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Say Whaaaa, Debt Collector?

by J. Money on Wednesday, February 13, 2013

old uk phone booth

Man, I’ve got to tell you – ever since I started this whole Year of The Simple goal in January, it’s been non stop learning and reducing stress as the days go by. It’s amazing how much better you feel when less “stuff” is getting thrown your way every other minute!

I already mentioned I no longer have a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profile anymore for the “real” me, and now that I’m answering all phone calls too no matter what (so I don’t put off things), AND reading all emails too – even in my Spam folder! – it’s been an eye-opening experience to say the least. I’ve reconnected with more friends, gotten rid of more spammer/robo calls, found gems that are somehow routed wrong in my email (one that paid me $200, even!), and have saved tons of stress and mental “storage” throughout. Which is the real purpose for implementing all these new habits – you can’t have a different future if you keep doing the same things! (Feel free to quote that ;))

Anyways, this leads us to a phone call I literally just answered 20 minutes ago that went like this:

“Hi, Can I speak with Mrs. Money?”

“Umm… she’s busy (lie), but may I take a message?”

“Yes, can you have her call me back at this number 1-888-XXX-XXXX. I’m from XYZ Company and it’s pretty urgent.”

“No problem – What’s it about?”

“I can’t tell you unless you confirm your address with me”

“Umm… well I can’t confirm it with you if you can’t tell me what it’s about! She’ll just think it’s spam and not call back…”

“I can’t legally do that, sorry. You’ll just have to have her call us back.”

“Okay fine, yes – that’s our address. What’s going on?”

“Great. We’re a debt collection agency and please be advised this call will be monitored and recorded.”

“What? We don’t owe anyone anything – believe me. I do this stuff for a living.”

“Well, it shows that Mrs. Money owes ZZZ Company $85.00 from October of 2011. How would you like to pay for that?”

“What? Hold please… I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

At this point I’m like, “this chick is crazy! she has us confused w/ someone else,” but I humor her and go talk to my wife. Who, to my surprise, not only KNOWS what this debt agency is talking about, but then gets LIVID because she had already dealt with this matter over a year ago!! And was all supposed to be taken care of already!

Uh-ohs…

I was pretty dumfounded. And then felt like an ass for assuming this was all a mistake and treating the whole phone conversation as it was too, haha… I forget some people SUCK AT THEIR JOBS and can make our lives miserable!

So I picked the phone back up and told the nice lady that we do, actually, know what this is about, and we’d be having a few choice words to say to this company but will get it resolved ASAP. And that if we need to call the agency back for whatever reason, we’ll do so and get it squared away 100%. She was super cool with it, and made the notes in her records. Telling me they were more of the reputable type of debt collectors over those shady ones.

Can you imagine if we hadn’t answered that call though? Or how many calls we have *already* not answered this whole time?? It could have been resolved months ago maybe! And now if this is on my wife’s credit report and screwing her over without us even knowing about it? Messed up, man… and really scary to think about :( Yet another reason though to be careful about what calls or emails you’re purposely screening! Never really know how important some of them can be, that’s for sure…

Anyone else experiencing crazy calls/emails that you almost ignored? Did they end up saving or costing you anything? I guarantee we’re not the only ones dealing with nonsense like this… People can really make our lives much more stressful than needed, it’s a pain. And also a part of life.

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[Photo by Andrew Girdwood]

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 My Financial Independence Journey February 13, 2013 at 5:34 am

Years ago I got some crazy robocall that kept calling me at every hour of the day. I wound up calling them back and demanding to be taken off of whatever list I was on, because whoever they were calling wasn’t at that number. After several attempts the annoyance finally stopped.

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2 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 3:38 pm

GOOD! It’s annoying to deal with but once you do you feel SOOOOOO much better.

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3 Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies February 13, 2013 at 6:36 am

Or letters in the mail! Just last month I got a collection letter in the mail. I was seriously about to throw it away because it looked like junk mail. But it was a collection letter for a bill that was a mistake. It took one call to the company and they rescinded the collections notice. But what would have happened if I had thrown the “junk mail” away?

