Is your name Michael Diamond?
January 23, 2008 4:56 PM   Subscribe

How do I get creditors to stop calling me by mistake?

My phone number is listed under [N. Hörnblowér]. Someone named [Neal Hörnblowér] has creditors after him and somehow my phone number has been connected to his name. I'll get several messages a week from creditors looking for him. I've called a few of them back and told them there is no Neal Hornblower at this number, but they keep calling. Who can I contact to clear my phone number from this guy's name?
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér to Work & Money (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

That's a tough one. Changing your number won't even work because they'll just get the new number. Is it reasonable to presume that your first name is not Neal (Nathanial, perhaps)? Perhaps it might be to your advantage to list your full name so that the creditors know that you're not the "N" they're looking for.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 5:23 PM on January 23, 2008

Will be watching this thread - sometimes get up to 10 of these per day for people with my last name, but different first name or completely different names altogether. Always really shady - some claim they're lawyers serving paperwork soon (they're not), others make it sound like an inheritance is coming (again, nope, it's not a law firm, it's a collections agency). Often it's a recording and/or I'm not here to answer the phone and tell them to go jump. My mother got one very persistent one and was able to answer the phone and when she did notified them she was tape-recording them. The guy got really angry and belligerent, but they did remove her number.

Whatever you do, don't give them *any* personal information. On researching the jokers that keep calling our house, I've seen where completely unrelated people who are duped into providing account numbers and/or personal information get scammed.
posted by jenh at 6:26 PM on January 23, 2008

Read this.

Some excerpts:

Can you stop a debt collector from contacting you?

You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collector telling them to stop. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action. Please note, however, that sending such a letter to a collector does not make the debt go away if you actually owe it. You could still be sued by the debt collector or your original creditor.

May a debt collector continue to contact you if you believe you do not owe money?

A collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you receive the written notice, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed.

What can you do if you believe a debt collector violated the law?

You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, you may recover money for the damages you suffered plus an additional amount up to $1,000. Court costs and attorney' s fees also can be recovered. A group of people also may sue a debt collector and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector' s net worth, whichever is less.
Where can you report a debt collector for an alleged violation?

Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General' s office and the Federal Trade Commission. Many states have their own debt collection laws, and your Attorney General' s office can help you determine your rights.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
posted by ND¢ at 7:04 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

re: changing the phone listing to an accurate first name per TeatimeGrommit's comment - unfortunately, that probably won't work. These folks call anyone they can with the same last name no matter what the first name is. My first name is in the listing and I get calls for many different names - in addition, if they're collecting a debt from someone who's passed on, they assume they can collect from any unrelated person with the same last name. I think a lot of these companies purchase old, small amounts of debt and care very little about the legality of collecting - they just want to collect.

I would seriously recommend, if you are able to answer the phone when these bottom-feeders call, that you tell them that a) they're currently being recorded b) you are not the person they are looking for c) they should immediately cease and desist contacting you d) you have contacted/will contact the FTC and Attorney General for your state about their attempts to contact you after you've requested them to stop e) is there more contact information they can provide to you to help your investigation of their harassment? Their address for your cease and desist letter? Perhaps a manager or the owner? You actually may want to really record, too, as some of these people can be really least you'd get something cool for YouTube out of the whole ordeal...

Also, if you haven't already, do a reverse-lookup on the number they're calling from to figure out which collection agency it is if they don't already self-identify during the calls -- after finding out more, you seriously may just want to get a telezapper or add the dead number tone to your answering machine and never manually answer the phone again! After unsuccessful requests to get these crooks to stop calling, we've pretty much just stopped answering the phone during the day...I guess it comes with the territory of having a landline, but man, it sucks to come home every day from work to a full answering machine and none of the calls are good, and none of them for you. I guess the only real joy you have is that they obviously aren't going to get their money, harassing the wrong people all of the time!
posted by jenh at 7:57 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Teatime, you are correct, I'm not "Neal," but have the same first letter in my first name. Unfortunately I can't change my phone number because I'm a freelancer and use my landline for work. I called one company back today and before I could find out who I was calling (the voicemail message only left a phone number), they asked me if I was "Neal." I said no and before I could tell them to remove my number from their records, the guy hung up. I've been ignoring the messages hoping they would stop on their own, but it's not looking likely. Guess I'll start keeping a pad and pen by the phone so I can get more info on them when they call. Christ.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 9:18 PM on January 23, 2008

Do you have a PBX-style phone system at all? If so, you can have it reject calls (or place them on infinite hold, or forward them to the state's attorney general's office. whatever works for you.)

If you have any sort of simultaneous ring capability, you could use a cell phone as the ringer for your land line, which would let you program silent ringtones for these mistaken creditors.

I had the same experience with mistaken collectors, and it was *incredibly* frustrating. Good luck.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 10:52 PM on January 23, 2008

Get as much information as you can about *them* - tell them that you are not the person they are after. If they persist, sue the unholy shit out of them.

ND's information is mostly correct, but not applicable to this situation. This is a situation where some piece of shit collection agency (I hate them all) is just flinging poo wildly to see what sticks. This is a common tactic.

Like I said in another thread, this is often the only thing that they respond favorably to. If you slap them with a FCRA violation suit/intent to sue, they will generally be more careful in the future.... hopefully. This has worked for me. I had a junk debt buyer slam my credit report for 3 different accounts. I called a lawyer friend and sent them a nice letter stating that they had better verify the debt or I was going to sue them for multiple FCRA violations. They never responded but very quickly removed the alleged debt from all three credit bureaus.
posted by drstein at 6:02 AM on January 24, 2008

Why not get your full first name listed, instead of just your initial (though this may take quite some time to have effect -- depending on when the most recent telephone listing will be coming out, that is, so it may, on the other hand, be quite effective)?.
posted by astrochimp at 8:38 PM on January 24, 2008

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