A reader thinks his identity was stolen from an urgent care center. Now what?

Question: In January, I went to an urgent care center after I fell off a ladder. I was treated really good. But last month, I started getting calls from a really obnoxious bill collector. He said I owed $3,000 for my son’s treatment for a broken arm. Here’s the thing: I don’t have a son! At least not one that I know of.

I told the guy he got it wrong, but he and another dude keep calling me. They’re threatening all kinds of trouble. I went back to the urgent care center, and they said they didn’t know anything about this. When I told the bill collectors that the urgent care center would vouch for me, they didn’t care. They want their money, and they’re calling every day. What the hell do I do?

— Paul in Colorado

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

You’re not going to find this reassuring, Paul, but you’re not alone. Last month alone, Debt.com reported twice on the growing problem of medical identity theft.

First, we reported that 44 percent of all American adults fear this particular form of ID theft. Then we noted that one-third of all data breaches come from inside hospitals. So what can you do? Most advice on this topic — including Debt.com’s — is how to prevent this sickening kind of theft.

What if it’s already happened, however? That’s the case with you, Paul. There’s a name for what you’re facing. It’s called collector harassment. You can read all about it in Collector Harassment Basics.

Fortunately, there’s a law that governs — and punishes — bill collectors. It’s called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA for short. For instance, when you say collectors are calling you “every day,” the FDCPA says can’t call you Sundays or before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. on the other days. There are many other restrictions, too…

  • They can’t use obscene language.
  • They can’t threaten you with harm or arrest.
  • They can’t call you without identifying themselves.

If the calls are still coming, you can get a free consultation of your situation by filling out this collector harassment form. Debt.com will match you with a specialist in the field of ending such harassment. To help you, these specialists will charge a small fee, but you don’t pay for the consultation. If you don’t follow up with us, Paul, please consult someone. Bill collectors seldom give up on their own. Someone has to stop them.

Have a debt question?

Email your question to [email protected] and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for Debt.com. I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only Debt.com, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched Debt.com. I’m glad you’re here.

Published by Debt.com, LLC