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4 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Yes! Exactly!! That’s why I open up every last piece of junk mail too – you just never know who’s making mistakes where. People suck at their jobs sometimes.

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5 NoTrustFund February 13, 2013 at 7:06 am

When we recently took out a mortgage we realized there was a ping on our credit for a small unpaid debt. It was for a bill we had never received, but owed. So while we were not getting phone calls, I was shocked at how mean and accusatory the debt collector was when I called to get it straightened out. It was horrible- especially because the mistake had been on the part of the biller, not me, and I was calling to pay. So thankful I don’t have to deal with this on a regular basis. So demoralizing!

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6 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm

No kidding, jeez…. Especially since you *wanted* to pay and get it straight! You’d think it would be a welcome call compared to the others they’re doing to hunt people down, ugh.

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7 Sense February 13, 2013 at 7:39 am

I keep getting other people’s mail. In NZ it is a hassle to mail things because you can’t just leave your letters in the mailbox for the postman to come pick them up–you have to go to a postbox yourself. After writing a billion times ‘addressee no longer at this address; sender please correct your records’ over 4 years, I finally only get mail for the people who live here.

A few years ago I got a letter from a debt collector in Hawaii about unpaid parking tickets from 2005. I moved from HI in 2004, so there was no way that was me!! My car totally died a week before I moved, so I sold it to my roommate for $100. He must have gotten it fixed but not transferred the registration, and then the buyer left it where it wasn’t supposed to be (or maybe it died again and is impounded somewhere?!). Anyway, I couldn’t prove that I didn’t have the car anymore (and believe me, I spent HOURS on the phone and filling out forms to try to do so) so I just manned up and paid the tickets so it wouldn’t go on my credit report or so I wouldn’t get arrested the next time I went back to HI. A-nnoying.

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8 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm

ouch! that sucks… next time you’ll have to take the plates off and notify the state of you selling it so 100% can’t happen again ;) well, maybe 99% can’t happen as we all know weird things still do.

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9 Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce February 13, 2013 at 7:57 am

Ooooohhhh boy. Now I m feeling nervous. We NEVER answer our land line. Still trying to figure out why we even have it! I check my credit report religiously, so I am hoping that cuts it. Thanks for the reminder, and congrats on all the simplifying!

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10 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm

you know, that’s a good way to end all the calls for sure actually :) nix your land line! we use ours constantly though – especially since our cell phones get spotty reception here – so for us it’s a not go. (Plus – if you lose/forget your phones somewhere? You have no way to call anyone!)

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11 Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank February 13, 2013 at 7:58 am

The only calls that we get regularly is from the “Windows Call Center” apparently we have virus’ on our computer and need to grant them remote access by visiting an infected site so they can fix the problem / steal our banking details…

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12 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm

haha yeah – I would NOT let them do that ;)

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13 jolie February 13, 2013 at 8:05 am

@Glen we get a lot of those here too. I had to explain to my parents (in their 70s) that this was not real and not to give out anything.

We get a lot of calls from 2 of our Banks too, from their Toronto location. I try very nicely to say that their numbers do not register on the phone and it’s not likely I am going to have any conversation with them about my money and accounts when I can’t verify who they are.

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14 John S @ Frugal Rules February 13, 2013 at 8:09 am

“you can’t have a different future if you keep doing the same things!” LOVE the quote J! We had a similar experience the first few months my wife and I were married. We barely had two nickels to run together and had been getting a ton of junk mail. One day we got a letter that suspiciously looked like junk mail. I nearly threw it away, but something told me not to. I opened it and someone had anonymously sent us $300. I was floored and to this day we have no idea who sent it to us but will always be thankful we opened it.

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15 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm

So sweet of someone! Man… makes me more proud of humanity when I hear stories like that :) And you’ll never forget it either!

