Dear Liz: You just saved me $69! Eleven months after I was treated at a health clinic — where I paid the bill in full — I received a bill for $69. Because I have read so much from you on debt collection scams and zombie debt, I refrained from paying it. Before reading all your columns, I would have paid it without question, to save my credit score and avoid a headache. Instead I called the clinic’s billing department, with a receipt from last May that said my balance was zero. The billing representative told me that I do not owe anything and to disregard the new bill. It may not be a lot of money to most people, but it is money, and I am grateful to you for erasing biases taught to me as a child that have cost me in the past.
Answer: You’re not quite done yet. If you’re contacted by a debt collection agency, you need to send a copy of the proof you paid the bill to the agency, along with a letter saying that you don’t owe the debt and that reporting the debt to the credit bureaus would be a violation of fair credit reporting and debt collecting laws.
If the debt collector insists on reporting the debt to the credit bureaus, it could affect your scores. Continue monitoring your credit reports and be ready to dispute the bogus collection account if it appears. You may be able to sue the debt collector if it persists in reporting a false debt. You can find more information at DebtCollectionAnswers.com.