My Dental Bill Was Sent To Collections By Mistake – Who Do I Pay Now?

S. writes that in 2008, she owed a lot of money–about $8,000–to her dentist. She worked out a payment plan with the office, and asked them to auto-bill her credit card every month. They frequently forgot to bill her, but she wasn’t too concerned about the situation. At least, until a debt collector called her, saying that the dentist had sold her balance to them. The dentist’s office claims that this is a mistake. Now both entities want S.’s money, and she’s not sure who she should pay.

I had about 8K worth of dental work done in 2008. My insurance didn’t cover much (I didn’t expect them to – bridges and crowns and partials that I’d needed for years but couldn’t afford because I worked in “the arts”). So I arranged a payment plan with my dental office; I provided them with my Amex and told them to bill me $500 a month until I was paid up in 18 months.

They did so rather erratically for a year – every other month or so (they probably weren’t set up for automatic payments and just charged me whenever they remembered). I didn’t get anything in writing though I have all my Amex statements with all my payments.

At any rate, in June of 2009, I get a call from a debt collector who tells me my dental office has sent my account to collections.

I immediately call my dental office and relay to them what the debt collector had just told me and the office manager assures me that this was a mistake and my account should not be in collections.

She assured me it would be taken care of and they continue to bill me with the same inconsistency and I, stupidly, assume everything is fine.

So a few months later, I check my credit report and nothing has changed – my account is still shown as in collections. So I call the debt collector directly and am told that the dental office has sold my debt to them and that the only way this will be removed from my credit report is if I pay the collection agency in full (after which they will report to all three agencies and “expunge” the debt from my report [isn’t this illegal?]).

I have lots of friends who are lawyers and they tell me it is illegal for the dental office to continue to charge me once they’ve sold my debt to a collection agency. If this is the case, I am pretty sure Amex will reverse the payments made to the dental office after June of 2009 (when the collection agency assumed my debt).

I always pay all my bills on time and this is the only blight on my credit report. At this point – I have about 2K left on the bill, which I want to pay in full. But who should I pay? My dental office says I should pay them and the debt collector says I should pay them. What documentation should I provide and to whom should I provide it? What do I need to do to have this expunged from my credit report?

I’ll be around to answer any questions and provide and further details you should require. Thank you so much for all your advice and expertise.

Indeed, if the dentist has sold the debt to the collection agency, you’ll need to make sure that the debt was, in fact, sold to them and that they still own it. Here’s a letter that you can write to make the collection agency prove it. Something about this agency sounds off, and you should figure out what’s going on.