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Getting Debt Phone Calls? How Debt Collectors Find You

We’ve always been an extremely mobile nation, but today, more people than ever before are on the go – to the chagrin of debt collectors. Folks are frequently changing addresses, changing cell phone numbers, and changing places of employment, making it harder to collectors to successfully make debt phone calls. If you’ve been on the move, you may be surprised to receive debt phone calls. How in the world do debt collectors track you down?

Tactics to Find You

In reality, debt collectors have a pretty easy time finding you. Furthermore, the following tactics employed by debt collectors to find you are perfectly legal under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA):

Data mining. Debt collection agencies are experts in what’s known as “skip tracing,” or locating people who may have changed addresses or otherwise slipped under the radar. They often boast to their potential clients that they have huge databases of information that they can easily tap into in order to locate someone who owes a debt and make those dreaded debt phone calls. They also have access to what’s called the data mining industry, which builds mailing lists for targeted marketing and sells it to anyone who wants to buy – including those wanting to make debt phone calls.

Your digital footprint. Whether or not you realize it, as you go about your daily life you leave a huge digital footprint. Every time you go into a store and buy something, every time you apply for a job, every time you fill out an application to rent or buy an apartment or home, and every time you contact a utility to get your gas or cable turned on, your digital footprint grows. Even if a debt collection agency doesn’t have current contact information for you, it’s not much of a leap for debt collectors to take old information and leverage it to find out where you’re living and working now – and then make those debt phone calls.

Conducting Internet searches. Many people can be found using Google and the right keywords. Almost everyone can be found using one of the many online “people finder” databases. Debt collectors know this and use it to their full advantage.

Using social networking sites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks are gold mines of personal information and often lead to debt phone calls. Your social media profile can tell debt collectors where you work, who your friends and colleagues are, clubs you belong to, activities you participate in, the names of your spouse and children, and so forth. If you don’t keep tabs on your privacy settings, your information is available to the world.

Calling family members, neighbors, and coworkers. One of the ways that debt collectors leverage old information is to get on the phone and start making debt phone calls to people who may know you, such as family members and friends, former neighbors, and former or current coworkers. Often, they’ll pretend that they’re an old friend of yours wanting to get back in touch. Your unsuspecting employer, friend, neighbor, or family member wants to help two old friends get back together and gives the debt collector your phone number or email address. As long as the debt collector doesn’t disclose that he’s collecting a debt, he can act like (but not state that) he’s an old friend.

Mistaken Identity

Because people are always on the move, it’s very common for debt collectors to track someone down – but it’s the wrong person. You may have the same name as the person who owes money, or perhaps you inherited that debtor’s phone number, but the bottom line is that you’re not who the debt collector thinks you are. When that happens, you’ll likely be on the receiving end of repeat debt phone calls, even after setting the record straight about your identity.

If that’s the case, there are three primary steps you should take. First, start a log the first time the debt collector calls. Note the time and date of the call, the debt collector’s name (according to the FDCPA, he must tell you his real name), the name of the debt collection agency, and what was said in the call. Tell him that you are not the debtor, and ask him to remove your name and number from his database. When you receive additional debt phone calls, add them to your log.

Second, check your credit reports. Federal law states that you can receive one free credit report per year from the three major credit reporting agencies. You want to make sure that you haven’t been the victim of identity theft, and that a thief hasn’t used your personal information to run up debt in your name.

Third, contact a debt and credit attorney. There have been many successful settlements in cases where consumers were harassed by debt phone calls when they didn’t owe the debt.

If you’ve been harassed by debt phone calls or other questionable practices by debt collectors, contact us at 203-529-5100. We are committed to getting the justice you deserve.