Debt collectors want me to prove I'm not the debtor
May 24, 2016 1:06 AM   Subscribe

UK-filter, so beware: US laws do not apply. I moved into a new flat about a year ago and have since received various overdue fines and letters of demands for someone else. He wasn't the previous resident, I have no information about him, so I've been sending the mail back, labelled UNKNOWN, NOT AT THIS ADDRESS and SERIOUSLY DO YOU GUYS NOT GET THIS. (Having accidentally opened one, I know that it's for two speeding fines in Reading a few years ago.) I've just received a letter from a debt collection agency saying they "require evidence of the current occupiers" to "amend their records" and "prevent further visits". So do I respond?

The outfit is called "Collect Services" of Egham. They're asking for some intrusive information - my name, whether I own the place, who it was purchased through, copy of tenancy agreement ...

I'm disinclined to cooperate. They'll have my name and some of my personal details then and there's no promise that the mail will stop. Googling the business reveals the usual slightly shady debt collector behaviour. On the other hand, I'd like to avoid any further mail or a debt attaching to the address. Opinions or experience?
posted by outlier to Law & Government (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I say just throw out the mail and block their calls, their fantasies of collecting money are not your problem
posted by thelonius at 1:14 AM on May 24, 2016 [16 favorites]


The debt isn't attached to the address, it's attached to the resident. They have no right to ask for this personal data from you, as you have no dealings with them. Ignore their letter, continue returning mail. If you want to escalate you can send them a letter specifically saying something like I am getting mail for person X, person X does not live here, this is a formal request that you cease your attempts to contact them at this address & number, otherwise [threat of taking it to Trading Standards]. If you google, or ask the CAB, they'll give you a pro-forma to use for this.
posted by AFII at 1:20 AM on May 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


I've just received a letter from a debt collection agency saying they "require evidence of the current occupiers" to "amend their records" and "prevent further visits". So do I respond?

Who was the letter addressed to? If it was you, then they do seem to know who lives there.

You weren't actually supposed to open the speeding fines letter. In fact, that's illegal.

I'm afraid your only recourse is to do as AFII says and threaten to report them to Trading Standards. I definitely would not give them any additional information about you.
posted by vacapinta at 1:24 AM on May 24, 2016


Only illegal to open the letter if you do it with the intent to cause harm to the addressee I believe.

This is a really common thing to happen in the UK, and there is a fair amount of online advice about how to deal with it. This article says you should i. follow the company's complaints procedure, and if that fails complain to their trade body, the Credit Services Association.
posted by bifter at 1:36 AM on May 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


I had this and it stopped when I sent a copy of my council tax bill to the collectors. I don't think you're obligated to, but it saved some hassle!
posted by KateViolet at 1:53 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Seconding everyone who says to ignore their stuff and bin or shred the letters. Don't even bother to return them. I had the same problem at a previous address - a past resident had used the address to run up various minor debts (an old mobile phone bill was the most problematic, I seem to recall) and I used to get constant letters and even the occasional visit.

Whatever you do, don't contact this company, don't give them any of the information that they say they 'require' - they have about as much legal standing as salespeople and I wouldn't trust them not to somehow attach your name to the debt in their systems if you send it to them. They have no right to contact you or to request personal details from you. For me, after a few months of ignoring this stuff, it seemed to stop.

It's an urban myth that a debt 'attaches to the address,' probably put about by debt collectors who want to scare you into complying with their silly requests. Living at the same address as a bad debtor does not affect your credit rating at all. This is categorically not your problem - don't make it your problem.
posted by winterhill at 1:55 AM on May 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Have there actually been any visits? When we lived in rented property we used to get letters from collection agencies all the time - for 4 or 5 figure sums sometimes. Various final warnings and we're sending the bailiffs around type letters - no-one ever came. We lived in one of the properties for 5 or 6 years and no-one ever came around. I would just ignore the letters.
posted by missmagenta at 2:14 AM on May 24, 2016


I've just received a letter from a debt collection agency saying they "require evidence of the current occupiers" to "amend their records" and "prevent further visits". So do I respond?

Oh, hell no. Do not give them any information about you. The only information they need is the fact that the debtor isn't at your address, and they already have that. They 'require' nothing more, and they are entitled to absolutely nothing from you.

Nthing that you just chuck the letters. If you are minded to report them for continuing harrassing behaviour, in addition to Trading Standards you might also consider reporting it to the Financial Services Ombudsman - more information on what they can do here. Specifically:
If the debt collector isn’t actually seeking payment from the consumer, we can’t generally consider a complaint from that person. So, for example, a consumer who simply receives a letter or telephone call from a debt collector intended for a previous resident at their address can’t normally complain to us about receiving the communication.

But the position may be different where the debt collector, knowing that the person owing the debt no longer lives at an address, continues to communicate with the consumer in a way that suggests indirect pressure on the consumer to pay the debt.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:15 AM on May 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yeah, don't give them any information about yourself- I used to do some work in this area and it won't necessarily even stop them, and you'll be giving shady companies (who pass round personal data like sweets) enough to do whatever with your information. Chuck the letters in the bin.

Also, the chances are that noone will ever, ever show up at your address BUT if they do (as they might start threatening) they have precisely NO powers, no right of entry, nothing. They wouldn't have a leg to stand on.
posted by threetwentytwo at 3:02 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Everything that needs to be said has been said, but FWIW we had similar problems with power bills. Six months of NOT KNOWN AT THIS ADDRESS JUST LIKE THE LAST LETTERS has brought them down to a trickle.
posted by katrielalex at 3:12 AM on May 24, 2016


Thanks all. I'll continue to discard or return the letters.

FYI, there's been no personal visits and they don't know anything about me. This latest letter came addressed to "occupant" ("open immediately!!!"). So, all the more reason to not let them have my name or phone, etc.
posted by outlier at 3:22 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would not return the letters or write anything on them-- to collectors (at least in the US) that's a "bite" for them, proof that their letters are being received by a live person, possibly the person they're after or someone who doesn't know the law and will be intimidated into interacting with them. I'd just shred and recycle.
posted by kapers at 9:27 AM on May 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


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