What's the scam?
February 14, 2014 9:28 AM   Subscribe

My partner just got a call (on her cell) from someone asking for me. They wouldn't give her any information on what they wanted to talk to me about. On Googling, it's a collection company with a bad reputation. I don't have any outstanding debts. I don't have anything in collections. I pay for a credit monitoring service, and have had no blips. I paid off the black marks on my credit record over a year ago. (There were only two, and they were both under $100.) I don't have any idea why someone looking for me would know to call her, and I am pretty sure no one would be legitimately be looking for me. What the hell?

I can't figure it out. Anyone to whom I owed money -- and I'm 99.99% certain that I don't owe anyone any money -- would already have my number. I can't think of any way that, if someone was looking for me, they could get her number. I can't think of any way that someone who already has her number could connect her to me by name. As far as I know, we don't have any sort of paper trail in common. (Our money is separate, and our bills have always been separate as well.) We are registered domestic partners, and the record of our registry is the only thing I can even think of that might have both of our names on it.

I think it has to be a scam of some sort, and given this company's reputation of harassment I'd rather not make contact if I don't have to. Does anyone have any ideas what they might be playing at?
posted by mudpuppie to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you linked on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media? Is her photo on an image stream that belongs to you? (Even something like Flickr.)
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:32 AM on February 14, 2014

I get these all the time because my dad used my name and phone number as merely a reference for some silly loan 8 years ago.

It's a scam and may or may not happen occasionally in the future. Good job recognizing it's a scam and don't worry about it.
posted by TinWhistle at 9:35 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could they be looking for someone with the same name as you? I've gotten calls for people with the same name once or twice.
posted by mollweide at 9:35 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have no idea what that company is up to, but this would prompt me to get a credit report and check my bank accounts for weird charges. Years after a divorce, I got calls for my ex regarding his deadbeatery, even though we were totally disconnected. Do you have a former legal tie to someone shady?
posted by Lardmitten at 9:37 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not strictly scam-relevant, but they're skirting the edge of an Fair Debt Collection Practices Act violation (IANAL, so you might want to confirm this with someone who is), because debt collectors are not supposed to contact third parties except in a bona fide attempt to locate the debtor. Unfortunately they're really good at sneaking around the edges of this.

In the event that they actually did buy debt with your name on it (not necessarily your debt — maybe misentered data from someone with a similar name or SSN or somesuch, or maybe debt acquired by someone who stole your identity), contacting friends and family, even if they know where you are (or think they know, since the actual contact info on the debt itself might have someone else's number on it) is quite possibly a deliberate attempt to shame and slander you. Your options for redress probably depend on just how far they're bending the FDCPA (as mentioned above, IANAL, but there are statutory damages associated with FDCPA violations).
posted by jackbishop at 9:39 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

As to "why are they looking for you when you paid off everything" - sometimes the shadier collection agencies buy debt without checking to see whether it's been paid off yet. They may be just now going after you for one of the things you already paid off. Here is advice about how to handle "they're trying to collect on debt I already paid." Most people advise to demand information about the creditor in question in writing, and then when you get it, you can contest it. Once you contest it, the collection agency has to leave you alone while they investigate it.

As to "how did they get my partner's contact info as a means to get to me" - it could be an address. I've sometimes gotten calls on my land line from collection agencies looking for a couple of my old roommates; they never had their name on my land line, they never were connected with me financially, but my address shows up on their public record as a past address for them, and my land line phone number is a number associated with that address.

I'd go ahead and take the call and a) right out of the gate, request info about the debt in writing. Then when you get it, contest it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:40 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Long story short, a disreputable collections agency bought a "debt" associated with me.

You 're lucky you've gotten a heads up on this.

When they do contact you directly, google what type of written response you need to send them. Keep an eye on your credit in the meantime.

One thing they might do is make you an offer to pay a smaller amount to make this supposed "debt " you owe go away. So, it's extortion. Another thing that might happen is they sue you for the debt amount, hoping you won't respond so that they may obtain a default judgement from the court. If this happens, the the debt is legitimized, there is interest tacked on, and the whole situation gets so much worse.

Just keep an eye on your credit and get prepped to send certified letters demanding they prove the legitimacy of the claim against when/if these guys start banging on your door for money.

And yeah, they probably found your gf through social media. It is possible they've confused you with someone else with the same name, too.

Don't panic. Keep your eyes open. Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:48 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are entitled to one free credit report a year from all of the big 3 agencies. Go check it now.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:52 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

There is another person with the same name who, somehow, put my cell number on their report. So, every now and then I get phone calls from collection agencies. When I finally call them back I tell them they have the wrong person and ask for the last 4 digits of their SSN. It's not the same and I tell them that (I don't give them my SSN). And that usually ends that.

I always ask that they correct this information in their files. They do but say they can only do that for their agency. I tried to get it changed with Lexus Nexus but they declined my request. Sigh. My credit rating is stellar as well.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 1:30 PM on February 14, 2014

Sometimes, collection agencies really stretch out who they'll contact, hoping to find someone who will pay the debt - real or not. I once got a call from a collector looking for the family of my father's old roommate, who had died a month previous. After explaining that no, I have no contact with them, I'm not related to them, I cannot help you with this, and please do not call back, I haven't heard a peep from them since. And this was over 5 years ago.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:41 PM on February 14, 2014

One possibility: several years back I was bothered by creditors who hoped to collect from someone with my first and last names but different initial.

It's a weird catch-22 to be in, because as soon as you explain the mistake they hang up. On the other hand if inquire about the debt or their contact info it makes you look like the party they are seeking.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:48 PM on February 14, 2014

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