A while back, I had someone who kept calling and leaving very vague messages. They were asking me to return their calls (to an 800 number.) Since they didn’t leave their name, were calling me by a name that I no longer use, and I wasn’t expecting any calls, I just erased the messages, figuring it was some sort of sales call. Their messages irritated me. So, I called to tell them to take me off their list. That’s when I discovered that it was a debt collection agency call.
The company informed me that I “owed Bank of America $595”. It shocked me to hear this! I didn’t owe BofA any money. So this is what I did:
First, I got as much information as possible from the debt collector, and I refused to acknowledge that the debt was mine. (It helped that it wasn’t mine, but even if it had been, I wouldn’t have acknowledged that without all the facts.) Second, I called Bank of America directly. They were able to give me additional information about the problem, and we worked together to figure out what had happened. I then called the collections company back and asked them not to call me again, but they kept right on calling me, at least once a day, sometimes more.
I asked the collections company how to stop them from calling me. Apparently, the company “can’t take off their list until it is released by Bank of America”. They said “we’ll just keep calling you”, and “We wouldn’t be able to stop calling until we collect some type of payment”.
All of that was untrue. According to the FTC, you can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collector. All you have to do is tell them to stop. So, I called the collection agency back to obtain their mailing address. Then I sat down and wrote them a letter that went like this:
Consider this your notice to stop contacting me.
I do not owe and I do not want further calls from . You may only contact me again to notify me that there will be no further contact. Also to inform me that you intend to take some specific action.
I also have not received any written notice from regarding any supposed debt as is required by law. Notice should have been sent by no later than . I have yet to receive any such notice, and it is now .
I have enclosed a copy of the Fair Debt Collection information from the FTC for your reference.
I never heard from them again.
It’s important to note though that, as it states on the FTC website, “sending such a letter to a collector does not make the debt go away if you owe it. You could still be sued by the debt collector or your original creditor.” (If you do owe money to someone and are looking for help, you might try the FTC’s Fair Debt Collection information site along with a site like creditboards.com.)
I’ve always been a “get things in writing” kind of person. I think in this instance that it paid off. Even if I had owed the money, I would have insisted on getting proof of the debt in writing. Also that all further contact takes place in writing. It’s just too easy, even under the best of circumstances, for things to go awry over the phone.