What Is It with Debt Collectors Calling for Relatives Who Have Never Lived Here?

Updated on March 02, 2011
A.S. asks from Boca Raton, FL
22 answers

Both my husband and I have had, what sounds like, debt collection agencies calling for relatives who have never lived with us (at least not since we were little kids!).

How do you you all handle this?

My answer ALWAYS is "there is nobody here by that name" (which is the truth). I then ask them to stop calling or they will be treated as a nuisance call.

Are such calls a violation of the law? It almost seems like they are trying to embarass people (by having annoyed relatives getting on the alleged debtor's case). Would you guys tell the relative or just let it go? I don't want to put them on the spot; on the other hand if it was me I would want to know.

What can I do next?

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answers from Las Vegas on

I collect for the county and if I don't reach the responsible party, they jeopardize losing their home. I always try hard to reach the homeowner, but when it gets down to the wire, I call whoever I can to reach them. There are a number of reasons an individual didn't pay their bill, sometimes they move, sometimes they are in the hospital, or sometimes they may have lost their job and are depressed and have not opened mail. I try to be as discrete as possible, not to give personal information, but I know it is obvious I am collecting.

Just send them an email or text message with the information, as if you took a message for them. That is all I ask people to do, when I reach a relative. I never continue to harass a person that I asked to pass a message and hopefully that is not happening to you.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

We get the same calls for one of my relatives. My mom got one for my dad whom she divorced 20 years ago, and since then she has moved 3 times and changed states! They call because they can not find the person and they are hoping to find them by looking at the people they are linked to and asking them. I usually tell them that said person does not live here, but if they would like to leave their name and number I can forward the info, and that I want them to stop calling. This approach seems to have worked.

Also, NEVER give them the persons personal info!!! You have no idea if they really are who they say they are. Only agree to pass on their info to the person if you can find them.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Salt Lake City on

I work for a collection agency. Often, a debtor will list "references" on his/her application. These people are people they authorize the lender to contact if we have no other way of getting hold of the debtor (phone numbers all disconnected, as it often happens!). Debt collectors are NOT allowed to give out any particulars and are only allowed to ask for location information (so we can try to reach the debtor).

Additionally, many collection agencies use public records to locate debtors. Sometimes debtors will give relatives contact info as their own (annoying, huh!) as to avoid being tracked down easily. Also, many public record sites will list neighbors, associates and relatives which a collector might contact in order to find a current phone number/address for the debtor. So those are most likely the reason you are being called, even though your relative has never lived there.

All you need to do is nicely (or not so nicely!) say "Please do not call this number again". If they are a legitimate company who values their reputation and licensing, they will not call you again. And if they do, make sure you ask for a supervisor. You can also report them to the BBB and attorney general if they continue calling.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Cloud on

We get the same thing for my husbands brother and his wife!!! SO ANNOYING! And they don't even have a phone any more either because they couldn't or wouldn't pay the bill. BUT they did "borrow" and never return my mother-in-laws cell phone. So, every time we get a call asking for them, we tell them they don't live here BUT here is there number! And give them the cell number for my mother-in-law since we know they will never give the phone back! LOL.

Do you have their numbers. Start giving them out to the people calling~!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

your relatives may have put you down as a reference. Ask to talk to their manager and take you off their list. Let them know you are being harassed and the people their are looking for never lived in your home...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

They haven't been able to get ahold of your relatives... Your relatives may have given your name as a reference. This happened to us once when my SIL/BIL got behind on their car payment. I started getting calls asking for them or how they would be reached. I asked who was calling, what it was regarding, and what number I should have them call back. I then called my SIL and told her I received a call regarding _________ and she need to call them back at __________.
My SIL was so embarrassed that she called them back and we never got another call.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

They must have listed you as contacts if they cannot be reached. Give them your relatives new contact info and than sk them not to call you again.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi A.,

I would tell the relatives. They may have listed you and your # as a 'reference' which would be how the creditor got your # in the first place.

I wouldn't put them on the spot - I would just say - 'hey I got a call for you at my #. I didn't know who it was, so I didn't give out your info, but here is their # so you can call them back. Let them take it from there.
I would continue to say what you are saying to the callers.

You can also add them to the "do not call" list. But if they were given your # by the debtor, they can legally call you - even if YOU didn't consent.

Very annoying, though!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Sounds like your relatives may have listed you as a reference on something...there is no other reason for them to be calling you (absent you having co-signed something for them). It is possible that they are doing an investigation and tracking down the debts too -- in which case, maybe they are trying to do what you say (harass/embarass). I don't know that there is anything illegal about it. I get calls from debt collectors for people who have NEVER lived at my address and have not had my phone number since the last time it was in circulation before we got it in 2008 (and I don't think they just re-use them right away)....people we do not know or have never heard of. I just tell them we don't know that person, it is the wrong number, and STOP calling. Most of the time we screen our calls and let that stuff go to voice mail and delete it though.

