What's a fun way to get these guys to stop calling me?
August 9, 2007 1:48 PM   Subscribe

How can I prank this evil debt collection company?

Six weeks ago, Academy Services of Philadelphia (215-320-0424) called my number in search of someone else (same last name) who they are pursuing for debt collection. Wrong number, I said -- but they called me again the next morning on the same mission. Stop calling me, I said -- and the caller got rude and hung up.

These guys are evil. I no longer answer their calls, but they've left more than two dozen threatening voice mails over the last six weeks. I know I could probably get them to stop by threatening legal action in a certified letter, but that doesn't seem like enough fun.

What prank would you pull if my phone number was yours?
posted by gum to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would just try and get them to stop calling. Corporations aren't fun to prank.
posted by aubilenon at 1:49 PM on August 9, 2007

turn the threatening voice messages over to the police.

"pranking" them will not bother them at all, you would be wasting your time.
posted by HuronBob at 1:50 PM on August 9, 2007

File a complaint against them with the FTC. Lulz!
posted by ND¢ at 1:56 PM on August 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

Maybe if you are a good enough actor you could involve them as a murder suspect.
posted by Gungho at 1:56 PM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Consumerist might have some good tips on just getting them to stop.
posted by sharkfu at 1:57 PM on August 9, 2007

Set up an asterisk server to play loud porn audio when they call.
posted by lpctstr; at 1:58 PM on August 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: They're not "I'm going to kill you" threatening, they're "You'll ruin your credit rating if you don't call us" threatening.

The path of least resistance is just to continue deleting their messages. It just feels like I'll think of a great way to engage these bastards a year from now and kick myself for missing the opportunity.
posted by gum at 1:58 PM on August 9, 2007

I just want to clarify whether you mean to prank the company itself (or the high level executives who run it), and not the people who work at the bottom of the totem pole and make the phone calls that you've been receiving. Because those are two different things, and if you would prefer to narrow your target to only include the former, you would have to tailor things accordinly.
posted by andoatnp at 1:58 PM on August 9, 2007

Response by poster: I just want to clarify whether you mean to prank the company itself (or the high level executives who run it), and not the people who work at the bottom of the totem pole and make the phone calls that you've been receiving.

Either/both. It's a small, sleazy debt collection company. The people who call aren't minimum-wage pawns, they're skilled intimidators of the unsophisticated. I have no sympathy for any of them.
posted by gum at 2:03 PM on August 9, 2007

Mod note: rmoved the links in your post, it's not okay to use your AskMe to googlebomb your enemies.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:03 PM on August 9, 2007

Response by poster: Jessamyn: Sorry, that wasn't my intention! The links were to people complaining about the company, not to the company itself.
posted by gum at 2:08 PM on August 9, 2007

Response by poster: I would call them back every time they left me a message and tell them to stop calling. I wouldn't get in any long detailed conversations with them, since you did that already.

That doesn't sound like fun. I want fun.
posted by gum at 2:16 PM on August 9, 2007

Forward your phone to their number. Let them call themselves.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:22 PM on August 9, 2007 [3 favorites]

Get an airhorn, pickup the phone, and let loose. Continue until they hang up. Lather, rinse, repeat.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:23 PM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well having address where they are located means a lot of fun can be had, address labels, all those blow in cards for magazines, book clubs, lots interesting communications could be " set up ", they do seem sooo lonely for someone to talk to maybe a few new friends in the, shall we say "adult" literature industry, would like to chat.

Telling the next one who calls, having the address of course, that your rate for advice on this issue is $450.47 per minute and the billing has started as of the ringing of your phone, after all your time is worth something after all.
posted by Freedomboy at 2:25 PM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Since it's not you, they can't ruin your credit rating.

So, file the formal complaint.

Then, burn Kompressor's version of Girl From Ipanema to a CD, put it in an A/C powered player by your phone, and wait.

When they call and ask for that person, quickly and professionally say "Please hold", drop the phone on the boombox, hit play (with repeat on) and walk away.

Since you didn't say "he's not here" or engage them, they'll be a bit unlikely to hang up right away, because they think you might be transferring them or something. Meanwhile they have to listen to Kompressor.

The next time you wander by the phone, take them "off hold" and see if they're still there. If not, hang up; if so, say "I checked, and [name] still doesn't live here." Then quickly hang up.

Either way, they'll get bored with the calls after a while, and you'll probably get a few giggles out of it; in fact, you might start switching out the music you play (Sesame Street songs are a good choice) and look forward to their next call.
posted by davejay at 2:25 PM on August 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

You do realize you're hassling a company who thinks you are someone else, right? And that they're going to attribute anything "fun" you do to them to him, and make it their mission to make his life hell when they finally do track him down, right?