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16 stacey February 13, 2013 at 8:34 am

Just yesterday! We got what looked like junk mail, but I opened it anyway and it was a $17.00 check for a mistake that was made at closing when we refinanced a year ago. $17.00 is $17.00. :)

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17 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Awesome! That’ll buy me a few beers, thanks! You’re so sweet :)

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18 Erin @ Aim High Erin February 13, 2013 at 8:39 am

We’ve been dealing with one agency that’s called us non-stop. My husband knows nothing about the debt, it’s not affecting us negatively on our credit reports, and if it IS something of his, it’s over 7 years old at this point, so it SHOULD be falling off. How do we make them stop? :(

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19 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I’d personally just keep answering and asking for a manager to either explain it more or take you off their calling list until it finally stops… They’d be stupid to keep calling if it’s really not your debts, but perhaps they think you’re lying and pretending you’re not so they keep calling? ;) Asking for a manager each time should certainly correct that though, and if not then I’d research online for other methods (I don’t know of any off hand unfort.).

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20 Johnny Moneyseed February 13, 2013 at 8:39 am

You gotta be careful when going through your spam folder. You can be added to the spammer’s confirmed email address list just by opening messages. This means much more spam and probably better crafted messages.

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21 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm

really? I rarely open them up anyways – only scan them – but I do get tricked sometimes, so good to know.

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22 Jacob Erickson February 13, 2013 at 8:45 am

I really like that you’re trying to simplify your life. It’s amazing how much more time you have when you stop doing social media. Also, I know I answer almost every call, but my wife doesn’t answer unless she knows the number (expecting them to leave a message). Your story is a good lesson learned for everyone.

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23 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm

My wife does the same :) Which is funny cuz this call was all about HER! Haha… it’s a god thing they have husbands like us, eh?

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24 Michelle February 13, 2013 at 9:31 am

I almost never answer numbers that I don’t know and they almost never leave voicemails. I wonder if this has ever happened to me!

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25 SavvyFinancialLatina February 13, 2013 at 10:55 am

I don’t answer unknown emails, and like Michelle they never leave voicemails.

My parents get a bunch of spam calls that ask for personal information. My dad is prohibited from answering the phone, because he is always giving away information. Seriously…..:(

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26 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm

hahhaha…. now THAT is no good ;)

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27 Edward Antrobus February 13, 2013 at 11:31 am

My wife was throwing away notices from the hospital because she had already put that bill in her consolidation plan. But it turned out that the hospital rejected the consolidation plan and was about to send her bill to collections! Stupid company made us get a loan to pay them off in full. Lesson learned about opening mail and about using that hospital!

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28 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Yes!!! And also a good reminder to SAVE bill stuff too for at least a year or so in case you need to go back/etc.

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29 Brian February 13, 2013 at 11:33 am

There are two phone numbers I never answer… One if from my undergrad school and one is from my grad school. Both want me to donate and I have told both before I will donate when I am finished paying my student loan. My undergrad school got the hint but my grad school is still trying…

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30 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Time to talk to a manager! :)

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31 Financial Black Sheep February 13, 2013 at 11:48 am

The other day I got a call from one of the hospitals saying Mr. FBS still owes money. It was on my phone. I didn’t answer it because it was some 1-877 number and google couldn’t tell me who it was. I decided just to call it back and it wasn’t even for me. Mr. FBS called them and it turns out they said he owed close to $2000, but found a debit that should have been a credit. The CSR lied about it and said “Oh I have to get back to you on this”, after she called for two days in a row harassing us. We are dealing directly with insurance now to see if they will do anything.

I keep getting IRS stuff in the mail. The last one said Mr. FBS worked for a company in 2011 that he hadn’t worked for since 2009. Now the State is bugging us, but has no information on the stuff they mailed to us.

I am just glad I open ALL mail and check out ALL phone calls. I would owe tons of money! I am hoping one day, one of these problems results in a refund. I would really love to pay my debt off early because all these issues :D

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32 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Haha right? It’s SO GOOD you’re dealing with this stuff though as it comes up cuz regardless of fault it still automatically becomes your responsibility cuz you get screwed if you don’t! We’re the only ones who can watch after ourselves 100% ya know? So I’m proud of you guys :)

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33 Grayson @ Debt Roundup February 13, 2013 at 12:27 pm

This is one of the reasons why I answer every call and open each piece of mail. I have received refund checks and figured out issues with a bill that was paid, but applied wrong. You never know what might happen. Glad to see that your “Year of the Simple” is working for you.

