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*Disclaimer: This article is accurate as of the publish date February 16, 2013
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It's unfortunate, but it's not entirely uncommon for someone to be harassed by a collection agency or junk debt buyer on a collection that doesn't belong to them. Most people first respond by explaining to the collection agency that the debt doesn't belong to them and they should be left alone. The problem is that people that really owe them money say the same thing! You can't really blame the collection agencies for not falling for the "Hey, that collection isn't mine" excuse. Now you just have to figure out another way to get rid of them.
Whether you got a new phone number or you're just a victim of mistaken identity, there are some things you can do to get the confused creditors off your back. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind.
The Legal Option
Perhaps the most legitimate and effective way to get rid of a collection agency is to send them a Cease and Desist letter. Essentially, you are requesting that the collection agency no longer contact you in any manner. It would be wise to also provide any documentation, if possible, demonstrating that you are not the person they are trying to contact or collect from. This will prove that you are in the right and force the agency to reconsider its actions. To learn more about this process, you can reference Section 805 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
This puts the collection agency in a precarious position, leaving them with two basic options. They can either choose to give up and walk way, or they can take legal action and file a law suit against you in attempts to collect the debt. Either way, the chances of you coming out the victor are quite high. You may just have to do a little fighting to make that happen.
Since you will be backing the collection agency into a legal corner, it's best to advise an attorney prior to sending the Cease and Desist letter to know your legal options. This will help you plan out what to say and how to say it to ultimately get rid of the harassment.
The Removal Option
You could remove yourself from this situation entirely by changing your phone number, assuming that you're being harassed via the phone. If you're receiving letters, you can simply throw them in the trash. If you're receiving emails, you can block the company from contacting you. This may not be a good option if you've had the same phone number for years, but it is still something you can think about.
The Annoyance Option
For those who want to take an unconventional route, there is another alternative. In time, you will figure out which numbers are legit and which ones reference debts that aren't yours. You could block those numbers on your phone, but collection agencies tend to have several offices to call from. You will probably find yourself ignoring the phone calls completely, just so you don't have to re-explain yourself over and over again. That is where this lovely solution comes into play…
Find the longest and most ridiculous voice mail recording you can get, and put that on your phone. Forewarn your friends, coworkers, and family members about the change so they know your voicemail is going to be frustrating to get through. Then just let the power of annoyance go to work. If you're lucky, the collection agency will soon get tired of listening to it and stop calling you. If not, at least you got to give them a taste of their own medicine.
Getting harassed about debt is never easy, but it can be particularly frustrating when it isn't yours. At least now, you have a few different routes to take to get someone else's creditors off your back. In time, you will get back to dealing with your own collection agencies and all the wonders they bring with them. That's one small step toward financial freedom.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.