Just checking. Maybe you should stick to hassling companies who understand who you are, and aren't going to get pissed off at the wrong person for whatever "fun" you have with them.
posted by almostmanda at 2:28 PM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

You need to ask to speak to their supervisor, then inform them you are not that person and that any further calls will be reported to the proper authorities.
posted by konolia at 2:31 PM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

They say the best revenge is living well.

Have a steak tonight. Fill the car up with premium. Buy a piece of art. Splurge on the hydro. Watch a sunset. Remind yourself that not only do you have a better job than debt collection, you've also got better credit than some poor schmoe who shares your surname.

But don't take it personally, and don't make a bad situation worse, for any of the people involved.
posted by box at 2:37 PM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Pennsylvania Attorney General's office would appear to have jurisdiction.

He's also got an online consumer complaint form.
posted by gimonca at 3:04 PM on August 9, 2007

This guy was in your exact situation and filmed his prank.
posted by mileena at 3:10 PM on August 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you want a cheap giggle turn on Comedy Central. If you want these assholes to stop calling you, do the things that will make them stop calling you.

It is not worth pranking them. I suggest finding the corporate address and name of the highest ranked people you can find. Write a letter explaining your situation in detail, send it *registered return receipt requested* to the CEO, President, the biggest boss over at the people who sent the matter over to collections, *and* the Pennsylvania AG's office. If there are any regulatory agencies that could possibly be involved, copy them on it too. Clearly state that if you receive any further contact from them beyond a letter of apology, you will prosecute.
posted by ilsa at 3:18 PM on August 9, 2007

For well over a year Citibank (not some fly by night) called me up to ten times a day EVERY SINGLE DAY asking for Thelma. From 7:00am until midnight, no matter what I said, no matter who I talked to, no matter that I explained I wasn't Thelma nor was I a Citibank customer at all, no matter who I reported them to they just kept calling. Everytime I talked to a 'manager' I was assured the calls would stop, they usually started again within the hour.

I too searched for a way to strike back but unfortunately never did get a good idea that worked.

The best I could do was switch to a VOIP provider with Automated Call Handling and set Citibank's numbers to automatically be transfered to an endless cycle of rings and dead air.

I may no longer have to hear the calls but it still pisses me off to think of it.
posted by Cosine at 3:20 PM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You do realize you're hassling a company who thinks you are someone else, right? And that they're going to attribute anything "fun" you do to them to him?

Good point -- Whatever I wind up doing has to end up with them realizing they've been hounding the wrong person all along. (I'm not sure it would be "fun" otherwise.)

People, I want it to be a prank. I want them to feel stupid and sheepish, and I want to feel gleeful. I can think of a hundred angry ways to punish them myself -- I'm looking for something that would be fun, not selff-righteous.
posted by gum at 3:46 PM on August 9, 2007

They are harassing you. They are too sloppy to get the correct phone number, so they are calling you repeatedly. Tell them to stop in no uncertain terms, as in "This is Frank Jones. Fred Jones not, and has not ever lived here. Do not call me again." Then, when they call again, see if you can sue them for phonespamming, which net you some cash.
posted by theora55 at 4:06 PM on August 9, 2007


Phone rings.

May I have your password, please?

I'm trying to reach....

May I have your password, please?

What? I don't have a password. No, is this the home of...

May I have your password, please?


Back in the days when I owned a land line I had a lot of good sport with charity callers with this one.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:29 PM on August 9, 2007 [9 favorites]

This works better with people who are trying to sell you something, but I'll occasionally adopt an outrageous foreign accent and a poor command of the English language. Credit card companies trying to scare you into "identity theft insurance" are particularly fun.

posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:34 PM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is not strictly an answer to your question, simply some friendly advice from a former collector. When debt collectors skiptrace (i.e., try to find someone whose contact information is invalid), they won't get rid of a "wrong number" unless they are told three times, in a row, that it's the wrong number. So you might want to answer the phone the next three times and tell them they have the wrong Joe Smith or whatever.

The reason for this is (surprise!) deadbeat losers who don't want to pay their bills sometimes lie!

Generally, however, all dealings with a collection agency should be in writing, as being on the phone with them is highly dangerous to your credit & immortal soul, even if they've got the wrong person. So if you really don't want to pick up the phone and say "nope, wrong number" three times, write them a courteous but firm letter.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 4:56 PM on August 9, 2007

Freedomboy suggested:

Telling the next one who calls, having the address of course, that your rate for advice on this issue is $450.47 per minute and the billing has started as of the ringing of your phone, after all your time is worth something after all.

Tell them this, keep track of the time, then send them the bill. Use letterhead with a title like "Debt & Asset Reclamation Consulting" with names of worldwide cities where you do business.

