Home > Managing Debt > Help! I’m Getting Debt Collection Calls for Someone Else

Comments 0 Comments

The phone calls just won’t stop. They begin 8:31 a.m. and end at 8:29 p.m. Alicia Figluizzi has been hounded by debt collectors for months. And every interruption, every menacing call, is a call for the wrong person. Those who call are looking for a woman named “Shaunda.” The calls have clogged her landline phone so much that she regrets ever getting one. But she feels she needs a landline, and dares not turn it off.

“I am job hunting and found that some people are offended when you provide your out-of-state phone number so I went with a landline,” Figluizzi, who lives in Pittsburgh, said. “Plus while looking for full-time work I am substitute teaching and do not want the sub services to have access to my personal phone.”

So she deals with the exhausting flurry of calls, which she says began the very first day her phone was connected this summer.

“It was almost like they were robo-dialing, just waiting. I didn’t even have a chance to hand out my number to family or friends so I couldn’t figure out who was calling me,” she said.

Alicia Figluizzi

Alicia Figluizzi

Figluizzi has two options when debt collectors call — both bad. When she lets the phone go to voicemail, the collectors rarely leave a message, and just call back again later. So she often takes choice No. 2 — answering the call and beginning the long, painful conversation with a debt collector.

“I explain to the collectors that, ‘If I was her, do you think I would be answering the phone?’ They say, ‘Sorry .. blah blah,’ ” she said. “But then three hours later, same company calls again. All day long. For weeks. Thankfully some have learned that I am in fact not the person they are looking for, and that, no, I do not know how to reach that person. It’s mindboggling.”

Consumers have long heard nightmare stories about the toxic combination of debt and mistaken identity, when debt collectors will harass the wrong person to pay a debt they don’t owe. Figluizzi’s situation is even simpler, but perhaps more common: It’s just a wrong number. Her phone is clogged by erroneous collection calls that even under the best of circumstances — polite collectors who hang up without incident – there’s a huge hassle.

Figluizzi, 34, believes her problem is a “recycled phone number.” Just like every other dwindling natural resource, America is running out of phone numbers, meaning telephone companies end up re-issuing old ones. It’s a bit of a dirty little secret, some firms are reluctant to admit it, and data on the practice is hard to come by. An Federal Communications Commission study from 2011 says 37 million numbers were recycled annually, a huge jump from a decade earlier, due to the increased number of devices with numbers that consumers have. The problem is manifesting itself in lawsuits against firms like Twitter, which sends confirmation text messages to users and often hits the wrong ones.

Of course, recycled phone numbers aren’t the only reason someone like Figluizzi could be pestered erroneously by debt collectors.

Angela Cable believes her irritating calls began when someone opened up a credit account and invented a phone number that happened to match hers.

“The deadbeat just made a phone number up and stuck with the same fake number with several creditors,” Cable said. The debt collector “tried to get snarky with me about it, ‘Well obviously this number used to be hers. How long have you had it?’ ‘Seventeen years, you dumb….’ Those calls, many of them robocalls, went on for three months.”

Is This Happening to You Too?

Cable said she had luck ending the calls by complaining to the Better Business Bureau.

“If it’s a legitimate company, the way to fix it is to go to the BBB website and file a complaint there. That will stick to them for forever or until you decide to not make it stick any more,” she said. After logging a series of unresolved complaints, the calls stopped, she said.

One tactic consumers (and their lawyers) are increasingly taking is a lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, deployed in the Twitter case. Born way back in 1991, the TCPA was the law that set in motion events which eventually led to the Do Not Call list. It also includes a little-used provision that allows private consumers to sue telemarketers for unwanted calls.

Because the law specifies damages for wrongful acts, the dollars can add up quickly. For example, the TCPA makes it illegal to call consumers with a pre-recorded message unless there is an existing business relationship. Each violation makes the calling firm liable for at least $500 in damages.

It’s harder to sue debt collectors for TCPA violations because they enjoy special protections — in part because they theoretically have an existing business relationship with the consumer. Once a consumer establishes that he or she is not the debtor, however, lawsuits are easier to win. And the TCPA penalty increases with so-called “willful violations,” often interpreted as repeated robo-dialing.

But even if consumers getting wrong-number debt calls don’t feel like filing small claims court cases, knowledge of the TCPA can be a real help. Debt collectors, and telemarketers in general, are rightfully afraid of TCPA lawsuits. So often, simply reminding a debt caller that they are subject to TCPA fines is enough to make the calls stop.

More on Managing Debt:

Main image: Kuznetsov Dmitry; inset image courtesy Alicia Figluizzi

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team