Leggo my phone number!
June 17, 2005 3:59 PM   Subscribe

My former downstairs neighbor was evicted a few months ago. I just found out she's been giving out my phone number as hers.

I've had no direct contact with her, but this woman had been a horror since the day she moved in, with dog poop everywhere, garbage piled on the porch, and her calling the cops when my other neighbor knocked on her door to ask her to move her car. Worst of all for me, my landlords are broke because of her and might sell, which means I'll probably lose my best apartment ever.

There have been messages for her on my machine lately that I ignored and deleted because I didn't connect them with her. But today I got someone on the phone who used her full name, and I got a chill down my spine. He said he was calling the number she'd put down on an application, although he wouldn't say for what or what company he was calling from. I told him that her use of my number was fraudulent activity on her part, and he got off the phone quick.

So my question is, what kind of scam is she pulling? Am I going to have a lot of problems soon? I don't think this is a case of identity theft, since she's using her own name. I know she's declared bankruptcy and has been kiting checks, and has been or will soon be evicted from wherever she moved next. (I heard through the grapevine that--get this--she went to a rental agency for another apartment in the area. The agency sensibly refused her application. Somehow she managed to cause a huge commotion and steal the keys, and moved in anyway.)

How can I get her to stop using my number? I don't have the resources to hire a lawyer. Next time someone calls for her can I offer to take a message so I can find out who they are? Can I tell the callers what she's been up to, including the scams she's been pulling? She's a law student, and if her willingness to call the cops is any indication, she's likely to be litigious.
posted by hydrophonic to Law & Government (23 answers total)
This sounds like one of those cases where time may soon heal the wounds. IOW, she won't be around much longer.

The only way you can get her to stop using your phone number is to locate her and tell her to stop.
posted by mischief at 4:23 PM on June 17, 2005

Why don't you have your phone number changed?
posted by mcguirk at 4:41 PM on June 17, 2005

An answering machine message quickly explaining the basics might be enough for you to ignore the problem before it goes away by itself.
posted by krisjohn at 4:56 PM on June 17, 2005

When my wife and I moved to NYC, we were given a phone number that had obviously previously been owned by some deadbeats.

At first, it was sort of funny - we'd come home and there would be messages about our kid not going into school, or messages in Spanish, and so on...but eventually it got annoying.

My wife called Verizon, explained the situation, and they offered to change it for free.

I would recommend you call them and request likewise. There may be a charge involved, sure, and it'll be annoying to tell everyone the new number - but it is totally worth the peace of mind.
posted by Remy at 5:21 PM on June 17, 2005

This isn't going to answer your question but it might help your situation... If your land lords are cool and they're willing to do this for you (it might cost them some $$$ in the end...), ask them to sign you up to a lease for the next year or so. Just make sure that the lease stipulates that it cannot be broken by a new owner. They'll get to tell a buyer that the apartement is leased (which is a plus for a buyer) but that it is leased at a specific dollar figure (which might be a negative to the buyer). You might even be willing to tell them you'll let them up the rent. Good luck.
posted by pwb503 at 5:32 PM on June 17, 2005

If I were you I'd just change your outgoing to message. Say the girl's name is "Sue falls". Just say
"This is hydrophonic's answering machine. If you're calling for Sue Falls you have the wrong number."
There's no reason to tell anyone this whole sorted story, if they ask for her just say "wrong number." It will stop eventualy.
posted by delmoi at 6:12 PM on June 17, 2005

Team up with your neighbours to purchase the property, and own it as a (strata) cooperative!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:17 PM on June 17, 2005

You can always go Hammurabi on her ass: tell whomever is calling that you are her husband, and that you haven't heard from her in a few weeks and are very concerned because she's in violation of her parole.
posted by ori at 6:38 PM on June 17, 2005

If she is a law student pulling this kind of crap she is wasting her time in law school. Bar admissions get pretty difficult with fraudulent and deceitful activity in your background. It would be mean, but you could reveal her deceitful use of your phone number to her law school.
posted by caddis at 6:42 PM on June 17, 2005

How did she get your number in the first place?
posted by cmonkey at 7:27 PM on June 17, 2005

How did she get your number in the first place?

Probably the phone book. Badump TSSH

Anyways, hard to tell why she used your phone number. Possibly because she just needed any number at a similar address or something, or she just randomly picked it. Unless someone has more info about some nefarious scheme I'm not in the know of.
posted by angry modem at 7:40 PM on June 17, 2005

Probably the phone book. Badump TSSH

People still have listed phone numbers? That's just asking for trouble.
posted by cmonkey at 7:52 PM on June 17, 2005

Yeah, she likely got it from the phone book.

I'm used to my number being someone else's old one. In fact, right now there are web ads for a Greek restaurant with my number on it, and whoever had my cell phone number before me sure knows a lot of gangbangers. Still, I'd rather not change it, and even if I did I'd rather not have an unlisted number, so it's possible she'll do it again. Unlisted numbers cost more, and sometimes nice things happen like getting a call about your high school reunion or something.

Reporting it to her law school sounds like a great idea. Another neighbor said they planned to write a letter to the bar. I think I could find out which school she attends from the landlords. To whom do I send the letter?

Maybe I should revise my questions. Is she committing fraud by claiming my number as hers? She might be using it for bank forms, government documents, etc.

Are there risks for me to have my number associated with this criminal with bad credit? She's got my name, number and address. Leave out the apartment number and the address used to be hers too. Could she be signing us up for joint credit cards as we speak?

