Why are Debt Collectors Calling Me?

A debt collector may be calling you for one of four reasons: 1) you owe the debt; 2) there’s been a mistake and you already paid the debt; 3) they’re calling the wrong number; or 4) they’re calling the wrong person. Whatever the reason, you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Do I owe a debt or not?

Being on the receiving end of debt collection calls can be confusing, annoying, and even scary. If debt collectors are calling you, it’s because they think you owe the debt in question. Whether or not you actually owe the debt, it’s important to know that you are protected from shady collection tactics by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

To get to the bottom of why debt collectors are calling you, it’s helpful to review four common scenarios that are behind debt collection calls:

  • You owe the debt in question.
  • You’ve already paid the debt in question.
  • The collector is calling a wrong number.
  • The collector is calling the wrong person.

If you owe the debt

If you owe the debt in question, debt collectors are likely calling you because the original creditor has hired the collection agency to collect the money. For example, if you have a hospital bill that’s long overdue, the hospital may choose to turn it over to a debt collection agency. The agency typically receives a percentage of whatever amount they’re able to collect.

If you’ve already paid the debt

If you’ve already paid the debt the collector is calling about, there was likely a mix-up somewhere in the process. Perhaps the original creditor didn’t mark the bill as paid, or perhaps the same or a different debt collection agency incorrectly reported your payments. Under the FDCPA (15 U.S.C. 1692g), within five days of first contacting you, the debt collection agency must send you a letter outlining the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and a series of statements about your rights. Included is your right to dispute the debt within 30 days of receiving the notice. Once you dispute the debt, it’s up to the collection agency to stop collection efforts until they validate that the debt is yours to pay. In Pollard vs. Law Office of Mandy L. Spaulding, the court ruled that a law firm violated that provision of the FDCPA by sending a letter that led the reader to believe that disputing a debt would not preclude the firm filing a lawsuit against the consumer within that 30-day period.

If the debt collector is calling the wrong number or the wrong person

Some people change their phone numbers and others have similar names. This can lead a debt collector to call you by mistake. For example, a debt collector can call you in the belief that you are the person who previously owned that phone number (and who owed the debt). Similarly, a debt collector may call you because you have the same name as your son, and it is your son who owes the debt.

The FDCPA applies to all consumers, not just to those who actually owe debts. Therefore, the provision (15 U.S.C. 1692d(5)) that prohibits debt collection calls that intend to annoy, abuse, or harass the consumer protects you. In Wright vs. Enhanced Recovery, the debt collector called the wrong number repeatedly, even after being told he was calling the wrong number. In Meadows vs. Franklin Collection Serv., Inc., a consumer whose phone number once belonged to the person owing the money received 300 collection calls over the course of two and a half years. In both cases, the courts found that the consumer’s rights had been violated

If a debt collector is calling you and you think that they may have engaged in illegal practices, you do have recourse. Under the FDCPA, you can sue the debt collector in court and recover up to $1,000 in statutory damages, along with court costs and attorney fees.

Lemberg Law has a team devoted to representing people who have been harassed, threatened, deceived, or abused by debt collectors. Call and set up a free consultation at 844-685-9200 or submit the online request form.

Case citations

Pollard vs. Law Office of Mandy L. Spaulding, No. 13-2478 (1st. Circ., 2014)
Wright vs. Enhanced Recovery Co., LLC, 227 F. Supp. 3d 1207 (D. Kan. 2016)
Meadowsv. Franklin Collection Serv., Inc., 414 F. App’x 230 (11th Cir. 2011)

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