Colin Poitras of Manchester has changed his telephone number twice in an attempt to avoid calls from debt collectors. If the calls were for him I would have little sympathy, but the calls are for others, people who don’t even live in his home.
“I’m close to wit’s end,” Colin, a former colleague of mine wrote me on Facebook.
“What can you do when you keep getting bill collector calls for people who somehow listed your home number as their own on some financial document at some point? Putting my number on the do not call list doesn’t seem to stop them and I’ve already changed my number – TWICE!”
“I’m up to about a dozen different names that these companies call for often leaving automated messages on my phone all hours of the day and night. Following their message prompt and hanging up “if you’re not Gweneth Paltrow” for example, doesn’t seem to work or stop them!! This has been happening for the past six months. I can always tell it’s bill collectors by the unavailable or toll-free caller ID. I call the number back and people seem to hear my side of the story but that often only results in calls for a new person a few days or weeks later..any ideas or am I a victim of prior folks who have had these numbers or folks who randomly use a number that is mine?”
Colin is far from alone. Many others have complained to me of getting the same kind of harassing phone calls from debt collectors when they did not owe any money.
Infact it has happened to me. I kept getting calls for someone who has never lived in our home. And despite my best efforts, I still got a call last week looking for the debtor.
As the recession continues with high unemployment affecting more families, debt collectors are busier than ever.
And if they can’t find the actual debtor to harass him or her, they are calling everyone else that they think might know where the debtor is.
To get the best advice for Colin, I contacted both the Connecticut State Banking Department and the Connecticut Consumer Protection Department. And the best advice they had was find out who is calling, and if it turns out to be a violation of the Do Not Call law, file a complaint with the state agencies.
That is a good idea, I have some other suggestions based on my personal experience,
If the problem is serious like Colin’s where it involves multiple debtors, multiple collectors and changing phone numbers hasn’t helped, I would consider dumping my landline. I would then use Skype as a second phone line or just rely on my cell phone. Other VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) will also provide inexpensive home telephone service. There are of course issues you have to consider like 911 calls and home security systems that rely on landlines (you can switch to a VOIP-based security system).
If it’s less serious, instead of hanging up or telling the debt collector that the person they are looking for doesn’t live there, I would engage the collector in a conversation. Try to find out who is calling and who they are looking for. If I knew the person, I would try to find that person’s telephone number and give it to the debt collector.
That is exactly when I did when I was getting numerous calls a week looking for someone who had listed me (without my permission) and my home number on their loan forms as the person to call in an emergency. I did a little detective work, found the debtor’s cell number, and turned it over with relish to the debt collectors.
The telephone calls stopped, until last week when I got a call from an obvious debt collector looking for the same person. I said the person wasn’t here and the debt collector hung up without me being able to give up the cell number.
Another possibility – if the calls are harassing or threatening and you don’t owe any money – is to file a lawsuit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. There have been awards of more than $1 million.
Share your success strategy with us.
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