Stopping unwanted debt collection calls

9:14 AM, Jul 5, 2010   |    comments
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The article, posted on 9NEWS.com and titled Debt collector complaints on the rise, said the agency recorded 88,190 complaints against third party debt collection agencies last year.

However, readers had some complaints of their own to share. Two users in particular had comments about debt collection calls that caught 9NEWS' attention.

In the comments section of the article momofcollegegrad wrote, "I don't have any outstanding debt but I get calls all the time on my cell phone. They are for some people I don't even know. I finally got sick of telling the collectors they have the wrong number because they would still call."

ActualThought replied with a similar story, "For four years we got incessant calls for Robert Something on our landline because he never paid bills and debt collectors don't believe it's somebody else's new number."

In response to these comments, 9NEWS Consumer Reporter Jennifer Ryan spoke to Dale Mingilton, head of the Denver Boulder Better Business Bureau, about what consumers can do to stop calls from collectors trying to reach debtors who previously used a telephone number.

Mingilton told 9NEWS there are several steps consumers need to take.

"The first thing you'd want to do is find out who they are and say to them, 'Prove to me that I owe you the money.' Let's start there." Mingilton said. "If they say, 'Well, we can't prove that to you,' then they should stop calling. If they say, 'Well, I'll send you something," you review it, you write a letter back to the debt collection agency and say, 'Please stop calling me. No longer harass me'. And provided they are licensed, once they receive that letter, they must stop calling you. Also you can tell them specifically don't call me at work, don't use this cell phone number, and that's what you want to really highlight."

However, Mingilton admits it isn't always that easy to get collectors to stop calling.

"If they do continue to call you, you have two options. One, which is sometimes simpler, get a new cell phone number. Second thing, file a report with the FTC and the Denver/Boulder Better Business Bureau so that we can start the mechanism. The FTC regulates this and if they start receiving a number of complaints about a collection organization then they will start pursuing action," he said.

Mingilton also warns if collectors start calling about a debt a consumer doesn't remember or doesn't believe they owe, it could be a scam.

"What we're finding more of is the scammers they are getting these phone numbers, they're calling and saying, 'You owe money,' and they're not really identifying," Mingilton said. "What they can look up to make you almost feel comfortable; let's say you own a home. When you bought your home you signed this thing called the Deed of Trust. So they'll make you feel comfortable, even though they don't know you from Adam, and they'll say, 'It looks like you bought your home on this date, your original mortgage holder was this, we show that you have a debt you have not paid, our suggestion is that you send us two payments so that we can get that taken care of and I think it'll be alright.'"

Mingilton says when a scammer seems to know so much about someone, it's easy to get confused and begin to wonder, "Did I remember to pay that? Did I forget to pay something?"

He says the scammers will often ask for information like credit card, bank card, or checking account numbers and offer to charge the account to make sure the consumer is current on the fake debt.

Mingilton says consumers need to be careful of this kind of scam because, "What in essence you're doing is sending it to a person that's getting wealthy off of you. You probably never had the debt or if you did have the debt you're sending it to the wrong person."

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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