What if this was on my outgoing message:

"If you're calling for Sue Falls, this is not her number. I did not give her permission to claim my number as hers. I do not know her other than that she lived two floors below me until she was evicted in April."
posted by hydrophonic at 8:14 PM on June 17, 2005

What caddis said.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:22 PM on June 17, 2005

Tell whoever calls that she has passed away or give them the number for the Dean's office at the law school and tell them they can reach her there.
posted by Carbolic at 8:43 PM on June 17, 2005

I had a similar problem..my roommate and I moved into an apartment and got a phone number previously owned by deadbeats. We later realized that they continued to give out our phone number long after it was ours and not theirs.

Bill collectors and such called all the time and being bill collectors they never believed us when we said "wrong number" and just kept calling back. A year after we moved in we were still getting several calls a day. Most of these were recordings clearly intended for our answering machine.

Anyway, we eventually paid our phone company $4/month for "call intercept". Basically it lets calls through if the caller ID works and intercepts them for anonymous or blocked calls (which most of these collections agencies use). You can give people a PIN to get through the intercept, or they can also if they choose give their name and then you get a call that says "You have a call from . Accept, reject or play a 'no solicitors' message". The service intercepted "real" calls maybe once a month. The rest of the time, when these people called our phone never even rang.

It sucks to have to pay a monthly fee for someone else's asshole-itude, but believe me, the silence the first night our phone stopped ringing was worth every penny we ever paid.

posted by duck at 9:32 PM on June 17, 2005

"Could she be signing us up for joint credit cards as we speak?"

Doubtful. She would need more than your name and address to apply for a credit card. Besides, if she's kiting checks, her credit report is already in the toilet. No one will touch her no matter who else she names on a joint application.
posted by mischief at 10:47 PM on June 17, 2005

It sounds as though two things are distinctly possible:

a) She suddenly winds up in prison.

b) She keeps running around, causing people mischief.

It sounds like some of your neighbors want to make sure that it's a), but that you yourself don't have an ardent desire to get involved. (I might be wrong.) In which case, it seems like the best idea to plan for both possibilities; and, since she could very well keep running around for years giving out your number as hers, you should change it. Sure, it's likely that she'll stop using your number in the near future for a variety of reasons, and any of the options listed above (explanatory answering machine message, call-intercept, et cetera) would weed out calls you don't want; what's more, as has also been said, it's unlikely that she can use the number for purposes that would end up hurting you. But, not only is it odd for your friends and possible business associates (I don't know what you do, but I know my boss) to have to listen to explanations of the weirdness of your neighbor, but there's still some chance that she'll use this to drag you into it. That's why people like her are so hard to deal with-- they're unpredictably malicious. I'd disentangle myself from the situation as much as possible by changing my number, and maybe even getting it unlisted, if I were you. What's more, while it might be somewhat satisfying to point out in an answering machine message that you didn't give permission for someone to use your number and that they're doing so fraudulently, it probably won't help anything any more than a simple "wrong number" would've; and if she ever hears it, well, that's just the kind of excuse people like this often like to use to go apeshit, right?

And I second what pwb503 said: it's possible to sign leases that outlast the current owner, and even routine-- it's happened with me before. It seems like it's worth a try.
posted by koeselitz at 11:17 PM on June 17, 2005

Folks who buy multi-unit apartments WANT tenants who pay rent. You pay rent, they will want you. It sucks that your landlord may have to sell over this! Where I am, landlords are being screwed by the electric (city-run) holding them responsible for deadbeats electric bills.

I thought that it had been declared illegal for phone companies to charge extra for unlisted numbers. Maybe that was in a specific state.

Is there any good reason to suppose this woman is truthful when she claims to be in law school?
posted by Goofyy at 12:55 AM on June 18, 2005

I've had my number for 4 years now, and I still sometimes get calls for a "Suzzane Bernhart". I get the impression there is something dodgy going on, because often the moment I start to say it's nolonger her number, they hang up like the phone is red hot.

I should probably post an Ask MeFi question to see if anyone knows a "Suzzane Bernhart" :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:05 AM on June 18, 2005

Forget the suggestions to explain the situation in your outgoing message. I've had a cell phone with a recycled number, and after a year, I'm still getting messages from collection agencies, regardless of what outgoing message I leave. It gets to that I worry they'll track me down by mistake in tracking down my phone.

Talk to these people, but don't say much. You don't want this chick coming back to haunt you. Good suggestion above regarding getting a lease. Dependable income for the landlord, too, so that may ease his situation. If he needs another tenant, try to find him one!
posted by dreamsign at 2:10 AM on June 18, 2005

Definitely report the activity to the Dean of Students at the individual's law school, and to your state bar association as well. After all, it sounds like she's at her wit's end with stress about money - you should definitely relieve these problems by ruining her future career aspirations. Maybe divine justice will strike and she'll get a job cleaning up dog poop.

Goddamn poor people. Why the hell can't they stay in the ghetto where they belong?
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:32 PM on June 19, 2005

She's not poor. Her parents are quite well off -- I met them briefly when she moved in. And she drives a luxury automobile. And she's had a professional career (personnel director) for a number of years.

The sad thing is that by gaming the system, she's bolstering the argument for the removal of the safety net (personal bankruptcy, protection against being evicted in winter, etc.). She's making it harder for decent people who actually need the protection.

A job cleaning up dog poop! Ha!
posted by hydrophonic at 11:33 AM on June 20, 2005

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