Debt Collectors Harassing Consumers Who Don’t Owe Them Money

July 30, 2011
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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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8 Responses to Debt Collectors Harassing Consumers Who Don’t Owe Them Money

  1. MJ on July 30, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    The “do not call list” is a waste of time. It is not enfoced by anyone,
    nor is there a mechanism in place to enforce it.

  2. MJ on July 30, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    The “do not call list” is a waste of time. It is not enfoced by anyone,
    nor is there a mechanism in place to enforce it.

  3. PsiCop on July 31, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I agree with MJ about the “do not call” list being useless (and worse than useless, because people think it actually works, when it doesn’t).

    Over the last 3 years, every 3-4 months, I have also gotten debt collectors calling looking for someone I went to high school with (and I never really knew the guy, I just remembered his name). Each time, I’ve talked to the debt collector, explained that I’ve had my current number for 10 years, that I don’t know the person they’re looking for, haven’t seen him for close to 30 years, and I’d tell them how to find the guy if I knew where he was; I just can’t, because I don’t. I just tell them the guy probably wrote my number on a credit application even though it wasn’t his and that they’re never going to reach him by calling me.

    Each time, the calls stop, only to be resumed by some other creditor or collection agency. The last such call was in January (if memory serves) so I’m overdue, I guess.

    Bottom line is, I’ve been lucky, in that each collector has taken my word for the fact that I’m not “Joe Debtor.” I suppose they easily could have just assumed I was lying in order to dodge them, and kept right on calling. But so far, none of them has. It’s possible that they’ve found that the guy had provided other false information, so they believed me.

    It’s unfortunate that debt collection calls for the wrong person can be persistent & harassing enough to force someone to have to give up their telephone entirely. Does anyone see anything wrong with that picture?

  4. Mp Proof on August 1, 2011 at 1:48 am

    First of all, you give questionable advice.
    The FDCPA rarely awards 1 million $! It’s usually less than $1000, but worth filing a case if you are being harassed. Keep a log of the calls, find out what company is calling and call a Fair Debt lawyer. Call Lemberg & Associates right here in CT. They’re the best at suing debt collectors.

  5. Sheri Martinez on August 2, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    The same thing was happening to me in Texas, but I had fun with it. The people who did not pay their bills also did not send their kids to school on a regular basis and were always on the brink of getting their water shut off. A relative of the family called looking for the them and I told her when you find them, tell them to pay their bills and please send their kids to school. She didn’t think it was funny. Sooo, when bill collectors called, I told them that’s OK they don’t pay anyone and then I offered the relative’s number, told them if they found them to have them pay their water bill before it gets shut off, and to please send their kids to school. I also Googled the family’s name and found their current address so I could offer that information and told them I found them on Facebook as well. Once I started sounding nuts by offering all this info, the calls slowly stopped. It was annoying at first but then I found it funny.

    When the calls first started I told them that no one by that name lived there, but the calls kept coming. I got creative and annoying and the calls stopped.

  6. Douglas on August 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I had been receiving calls for someone else, as well. What I did was call the company & demand to speak with a supervisor. I instructed them to remove my number from their call list & to make a note in the bebtor’s file that the number was false. I also instructed them that if they continued to call, as one did, I was filing a complaint with my State Attorney general, the Better Buisness Bureau & also the police for harrassment. Needless to say, the calls stopped.

    Beware of collection companies calling & claiming that you still owe on something you previously paid off. I had one try that with me. I informed them that my records showed the item paid in full & that I would have to see an itemized list of my payments from the company I purchased from before I’d even send a penny to them. I also noted that the company I purchased from had niot sent a bill in over 2 years, thus I definately did not owe anything. Be aware of scammers & know what your rights are.

  7. RBDC on January 13, 2012 at 9:41 am

    How to reverse boycott debt collectors.

    When a debt collector/debt collection/debt buyer company can repeatedly call with the intent of getting money their customers can repeatedly answer or call back with the intent of not giving them any. They need people to pay with as little talk as possible. They don’t want to talk with people who know they are never going to pay. Be all talk and no pay. Answer when convenient. Call back. Give no information. Verify nothing. Ask as many questions as you can. Answer none.

    Don’t ignore/block/report them. It doesn’t work. These folks want you to ignore them for as long as you can stand to or until you give them something valuable like money or information. Ignoring them is being their good customer. Sending a cease and desist is giving information. It lets them know you are still alive and remain their good customer. Preparing to initiate unlikely individual legal battles is being their good customer.

    Be their bad customer. Make them talk to you fruitlessly for as long as they can stand to or until they stop selecting you as their customer. These companies cannot spend seconds much less minutes on the phone with every person who will never send them a dime. But they don’t know who that is. You do. That knowledge is power. Every second you can keep their staff on the phone will render their business less profitable giving them a reason to never call you again.

    Calling will not reset your SOL. Making a partial payment will.

    One person who does this likes to ask general questions they should but usually won’t answer, “May I have the name and address of your agent for service of process?” Calmly and slowly ask them to spell every word in the address. Read it back for verification. Control the pace. If they are rushing then politely ask them to slowly repeat. “Are you a corporation and if so in which state are you incorporated?” Repeat your questions when you don’t get direct answers. When they won’t answer a question ask, “Would you like to comply with the business and professions codes of your state?” That is usually the point when they hang up on me but if they say they want to comply then begin your questions again.

    Repeat while you have the spare time. These folks have many victims and few operators. If everyone calls back but pays nothing the mass auto-dialer business model becomes unprofitable. Don’t aid and comfort the enemy by ignoring them. Call! Have a nice long slow friendly chat! Make them hang up first.

    Press 2 for Spanish.

    There are certainly enough victims to take down this company so ignoring/blocking seems downright Orwellian to me. Really? We’re just going to passively submit and go with a block list or however we manage ignoring an endless stream of unwanted phone calls day after day? No! Unite or remain conquered. Answer/return every call – become well practiced at keeping these folks on the phone – or count yourself not amongst the free.

  8. Judi on August 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    18665804780 Midland Debt Collectors have continued to call me. I have excellent credit. I have no debt. My daughter once had a friend who used my address for a few weeks before moving back up north. That was 2 1/2 years ago. I’ve told all collection calls all the info I have for that person. They still call. Midland has the nerve to put me on hold (automated voice) and never responds to me. I got the info from reverse searches. I am almost ready to sue all these debt collectors. They are wasting their time and mine. 3 years is my limit.

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