Threaten to send them to a collection agency if they don't pay.

Then contact them about the job.
posted by altcountryman at 5:19 PM on August 9, 2007 [7 favorites]

Are you on the Do Not Call list? If so, then since you've already told them that the person they're calling for does not live there, they have no right to call again. Report them for each of the 24 times they've called, and if they get a fine for it, ha ha ha, there's your prank.
posted by Tuwa at 6:22 PM on August 9, 2007

This isn't a prank, but a real solution that might help prevent some future victimization from this company.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Look in particular at sections 805 and 813.

1) Send a letter to the company (registered, return receipt, etc.) informing them you are not the person they are seeking.

2) When they call the first lines out of your mouth should be: "I have informed your company by registered mail that I am not the person you are seeking. If you continue to call my house, I will seek damages under the fair debt collection practices act for each phone call." Repeat this each time they call.

3) Keep a log of these phone calls. Chances are they will stop. If they continue, search for a consumer attorney in your area, and bring your log. The ultimate "prank" is that you sue them for their illegal acts.
posted by ferdydurke at 6:39 PM on August 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Lots of good practical answers for getting them to stop calling me -- and thanks for that! If I get tired of deleting their messages, I'll get them to stop along the lines suggested above.

The thing is, I'm not furious about these calls. They're easy enough to delete. Academy Services has wasted hours of their vile time pursuing me in error. Maybe, when they finally give up, the poor schmoe they're really after will be safe from them.

But I still want to crack up with laughter whenever I think of the way this came to its fitting end!
posted by gum at 8:09 PM on August 9, 2007

While I enjoy a good prank, I don't have any to offer you. While it may be fun, they will most likely still call you.

There is one thing you can do to irritate them and quite honestly, you would be causing the caller (because they get paid by the collection) and the company to lose money. When they call and ask for the person of interest, tell them to hold. You will be amazed at how long some of them will hold for a lead. Eventually, hang up on them.

My next suggestion may be a more permanent solution.

- Setup a GrandCentral account.

- Leave a greeting with the full name of the person they are after (you might have a friend leave this greeting so that they don't recognize your voice).

- Next time they call you, let them know that they have the wrong person, but you have a phone number for the correct individual. Make up a story that your landlord gave it to you, or you looked him up online, or something of that nature.

- Once they have that number, they should update their database and start calling it. They will most likely retain your phone number, but most collection agencies are going to be happy leaving voicemails on the 'debtor's' mailbox.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 10:25 PM on August 9, 2007

Maybe you could form the greeting as follows:

"Thank you for contacting Abortions Incorporated, where 'You make um, we scrape um!' You have reached the voice mailbox of Such and Such. Either I am away from my desk, looking for a wire hanger, or you have reached me after office hours. Please leave your name and number, and I will get back to you shortly."
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 10:37 PM on August 9, 2007

We get phone calls for someone who has the same number but different area code. Constantly. What do I do? Simple! Jack Chick tracts. I give 'em lots and lots of bible verses. Again and again. Once I didn't have a Jack Chick tract, so I grabbed the bible and started reading random sections.

Fun was had by all. Well, by me, anyway. They hung up after a few chapters.

Best use of religion I've ever found.
posted by John of Michigan at 11:28 PM on August 9, 2007

Play Happy Fun Die, rolling every time they call, every 60 seconds, and every time they put you on hold or transfer you.

Also, have a friend call them about once a week: "Hello, this is Matt Gruber of the Institute for the Study of Professional Behavior. I'm investigating ongoing reports that your company hires people with personality disorders, and/or that employment at your company causes emotional instability. ... Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Doesn't happen, you say? Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Are you certain? You're not feeling funny at all yourself, are you? Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Listen, could I speak to your supervisor? ..."

Note: Chessex seems to have stopped manufacturing the smiley face die. You can still order them here, for the time being. Of course, you also could use a regular die and just put a little number -> face chart by your phone.
posted by eritain at 11:36 PM on August 9, 2007

Or play CheezWiz when they call. Might want to choose your secret word in advance.

Heh. Or play Happy Fun Die and CheezWiz. Oh glory.
posted by eritain at 1:24 AM on August 10, 2007

My boyfriend shares his first and last name with a teenage hip hop artist, and as such we get a lot of phone calls from teenage girls looking for someone else. They don't believe us when we tell them they've got the wrong number, so we've adopted the davejay method.

I ask them to hold, then leave the phone nestled into a pair of headphones, playing a loop of something the girls are unlikely to enjoy (like this). One of us will come back about half an hour later, and if they haven't hung up yet we ask who they're holding for and then put them back on fake-hold. It's very effective.
posted by emmastory at 6:46 AM on August 10, 2007

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