What should I do about these automated billing calls to my cell phone?
September 25, 2006 11:33 AM   Subscribe

What should I do about these automated billing calls to my cell phone?

I have been getting frequent phone calls from a company called "DTech Billing Services" with a recorded message telling me that I have a bill with them for collect calls. This seems to be their website.

When I got on the line with DTech, they wanted me to give them my phone number. This seemed weird to me, and since I wouldn't tell the operator my number or any other personal information he wouldn't tell me anything about the bill.

I contacted Cingular telling them that I never made a collect call, and asking if they knew about the company. They said this:

I am not familiar with the company in question and Cingular is not involved with the company either. Cingular cell phones cannot make or receive collect calls. I would not give this company your cell phone number.

However, I just remembered that a few months ago I received several requests for collect calls from someone in juvenile hall seeking a guy named "Rick" (I assume the last owner of the phone.) After he had called a bunch of times, I think that I did try to accept the call to tell him to quit calling, but there were more steps in the system after hitting "1" or whatever, and I just hung up before talking to anyone.

So now I'm confused...Cingular seem to be saying I couldn't have accepted the collect call. They told me that since they can't block numbers for me that I should just ignore the calls from this company in the future. DTech don't seem to have any idea who I am - just that I'm a phone number to call - but I'm getting paranoid that ol' Rick or I really did accept collect calls, and that an unpaid bill will somehow haunt my credit.

Should I ask Cingular again about the possibility of getting collect calls from jail? Find the number for the juvie and call them in case they're the ones trying to bill me? Assume that they are scammers and ignore the calls forever? They call several times a week.
posted by lemuria to Grab Bag (12 answers total)
How would they ruin your credit report if they don't have any personal information beyond your phone number?

I'd ignore them and go directly to filing a complaint with the FCC. You could send them a drop dead letter, but I don't know how you'd do that without disclosing your personal information. Here's their unsatisfactory Better Business Bureau report which describes the typical billing dispute with them.
posted by MegoSteve at 11:49 AM on September 25, 2006

Ignore them unless they start sending you letters.
posted by JJ86 at 11:49 AM on September 25, 2006

Yeah they need to know at least your name, and probably your SSN in order do anything to your credit.
posted by delmoi at 11:54 AM on September 25, 2006

Actually it makes sense though: Since Cingular won't pay for collect calls, they company that does the collect calls would have to try to get the money by billing the phone number.

It's kind of a bad business model these days with all the identity theft and such going on, people are getting really paranoid about their data.
posted by delmoi at 11:55 AM on September 25, 2006

Response by poster: That's what confuses me - can I accept the calls or not? If it's totally impossible for my phone to get calls, which is what Cingular claimed, they have to be complete scammers. If I can accept calls, then this number actually has a bill, and just ignoring 10 calls a month for the rest of my life - while I assume "late fees" pile up - sounds like an unpleasant lifestyle, even if they don't know my name and address to do anything about it.
posted by lemuria at 12:02 PM on September 25, 2006

This sounds like it might be some version of a collect call scam. This page describes several such scams, including one that frequently originates from prisons. Your case doesn't exactly match the description, but perhaps a bit more googling (here are some results for you to comb through) will find one more similar.
posted by googly at 12:02 PM on September 25, 2006

That's what the company is banking on: you getting so sick of the calls that you'll pay to get them to go away.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:05 PM on September 25, 2006

Response by poster: re: googly, I guess the juvenile hall call itself might have been fake. I think I did get a regular wrong number call for Rick once, and the juvie in question is in the next county over, so I never considered that.
posted by lemuria at 12:15 PM on September 25, 2006

If it gets to be too much of a problem, you could ask Cingular to change your phone number.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:26 PM on September 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

When Cingular says that you can't receive collect calls, it means that collect calls cannot be charged to you Cingular bill. This company that's calling you seems to have other approaches to collecting the money, so there's nothing to prevent such collect calls.
posted by winston at 1:14 PM on September 25, 2006

Eh. Has the reek of scam. But just to be sure, send a debt validation letter. Either all your questions will be answered promptly by a debt validation letter, or else your certified mail receipt + their deafening silence will have established that you can safely ignore them.

If the calls don't magically cease after that calls their bluff, go ahead and send the drop dead letter linked above. If they violate that, sic the FTC on them and sue in small claims court for the persistent violations of your Fair Debt Collections Practices Act rights.

they need to know at least your name, and probably your SSN in order do anything to your credit

Yeah, and most importantly they need proof of a debt. If anything ever shows up on your credit report, just use the reporting agency's standard dispute form. It's really easy, and if the debt is bullshit it'll be pulled from your report within a few weeks.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:21 PM on September 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Be aware that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies only to third party debt collectors. If the company calling you is the original collect call company, they can safely ignore a drop dead or a debt validation letter (under Federal law, anyway). Of course, that doesn't mean this isn't a scam...
posted by dirigibleman at 9:54 PM on September 25, 2006

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