Standing Up to Pesky Debt Collectors

When they have the wrong number, it pays to let them know.


A debt collection company has left automated messages on my answering machine almost every day for the past six months. Erasing them within a few minutes of getting home from work has become part of my daily routine.

At first, I assumed they were telemarketing calls and that the company would eventually give up, but after realizing I had erased approximately 100 messages, I decided it was finally time to call and ask what they wanted and if they could please, please stop calling me. The messages were starting to drive me crazy.

So I called the number. Before being connected with a real person, I was warned, by another automaton, that any information I provided would be used to collect a debt. That made me a little nervous. Was it possible that I—or, more likely, my husband (sorry, honey!)—had forgotten to pay a bill, or, even worse, a student loan?

After three minutes of waiting, a representative asked how she could help me. I explained the problem, and she looked up my home number in her system.

According to her data, the company was using my number to call about a man whose name I didn't recognize. (For the sake of his privacy, I will leave his identity out of it.)

"You don't know him?" she asked me, confirming what I already told her.

"Definitely not," I said.

She apologized for the inconvenience and said she would remove my number from the company records.

Ever since I made the call, there have been no automated voicemails on my machine waiting for me when I get home. I don't miss them. The lesson: When debt collectors have the wrong number, don't wait six months to let them know.