The debt collector may be calling the wrong number, they may have you confused with someone else, or they may not realize that you already took care of the debt.
I have no debt. Why is a collection agency calling me?
There are three primary reasons why a debt collector calls when you have no debt:
- They are calling the wrong number.
- They have you confused with someone else.
- They don’t realize that you already paid the debt.
Debt collectors calling the wrong number
A debt collector may be calling you because they have the wrong number. For example, the person who previously owned the phone number you now use may have incurred a debt, and the debt collector may think that they are calling that person. Similarly, a data entry error may have transposed two digits in a phone number, resulting in a wrong-number call to you.
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was enacted in 1978 to protect consumers against debt collection harassment and abuse. It’s important to note that Section 803(3) defines a consumer as someone obligated or allegedly obligated to pay a debt. This means that you are protected by the FDCPA even if you are not the person actually responsible for a debt. In other words, as the recipient of a wrong number call, the FDCPA applies to you.
For example, if a debt collector harasses you, calls repeatedly, threatens you, or uses profanity when speaking to you, that is likely a violation of Section 806 of the FDCPA. If they insinuate that you committed a crime or if they say they are going to sue you, that is likely a violation of Section 807 of the FDCPA. You can sue for FDCPA violations and recover actual damages, statutory damages of up to $1,000, and court costs and attorney fees.
Debt collectors confusing you with someone else
There are times when debt collectors call when you have no debt because they have you confused with someone else. This can be the case when, for example, a father and son share the same name. A debt collector may call the father to collect a debt incurred by the son or vice versa.
With a few exceptions, Section 805(b) of the FDCPA prohibits a debt collector from discussing a person’s debts with third parties. If a debt collector calls you and discusses your son’s debt, that is likely a violation of the FDCPA. As discussed above, a range of harassing and abusive debt collection behaviors are also against the law.
Debt collectors don’t realize that you already took care of the debt
When a debt collector calls, it’s possible that you’ve already taken care of the debt and no longer owe the money. Perhaps you paid the original creditor. Maybe you previously settled with the same or with a different debt collection agency. It could be that the debt was discharged in bankruptcy.
If you believe that you do not owe the debt in question, it’s imperative that you dispute the debt. The FDCPA requires that, within five days of first calling you, the debt collector must send you a written notice of the debt, including the amount, name of creditor, information about how to dispute the debt if you believe you do not owe the debt or if there has been a mistake.
Once you receive this notice, you have 30 days to send a written dispute of the debt to the collection agency, including your reason for the dispute. The collector must then cease all collections activity on your account until the debt is verified. If the debt has been reported to credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian and/or Equifax), the collection agency is also required to notify them that the debt is disputed – even if they do not believe the dispute has merit. In Semper vs. JBC Legal Group, the court ruled that the debt collection law firm violated the FDCPA because it decided that Ms. Semper’s dispute didn’t have merit. In the decision, the judge wrote, “…the statute does not give debt collectors the authority to determine unilaterally whether a dispute has merit or whether to comply with the requirements of the FDCPA in a given case.”
Lemberg Law’s debt collection harassment team has handled thousands of cases for clients who have been harassed or abused by debt collectors. If a collector contacts you when you do not owe the debt in question, you may be entitled to compensation under the FDCPA. Call us today at 844-685-9200 or submit our online form for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Semper vs. JBC Legal Group., 2005 WL 2172377 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 6, 2005).
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