Report: Harassment, wrong idenity top medical debt collector complaints

PHOENIX - A new report investigates more than 17,000 complaints submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about medical debt collectors since 2013.

Certain complaints suggest that some companies aren’t playing by the rules according to Diane Brown with the Arizona Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (PIRG).

“People who believe most often that the medical debt collector is coming after them and they shouldn't be,” she says.

The report commissioned by PIRG and Frontier Group, concludes that overall, 63 percent of the complaints were about medical debts that were never owed, couldn’t be verified, or had already been paid.

“Consumers unfortunately will cave and believe ‘I must owe this bill’ and they will pay it,” she says.

Instead Brown suggests first confirming that the collection agency is not a scam. Do that by contacting the original hospital or provider that billed you to confirm that the debt is yours.  Also check with your insurance to make sure they shouldn’t be covering more of the bill. 

The remainder of complaints—37 percent—was about harassment.

“Just overly aggressive behavior. Either threatening individuals on the phone or calling repeatedly.  Sometimes they're calling family members, sometimes they're calling employers,” Brown says.

Being behind on your bills doesn’t mean you can be abused.  Debt collectors can’t just do whatever they want to get you to pay.

Consumers have protections through the Fair Debt Practices Act.

Debt collectors cannot:
-Call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.,
-Harass, threaten or deceive you
-Contact family or friends except to ask for your contact information one time

Send the company a certified letter telling them to stop calling you. If they don’t, the CFPB can investigate and take action on your behalf. Contact the agency here.

“They expect some type of response from the company itself,” Brown says.


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