Mistaken Identity

I keep getting harassing phone calls from a creditor who is looking for my mother. She does not live with me and has never lived with me. I’ve never dealt with anything like this. Is there anything I can do about this constant harassment?
— K.M. Johnson, Detroit

After much research and sleuthing around the Federal Trade Commission, I’ve got an answer for you. Assuming you are getting calls about a debt collection, there are some practices that creditors must adhere to in order to communicate with third parties (in this case, you). According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, unless the consumer (in this case, your mother) consents, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person except the consumer, his or her attorney, a reporting agency, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.

The Act also prohibits a debt collector from harassing, oppressing, or abusing any person in connection with the collection of a debt. This includes unnecessary calls to third parties and implied threat, including pressuring consumers with phrases such as: “We’re going to send somebody to collect for us one way or the other.”

To stop the calls, inform the creditor it is violating the FDCPA. Also, “you can send a letter stating the collector stop harassing you,” says Claudia Bourne Farrell, spokesperson for the FTC in Washington, D.C. If you are still unsatisfied, you can file a complaint with the FTC (877-382-4357; www.ftc.gov) or contact your state’s attorney general’s office. If all else fails, you may want to change to an unlisted phone number.