Stop Those Pesky Collection Phone Calls for Someone Else!
Even though I have my cell phone and personal phone on the “Do Not Call” list, I still get phone calls from collection agencies. I suppose when one gives out his cell phone number on a business card or over the internet for business purposes, that anyone could use that number for their own purposes.
Business phone numbers CANNOT be registered on the “Do Not Call” registry.
As an attorney, I want clients and contacts to have my cell phone number so that they have access to me 24 hours per day, particularly since I must be available in the event that a trucking client needs me to supervise the investigation of a catastrophic accident.
In the meantime, what should I do to avoid those pesky calls?
Obviously, the first thing I need to do is make sure that my phone lines ARE registered with federal “Do Not Call” list. If you are not aware of this registry, go to www.donotcall.gov
You can register up to three numbers at a time.You will receive a separate confirmation email for each number you wish to register online. You must open each email and click on the link in each one to complete the registration process. If you have more than three personal telephone numbers, you will have to go through the registration process more than once to register all of your numbers.
Also, you can file a complaint if necessary. Yet, there are certain callers that are exempted from the “do not call” list. Because of limitations in the jurisdiction of the FTC and FCC, calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors would still be permitted, as would calls from companies with which you have an existing business relationship, or those to whom you’ve provided express agreement in writing to receive their calls.
However, if you ask a company with which you have an existing business relationship to place your number on its own do-not-call list, it must honor your request. You should keep a record of the date you make the request. Recently, I received ANOTHER call from a collection agency, but he threatened not to take my name off the list if I did not give him detailed answers about my phone, the debtor he was trying to reach and more.
He made me angry, but frankly, I was not exactly sure what to do other than to call his company back , report the harassment and demand that my number be removed. It worked.
So what else can you do? I did a little research and discovered: very little.
There’s no benefit to them to keep calling the wrong person. If you tell them, they SHOULD stop. Do like I did and get someone on the phone and ask them to remove your number from their records.
But what if that doesn’t work?
Many of the rights provided by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act are afforded to “any person,” and not just the person who owes the debt. If the collector is calling about a debt that belongs to someone else, the person receiving the calls can sue for actual damages, statutory damages and his or her attorney’s fees.
State laws may provide additional rights. Louisiana does not, but the federal law gives adequate protection if you are getting those annoying calls for someone else.
Another idea is to ask the debt collector for the company’s fax number or email address. If the calls don’t stop right away, the person being called can email or fax the collector the first page of their phone bill—showing the phone number the collector just called, and the name of the person on the bill (not the debtor). That could be very convincing.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires a debt collector who contacts someone other than the consumer to identify himself, state that he is confirming or correcting location information concerning the consumer, and, only if expressly requested, identify his employer.
Recorded messages from debt collectors can be tricky, as there is still some debate about how much information collectors can or should leave on answering machines.
The best thing to do is to try to get the number from which the collector is calling, generally through caller ID. It may then be possible to trace the number. If that isn’t possible, your phone company may be able to help.
If all efforts fail, provide a copy of the message to the Attorney General’s office and the FTC. If there are any threats of arrest or government intervention, the messages can be provided to your local police department, US Attorney and/or FBI office as well, but there is general lack interest in these issues by law enforcement.
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives you the right to tell a debt collector not to contact you again. Does this right also apply if they are contacting you about someone else’s debt?
The cease communication provisions of the FDCPA apply to a “consumer,” which is defined as any person obligated or allegedly obligated to pay a debt. So if the call states that someone other than the recipient of the call is obligated to pay a debt, the recipient of the call is not a consumer and does not get the benefits of the cease contact provisions.
But that don’t give up!
Another section of the FDCPA addresses when collectors call any person other than the consumer for purposes of acquiring location information about the consumer. There, the FDCPA provides that the collector cannot communicate with that person more than once unless the collector has reason to believe that the person is lying or the person requests the collector to call again.
So a person who is receiving calls about someone else’s debt can speak with the collector once and say whether or not he or she knows the whereabouts of the debtor. That should put an end to the calls.
If not, the recipient of those calls can sue the debt collector.
On the other hand, consumers will go to great lengths to avoid collectors. Sometimes consumers sue even if they haven’t been harassed. In that case, creditors should produce recordings of the calls they place so that it is clear they weren’t harassing the debtor.
Personally, I think we need a Do Not Call List for debt collection agencies, similar to the one in place for telemarketers. Consumers who are on the receiving end of calls for someone else would be able to register their number to stop these types of calls.