I got a phone call this morning.
"Hello, my name is Paul(or so he says). I work for (collections agency) and I'm representing (large radiology practice). It seems that you had a CT scan (details of where, when, and what was scanned) on a date in 2001."
I responded that it was possible, but I couldn't be sure, so much time having elapsed.
Paul assured me that not only did I have the scan on the alleged date, but that the radiology practice in question was out of network for me -- something I knew to be a lie -- and that I owed just over $100 and that he could arrange payment or he could report the alleged debt to the 3 major credit reporting agencies.
When I asked for written substantiation of the supposed debt, Paul informed me that his job did not include written notification.
In that case, I responded, this is not my problem.
After doing a little research, I discovered that there is rather a racket going in collecting previously paid and uncollectible (as in NOT OWED) medical billings. I think it's pretty obvious that medical professionals are not in any way benefitting from these scams.
Then I called the major radiology practice billing department and verified that they do not believe that I owe them any money - from 2001 or any other time. When I suggested that perhaps they had a leakage problem with patient names, dates, etc being leaked to unethical people, the "customer service agent" got a little huffy with me - until I mentioned the name of the agency which supposedly employs Paul. I asked to speak to her supervisor and was informed that all supervisory personnel were at lunch, but that someone would call me back.
OK. Maybe they will. Maybe Paul is a former employee of the collections agency or of the radiology practice and maybe they'll be right on top of this. Just speculating, but he got the information SOMEWHERE.
It's been less than 24 hours, but I think I'll be chatting with the lovely folks at the State Attorney General's office and maybe with the local media as well since this appears to be a well-planned scam which could easily fool someone a little less insistent on paperwork or a little more concerned about her credit rating.
Bottom line, if they won't send you the documentation ON PAPER, presume that you do not owe the money. NEVER arrange to pay a collection agency anything based on a telephone call with no written evidence to back them up -- and particularly if they claim that sending the paperwork isn't their job.
For a quick read on similar scams, check this article titled Debt Collectors often Collect Bogus Debts
And for an even scarier story about actual debt collectors and some unethical practices this Boston Globe report.(registration required) At least my scammer can't actually DO anything to me if I don't let him.