the thought of putting effort into looking into this issue makes me grumpy. Whether I actually owe it or not, someone messed up by not letting me know.

On the other hand I don't want to end up in the future wishing I had looked into it and taken care of it earlier. Any reason I should bother?

  • I have added country united states. Please change if incorrect.
    – Dheer
    Dec 21, 2015 at 8:31

1 Answer 1


It's your business to pay what you owe but it's not your business to determine what you owe.

The "Fair Debt Collections Practices act" FDCPA proscribes certain steps creditors must go through to contact you. You appear to not have received any active contact or demand, but you can still cite the FDCPA to make it their problem.

Write to the creditor's address (I assume its the hospital, the OP isn't clear), use USPS Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested, asking them to validate that you owe this debt by mail in 5 days, as is your right under the FDCPA.

If they get back to you and you agree (or its reasonably plausible) you do owe it, pay it especially if it's on the order of $100. At least you will know it is settled at the source. Cross reference to your insurance claims to be sure its not double billed or a miscredited copay, but you may see many legit separate charges from one ER visit (hospital, doctor, anesthesiologist, etc) and it would not be the first time a medical billing system crapped the bed.

If you don't hear anything after a few weeks, use the credit report protest process (or write to them, cc: the Federal Trade Commission) contesting the validity of this report. The creditor did not respond to your FDCPA request for validation (copy of the Return Receipt); and you otherwise believe you are current with the hospital. Per the Fair Credit Reporting act, they must investigate.

Fight bureaucratic fire with fire: conduct all business by mail, and make liberal use of certified mail return receipts. Its a $6 way to telegraph you know that they have specific federal law timeliness requirements; and you have a federal timestamp signed by someone in their organization.

  • I don't know anything about FDCPA, so I have no opinion of these are the correct specific steps. Definitely don't let it just sit out there though. Nothing good can come from that. Also, I agree with the advice to document your attempts in writing in case you do have trouble later.
    – user32479
    Dec 21, 2015 at 14:54
  • Some good could come of it. If they never reach out to me and do nothing else, I don't ever have to pay or bother with them. I'd be surprised if they put much effort into collecting that amount of money--they haven't yet. The steps described above involve expense and quite a bit of hassle on my part--tracking down the address, writing a letter, going to the post office, probably learning that I wrote the wrong people and redoing it, etc. The info on my credit report is not very helpful.
    – farnsy
    Dec 21, 2015 at 16:14
  • @farnsy Per your question, it's already gone to collection. There's no chance now that it will just go away on its own.
    – user32479
    Dec 21, 2015 at 16:50
  • @Brick: Well, when statute of limitations passes, it will have effectively "gone away" as it cannot be enforced anymore.
    – user102008
    Dec 21, 2015 at 21:24
  • @user102008 Even if the statue of limitations passes, you can still be sued a lose! The statute of limitations expiring is a defense in a lawsuit not a prohibition against one being raised. If you fail to appear or raise a defense, the judgment can still go against you, according to what I've read. blog.credit.com/2015/04/…
    – user32479
    Dec 21, 2015 at 21:33

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