How Can a Collection Company Change a Medical Debt From My Wife to Joint?

“Dear Michael,

I called a collection agency last week to pay off an account I had with them. This week they took 9 of my Wife’s medical bills changed the status from “Personal” to “Joint” and reported this debt as mine.

Is this legal 5 years later? Or is it even legal at all?


Dear Justin,

You have quite the curious situation going on. Please post answers to my questions in the comment box below and I can offer better feedback.

Who is the debt collection agency you contacted, and that is now suddenly showing on your credit reports?

Did you sign your wife into the hospital and take personal responsibility for the debts, or anything like that?

Were the medical bills showing on your wife’s credit reports prior to your speaking with the debt collection agency?

What was the outcome of your phone call with them? Did you end up paying the bills, or reaching some form of agreement?

Here is a good video to prepare you if you are trying to negotiate medical debt.

Having items appear on your credit reports, 5 years later than would be normal, is not illegal per say… though you should speak with an experienced FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) consumer lawyer. But the collection agency putting that on your credit report 5 years later, when it should not be on your credit reports, simply as a collection ploy, would be a bit of a problem.

Depending on the situation, I would dispute these new collection items with the credit bureaus. I would also consider filing a credit reporting complaint with the CFPB.

Post your answers and we can go from there. Anyone else struggling with medical bills on their credit reports is welcome to post in the comments below for feedback.

Michael Bovee founded CRN, a unique company offering debt negotiation education and services, in 2004. Bovee has been contributing articles and free reader feedback on this site for several years.

Michael is a debt industry professional who has volunteered his time to help answer reader questions.

If you have a debt related question you’d like to ask our team, just use the online form.

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