Weird calls from 877-252-5308 - is this a collection agency?
May 15, 2004 4:38 PM   Subscribe

I've gotten several vaguely ominous sounding messages on my voice mail from what seems like a collection agency, but I can't figure out exactly what's going on. (Come on inside! I'll tell you more!)

The messages never leave a business/organization name or any specifics, nor do they ask for me by name -- at least not that I can tell, because they start at some point within a recorded message, so the first part gets cut off. It's mostly just a terse "due to the sensitive nature of this call, no further information will be left. You are advised to call [vaguely fake-sounding name here] at [toll free number here] immediately before further action is taken against you." So when I've called back, I just get a message saying that "this message box is full. Press 1 if you are disputing a claim against you, or 2 to arrange for payments." So then I press 1 or 2 and get the same "this message box is full" message. I can't tell if it's got anything to do with this question I had awhile ago; I'm certainly not behind on any of my regular payments to any of my other accounts/utilities/student loan, etc. (I get a fair amount of wrong numbers for the same couple of names, too, so it seems possible that the message isn't even really for me.)

Would a legitimate collection agency or legal firm operate this way? How do I find out who this is? I've tried doing reverse lookup online and by calling 411, but nothing comes up. Anyone with better Google-Fu feel like taking a crack at the number? (I'll post it in full or email it if someone's interested.)
posted by scody to Work & Money (13 answers total)
Whenever I get calls from collections agencies (and it happens a lot), they never have any problem with asking for me by name, or saying "This is a message for [name]. Please call [account rep] at [phone #]" on my answering machine.

Also they tend to send you lots of crap in the mail and if they get really pissy they'll sue you in small claims court.

You probably don't need to worry about it until they tell you who they are and who they're looking for.
posted by cmonkey at 4:43 PM on May 15, 2004

This sounds like some sort of scam. If a collections agency really needs to talk to you, they will eventually call in person. Until then, I would ignore it, if I were you.
posted by vorfeed at 5:05 PM on May 15, 2004

scody, I'd be interested in taking a stab at the number. You can post it here or email it to the address in my profile.

It's at least possible that this could be legit; perhaps a very old account that they don't expect to collect anything on so they don't assign much in the way of resources. But it could also be a scam, or a disguised telemarketing pitch, i.e., they get you to call in and then try to sell you something "credit" related. Are you on the national do-not-call list?
posted by Zonker at 5:53 PM on May 15, 2004

I would suggest calling your phone company and informing them that you're being harrassed.
posted by stonerose at 6:02 PM on May 15, 2004

Response by poster: Zonker -- yeah, it's my thought too that it might be some really old account, back from my post-grad-school days of having to choose between the electricity and the phone bill... I'm always so incredibly grateful to have put that chaos behind me, so I think that's why I get so agitated when something like this happens.

Anyhoo, the number is 877-252-5308... I'll be curious to see what you find out. And yep, I am on the national Do Not Call list, though I've still received a handful of sales calls since it started. (That reminds me: did the list go properly into effect? Because with all the telemarketing industry hysteria about how we'd lose 8.75 kajillion jobs and that one free speech ruling about it in Denver [I think], I was sort of under the impression that it had been held up indefinitely, or at least weakened somewhat.)

Stonerose, good suggestion. I'll call 'em on Monday and see what they say.
posted by scody at 8:11 PM on May 15, 2004

I don't think it's a scam. I've been called by legit collection agencies and gotten messages like this before. They're not trying to pull one over on you, they're just idiots. Eventually, they will call when you are there, or their mailbox won't be full.
posted by bingo at 9:00 PM on May 15, 2004

No luck on the number so far.

Good news on the do-not-call list, though. It survived all the court challenges and is fully in effect. If you get any telemarketing calls, you can file a complaint with the FTC online through their web page at Sometimes telemarketers claim that they're exempt from the do-not-call rules for one reason or another. That's often a lie, the FTC just shut down one bunch that was making that claim.
posted by Zonker at 5:03 AM on May 16, 2004

I gotten this sort of call. MCI is chasing me for 4.95 because it took them over a month to cancel my service, and I won't pay it.

I also get spates of these calls from time to time because my phone listing has my initial, and apparently there is a Tim Fiftyfive who has a lot of money trouble. Trying to get them to stop can be a real pain. Even when they talked to me in person, they wouldn't believe they had a wrong number.

Ask the phone company to track the owner of the return number. Call the company repeatedly and demand that they provide details or stop the harrassment. Ask to speak to supervisors. If nothing else, it costs them the money for the toll-free number.
posted by theora55 at 9:26 AM on May 16, 2004

I have gotten... I shouldn't post while insufficiently caffeineated.
posted by theora55 at 9:28 AM on May 16, 2004

We got several of these calls when we moved to this area. Apparently our new phone number had previously belonged to someone who had a bit of a debt problem. We also had the annoyance of only getting half the recorded message, so it took awhile for me to figure out the full contact number they were giving. When I did, a five minute call straightened things out and we never received another message.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:37 PM on May 16, 2004


If it is a collection agency, you still can force them to knock off the calls...uh, once you manage to get their mailing address, that is. The lack of identifying information or written debt validation might also be a violation of your rights in which case the company could (in theory) wind up owing you.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 7:14 PM on May 16, 2004

having once worked at a collection agency (not as a bill collector, but as a network admin--job sucked; long story), I can tell you this: the reason that the recording doesn't contain any information is precisely because it is a bill collector, and they're not allowed to discuss the debt unless they know they're talking to you or your spouse.

What's going on is that they're working an auto-dialer set to maximize connects, so that as soon as the poor slobs on the phones hang up with one "debtor", they have another one ready to give a stern talking to. Since the auto-dialer always connects with more people than they have collectors to take the call, you get the canned message.

You can assume that since they've got your phone number that they have your address as well, and eventually you'll get a letter from them. I seem to recall that they're required by law to send you this letter, but I also recall that they don't really give a shit if you get it or not and will assume that you are a scumbag regardless of what you do or say.

The most important thing you can do, once you know who's calling you, is to send a letter to them informing them that a)you are disputing the debt and you require written proof of it, and b) that they are never to contact you again by telephone. You have the legal right to dispute the debt and the beauty of making the dispute is that one of two things might happen: either they will never find any written proof (the files go through many hands and often get lost), in which case they have to write off the debt, or the original creditor will fail to respond to the dispute in a timely manner (I think it's 90 days) and you're off the hook that way. And if you tell them in writing to stop calling you, they have to do it.

Oh, the stories I could tell.
posted by vraxoin at 9:06 PM on May 16, 2004

yeah, it's my thought too that it might be some really old account

If they've waited a number of years to come after you, the statute of limitations on the debt may have already passed. In which case a collection agency's bargaining position is considerably weakened. IIRC, making even a tiny payment on the debt or so much as agreeing to make a token payment is enough to reset the SOL clock so never let a collector talk you into anything until you're certain of what you're getting into.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:46 PM on May 16, 2004

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