How can I get my predecessor's collection agencies to stop calling me?
December 13, 2007 10:16 AM   Subscribe

My predecessor's creditors are calling me up to 10-15 times a day: What can I do about it?

When I got this position at my company, I inherited a phone number from my predecessor. This person must have been bad, because their creditors won't accept that my predecessor no longer works here: They call about 10-20 times a day!

There are a couple of voices I can make out that call numerous times a day themselves. Each time I tell them that the person there is nobody here by that name, please take my office number off your calling list. But they never do. And many of them seem to not speak English very well, so it's hard to communicate that no, I cannot transfer you to them, because that person does not work here.

Is there any action I can take to keep them from calling me, as I have no option but answer the phone every time and argue with them? I've read the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but it doesn't seem to speak to this practice specifically.

(I've asked our help desk: my number can't be changed, because over 500 of our contacts have it, as it's a permanent number for this position.)
posted by General Malaise to Work & Money (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sec. 806 clearly states:

(5) Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.

Further, Sec. 813 states:

(a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, any debt collector who fails to comply with any provision of this title with respect to any person is liable to such person in an amount equal to the sum of --

(1) any actual damage sustained by such person as a result of such failure;

(2) (A) in the case of any action by an individual, such additional damages as the court may allow, but not exceeding $1,000

If it were me, my standard script to the debt collectors would simply be, "I have repeatedly told you that you have the wrong number for this individual. I am making note of the telephone number you are calling from. The next time you call me, it will cost you $1000." *click*
posted by brain cloud at 10:28 AM on December 13, 2007

If your number can't be changed, can the phone people block a certain number from calling?

I'm fairly certain that what they're doing has crossed over into a crime, but IANAL or even familiar with this section of the law.

"so it's hard to communicate that no, I cannot transfer you to them"

If they ask to be transferred, put them on hold. No one says you have to pick up again. And if they call you on it (by calling again), "Oh, that's probably because he doesn't work here anymore. I'm sorry if I forgot to mention that to you."
posted by fogster at 10:32 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Other possible solutions:
1. Get the current phone number for your predecessor, and tell his creditors to call this number.
2. Ask the creditors for their postal adress and send them a letter where you (or somebody else from your company) explains that your predecessor no longer works there and does not have the same phone number as before.
3. Change the phone number and send a letter to your 500 contacts to inform them that you have a new phone number.
posted by iviken at 10:35 AM on December 13, 2007

Fogster, I really like your idea. It probably won't accomplish much (or maybe it will, but who knows?) but it'll make me feel better at least.
posted by General Malaise at 10:49 AM on December 13, 2007

What worked for me was:

"Who's calling, please?"

They tell you their name. Make sure you get first and last name.

"And what company do you work for?"

They tell you. (Legally, they have to!)

"I am not Joe McDeadbeat. Would you like location information for Joe McDeadbeat?"

The caller will say yes.

"I don't know where Joe McDeadbeat is. He doesn't work at this firm any more. Hold on, I'm going to transfer you to Human Resources where they will confirm that Mr. McDeadbeat doesn't work here any more."

Congratulations, you have legally fulfilled the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act's legal requirements to stop collection agents from calling you (specifically, only you). Follow up with an email to Human Resources describing everything you have done. HR knows how to work with Legal to get shit taken care of.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:51 AM on December 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

iviken: I have no way of getting my predecessor's current number, as they left on fairly bad terms. I've tried to ask for their postal address, but I usually get rebuffed. They're a wily bunch, these guys. And I really can't change my number, as much as I want to. That got the kibash from everybody above me.
posted by General Malaise at 10:51 AM on December 13, 2007

infinitewindow: I haven't thought about going to HR route. I hate to get them involved to that extent, though-they're really busy and I think would resent having to deal with this.
posted by General Malaise at 10:53 AM on December 13, 2007

GM, this is what HR is for. The amount of time and resources you are not devoting to work because you're dealing with this former employee's personal problem is staggering. This is prime HR territory.

HR might be really busy, but are they going to pass up the chance to be seen as good guys for once?
posted by infinitewindow at 10:59 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

air horn.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:24 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

You definitely need to approach HR with this. These calls are encroaching on your work time and undoubtedly interrupting your productivity. You also don't want any of your individual actions to reflect badly on the company, so I wouldn't do anything except follow the company line on this one. Document each time you are called, as well.
posted by shinynewnick at 11:30 AM on December 13, 2007

And after you speak with HR, ask them who you can forward these calls to immediately in the company - the HR department, a lawyer, etc.
posted by shinynewnick at 11:31 AM on December 13, 2007

I am happy to second MC Lo-Carb's idea with the airhorn. Or just start speaking gibberish to them. Or start talking to them about their religious beliefs and why your beliefs are so much better.

Actually, the HR solution is the best one I've read here.
posted by fenriq at 1:10 PM on December 13, 2007

I often step in as "Grampy" for my wife when they call us and need a lesson. "Grampy" can't hear well and ya know he thinks everyone who calls want him to come right over and bang their wife, won't drop it, never understands - just keeps on making lewd and suggestive remarks and bragging about his size. Never had to talk as "Grampy" more than a minute, funny that.

"Grampy" is in the public domain and is freely open to copy cat uses.
posted by Freedomboy at 1:18 PM on December 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Tell them he's dead. I did that, successfully, when I had a similar issue with my cell #.
posted by charlesv at 1:19 PM on December 13, 2007

Don't feel like you need to talk to them. Set up a special voice mail that explains the situation and asks them to not call again, then just transfer any calls directly to that voice mail. While you are waiting for HR to deal with it, at least it will stop you wasting time dealing with these callers.

It's what we do with all solicitors and crank callers where I work, which has worked really well for us.
posted by gemmy at 1:44 PM on December 13, 2007

Just a note for y'all - even if he could get his predecessor's contact information, passing that on to anyone, whether it be a collection agency or an old friend, could land him in very deep trouble. Businesses have responsibilities to not divulge that information without a very compelling reason. Collection agency calls aren't reason enough.
posted by azpenguin at 12:36 AM on December 14, 2007

If saying the person is dead does not work:
Ask them for their address to send payment to.

Then send them a bill for your time they're wasting.
posted by ijoyner at 7:04 AM on December 14, 2007

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