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You wrote, Frankly this sounds like a scam, perhaps phishing for personal finance data for an identity theft run: the contact data being used are data that could have been skimmed from the Internet. And I suspect you'd remember a $1600 purchase for furniture you'd likely still be using, or gone to the trouble of putting into storage.

I'm not sure I'd respond to it at all, but I'd start keeping records of the correspondence, and perhaps see a lawyer if it keeps up. Also, this would be a good time to claim your once annual free credit report from the credit reporting agencies and look those over carefully.

Not responding to a dunning notice is probably a bad idea. They are often legitimate and even when they are not, it can be a mistake. If you don't respond, you risk them reporting you - correctly or not - to the credit bureaus.

I once had an urgent care place file against my credit report right before I went to refinance. In this case I got no dunning notice; but it was a place I had used before. Turned out they had filed someone else's paperwork in my daughter's folder and when the account didn't get paid, they submitted to the CRAs against the responsible party on file.

When I called up and tried to figure it out, the bill didn't match any of my recollections of my daughter's medical history. Because I was in a hurry to clear my report, I went and camped out at their offices until they had someone take me back to their back office and pull the records. That got an original bill instead of just verbal (or written) assurances that the bill was legitimate. When they showed me the bill it was for some name I didn't recognize. At that point they realized it had been misfiled.

In any case, filing a written dispute just costs you some time and protects your rights if it comes to a dispute. The only thing it discloses is your name and address - something they could probably have found with a more diligent search anyway. So I don't see what you're really risking by responding with a Demand Letter to this type of "phishing."

More than likely if this is a phishing attempt, they're just hoping people will pay with few questions asked. If they're not legitimate, I doubt they would risk getting too many people complaining about them - it tends to draw the wrong type of attention.

- Joel
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