Get Out of Debt Guy

I Get Debt Collector Calls for a Previous Resident. - Don

Posted March 19, 2013

WRAL Reader Question

Previous resident of my house apparently skipped out on several debts. I've been living in the house for nearly 7 years. The house was vacant for at least a year before that. I've had my phone number for 12 years. Apparently the debt collectors out there have connected the phone number with the address.

And about twice a year I get phone calls (both the hang-up robo-dialer, and the recorded request to return their call) from debt collectors attempting to contact the prior resident. Someone whom I do not even know. And every time I contact the debt collector and inform them of the error of their ways. That is, if I can catch them during their operating hours. Is there any way I can put a permanent stop to this idiocy?




The short answer is "no."

Here's why. Trying to get a debt collector to fix the error in some bit of data they have stored is practically futile. Even if they fix the error once, it does not mean it's not buried somewhere else in the system and will reappear.

I'm just being frank here and of course I wish there was a way to make these calls stop for you.

But there are some things you could do. Depending on who your telephone provider is you could talk to them about some sort of call blocking option you'd probably have to pay for. That takes money out of your pocket.

And of course you could get a phone that displayed caller ID and pay for that additional service if your telephone company does not provide it for free. You would then screen all your calls and not answer those that don't have a caller ID you recognize. But that approach impacts your good callers more than the two annoying calls a year.

The most reasonable way to handle these two calls a year is just to hang up and go enjoy the day.

Steve Rhode

WRAL Get Out of Debt Guy

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  • steverhode Mar 20, 2013

    There is nothing that prevents a debt collector from skip tracing and calling surrounding houses in hopes they will pass on the message. They just can't revel the nature of the call or indicate the person owes a debt.

    There are all sorts of things that can be done. For example you can ask the caller for their name and address and send them a certified return receipt requested letter asking they remove the number and stop calling, That now costs you something like $5.50 to send and you have to take the time to go to the post office. You could file a complaint with the NC Attorney General and if it is not the original creditor but some collector down the line, good luck.

    But let's not forget that the reader was asking about what to do about two calls a year. For two calls a year, ask them to stop calling you, or just hang up.

  • elizabethfranklin12 Mar 20, 2013

    When this happened to me, after months of calls and multiple empty promised that they would remove my phone number from their customer's record, an attorney friend suggested I write to the NC Attorney General. I did and they got it straightened out with the collector. It was Bank of America so maybe they had more incentive to correct the problem than some mysterious robo-dialing collection agency.

  • archmaker Mar 20, 2013

    it can be even more ridiculous - i've gotten phone calls from people saying they are trying to get in touch with my neighbor and would i ask him to call this number.

    yea, i know their debt collectors and i seriously don't appreciate being called about my neighbor's debt!

  • steverhode Mar 20, 2013

    This is a classic situation where the practical solution is often the faster and more expedient one.

    I mentioned that I once had a number where collectors called for someone that once had the number. The way I handled it was just what cocker_mom said. I told the collector I had the number for the last 7 years and the calls stopped till they sold the debt to someone else. Debts can be attempted to be collected on forever so it is not surprising that it might resurface again in the future.

  • cocker_mom Mar 20, 2013

    We've had our current phone number for going on 15 years. About once a year, we get a call (from a collection agency) for the previous owner. When we first got the number it was fine, then things really picked up, then slowed, then picked up again.

    From what I understand, the longer a debt remains uncollected, the "cheaper" the list that these debt collectors purchase become, and - they know the data is out of date. Usually - just telling them we've had this number for XX years makes them go away - since they know the info they have was likely cheap and not accurate.

  • steverhode Mar 19, 2013

    My suggestion was based on two collection calls a year and the most expedient way to deal with the situation without investing more time and energy.

    The NC Attorney General office can help with stopping unwanted telemarketing calls, but that's a different issue. They can be reached at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM but their primary recommendation is to register on the do not call registry.

  • dsdaughtry Mar 19, 2013

    The Do Not Call Registry is a joke. Secondly, Robo Calls rather they are political or perhaps a collection agency further reduce the legality of the Do Not Call Registry. Sadly the answer provided by the Get Out of Debt Guy suggests that consumers must pay for additional temporary privacy. This is a ridiculous suggestion and not a very well researched reply in general.

    I may suggest that you contact the NC Consumer Protection Division and file a claim about unwanted calls. I personally had the same situation and it worked after a week. It is free and works with the office of the NC Attorney General.

  • steverhode Mar 19, 2013

    Sometimes the easiest thing to do is change the number. I've had the same issue in my life at one time with an old telephone number.

  • outhousecat Mar 19, 2013

    My hubs and I got a new land line number a few months ago. Apparently the previous people with that number owed everybody in the country. We get constant calls from multiple businesses. Nothing works to stop them.

    Too bad for us. But it could be worse - we could be those people. We've just learned to ignore the calls and roll on with our day, b/c nothing we do stops them.

  • iknowjack Mar 19, 2013

    I get debt collector calls and mail for everybody with a name that sounds a little like mine. Don't even have to move.




About this Blog:

Steve Rhode has had careers in opthalmology, real estate and as the head of a nonprofit debt counseling firm. On his blog, he offers hard-won, free advice about getting out of debt, consolidation and making the right choices as you manage your money.