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34 Jose February 13, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Be careful about throwing away collection letters that aren’t yours! In the U.S. the debt can become yours if you do not respond to it within thirty days. Then it becomes a problem that is infinitely much harder to get resolved. We’ve become “owners” of a few debts that were in no way connected to us, I suspect through collection robo-calls since we get a lot of them that aren’t remotely related to anything we owe. We’ve been able to resolve them with a strongly and well written letter refuting the debt and asking the collector that if they feel that it is indeed our debt, to provide a copy of the paperwork proving it is ours. That hasn’t failed us yet.

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35 Diane February 14, 2013 at 11:56 am

This is simply wildly incorrect. No one else’s debt can “become” yours unless you agree in writing to take it on. It can’t passively happen by default – in 30 days or 300 days – and anyone who told you this is selling you a bill of goods.

It works the other way. Companies have to prove debt is yours or stop trying to collect.

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36 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Yeah, I was gonna say that sounds awfully fishy. In that case scammers would be hitting people up left and right forcing us all to auto-accept all this make believe debt! :)

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37 Erin S February 13, 2013 at 2:50 pm

We get calls almost daily from debt collectors for people who had our number before us. We answer them sometimes to try and get them to remove our number, but it seems like we just get more calls then! I hate the ones that are a recording saying to call them back at another number. What the heck is up with that?!

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38 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I know!! It’s companies paying other companies to do calls for them/etc – makes the whole thing look like a big scam and totally messes things up… but hey, they’re saving money :)

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39 Nick @ ayoungpro.com February 13, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Two comments:

First, I love this: “you can’t have a different future if you keep doing the same things!”, so true.

Second, I’m sure your wife really did take care of that long ago and the debt collector is just trolling you. I have received plenty of those calls in the past and not one of them has been legitimate.

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40 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:37 pm

In this case it *was* actually true, if you can believe it. My wife called the place owed right away and got everything taken care of right there on the phone (after talking w/ a manager). It was a pain in her a$$ and she was incredibly upset about it all, but it was at least taken care of once and for all.

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41 K February 13, 2013 at 3:25 pm

A couple of years ago, a debt collector called my parents house and asked for my dad. I did the same thing that you did… pretty much asking what they wanted thinking that it was a spam call. Well it turns out the Bank of America was calling my dad because he apparently owed them thousands of dollars! My dad never had a credit card or line of credit or mortgage with them. And I told the debt collector this. Anyways, the harrasing phone calls continued so my dad ended up going down to the bank and asking them what the hell was going on. Turns out, they had the wrong number. Someone had the same name as my dad but a different social security number. the dumb employee made a mistake and called my dad instead

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42 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Haha see! Had he answered it and dealt with it from the start it all could have been avoided :) But good that he finally did!

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43 Mo' Money Mo' Houses February 13, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Oh wow, glad you answered that call! Ya lately I’ve been making sure to look into my spam box instead of just delete what’s in it, and I’m glad because there were some non-spam emails in there that were super important.

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44 debtgirl February 13, 2013 at 7:08 pm

That is awful. I had a debt collector one time for my daughters birth and it was so weird that it was like YEARS after. I paid it and moved on. But it was so weird. sometimes they come out of nowhere!

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45 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Yeah! And it’s always so scary! Haha…

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46 Brian February 14, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Ever since getting new life insurance and auto insurance, I’ve been getting calls from other insurers constantly. I’m robocalled at least twice a day, with little to stop them. They’re relentless!!

With regards to the credit reports, gah! I hope that it hasn’t ended up on there. That’ll be terrible if it does.

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47 J. Money February 14, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Time to answer all them and one by one shut ‘em down ;) Unless the Gecko guy directly calls you – I love that sexy green lizard.

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48 Cat February 18, 2013 at 11:41 am

That’s a scary phone call!!

PS you must be sooo relieved not having Facebook and twitter any more. I consider it every day… and then never get rid of them!

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49 J. Money February 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Oh yeah – much more freer! Though I do have it for my J. Money stuff, but luckily I’ve gotten that in control and I meet all kinds of wonderful people on :) In fact, my best friend and biz partner came from Twitter! It can definitely be awesome when used well.

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