I would tell the relative -- privately.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

They're data mining and looking to collect. Sometimes collectors will call to try to shame the person into paying now that x and y know their debts. The collector that called us knew full well his debtor didn't live here...he was just trying to wear them down.

I guess it depends on the situation. We simply passed the message that so and so company called. In the past I have also said, "You have the wrong number. No one by that name lives here."

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I tell them that I will only deal with them thru court orders. I want to talk to a lawyer and only thru certified letter. It fixes my getting calls asap.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Johnstown on

You were put down as a reference for the relatives. Just tell the collector they do not live there. Give the collector the relative's number and then tell the collector to stop calling you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

You have to know the relative and if it could just be a missed payment or if it's become a pattern. We got calls all the time - looking for dd. Seems she'd go to these payday loan places and get behind - AUGH!!! Then other folks starting calling on other things! Found out she used my number for contact - not her own! GRRR!! Gave the ones that would be nice any contact info I had -- the others were told good luck (those that wouldn't give me any idea what it was about). And thanks to an email buddy - even got the student loan folks to stop calling my house!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I don't know how, but it must have something to do with companies buying personal information from one another and doing a cross reference. We live in Ohio, and my FIL lives in Texas, and always has, and yet, we get solititations in the mail for him, and sometimes, for my deceased MIL too. We pay his electric bill, so maybe that is it. Who knows. It is annoying. We don't tell him if it sounds like a bill collector, we just say the same thing you do. I usually put the stamped, self addressed envelope in the mail without filling it out...just to let them pay postage, if I am feeling kind of naugthty.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Ask them who it is. Take their information first. THEN tell them to never call again and since you know who they are you can report them for harassment. Once you tell them to stop calling, it is a violation of the law to continue to call. Just so you know, if you have the same last name or if they put you down as an emergency contact, they will keep calling. You need to put a stop to it. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Collection agencys will do people searches and call up possible relatives that come up under the person's name. Just tell them that you don't know the person and hang up. If they call again, tell them the same and also that if they call again you'll obtain their mailing information and fill a report with your State's Attorney General. That will normally stop the calls after that. If they don't stop or get vulgar, get their mailing info, the name of the person you are speaking with and file that report!

I've had a company call my dad's before to collect for a Sears card I used to have. They were trying to collect $4000 on an account that had a 0 balance and that I had closed!! A lot of companies will try to scam people out of money, bank info and the what not so you have to be careful now days. I'd tell the person whom they are looking for if you know them.




answers from Chicago on

These debt collectors are getting really clever. If you go on various search engines looking for people, not only can you find them, but also people that they are related too. This is what the bill collectors are doing.

How did I find this out?
Well I thought I was a victim of identify theft when my uncle called me and said a bill collector was calling his house looking for who he thought was me. I said who did they ask for and he said my first name and his last name. I said now why would I want to use your last name for a cell phone and they have all of these pay as you go phones. Grant it, I've been with the same cell phone company for years. I checked my credit immediately to see if someone stole my identity. That wasn't it. Then I typed in the name he gave me and found out that she lived in his community. I also typed in his name and he is listed in the phone book. His phone no and address is on there and on another website this woman is listed as a possible relative, although she is not realted to us. This is why the bill collectors were calling him. I told him to call the manager and give them the woman's name, address, and phone no.

Also a bill collector was calling me for a family member that listed me as a reference at Rent a Center. I spoke with the manager and they stopped calling me.

That was it. It was annoying to him because I'm sure they were calling him like crazy and it was annoying to me to have to defend myself to my own family.



answers from Miami on

Wow, funny you should bring this up as just the other day my parents got a call from an agency looking for my ex husband. He has never lived there and we haven't seen him in over 5 years. To say my mom and dad were pissed is putting it mildly! My mom just said we don't know that person and please do not call here again. So far no other calls. I also used to get calls and mail for the lady who had my house before me who coincidently had the same last name as me. I even got told they were coming to my house to repossess stuff!! I called them up and went crazy and I also gave them some details of what I had learned from neighbors, like the area she had moved to etc. Then I thought "why am I doing there job for them" they should be looking for her themselves. lol



answers from Minneapolis on


Q:Can a debt collector contact anyone else about my debt?
A:If an attorney is representing you about the debt, the debt collector must contact the attorney, rather than you. If you don’t have an attorney, a collector may contact other people – but only to find out your address, your home phone number, and where you work. Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting third parties more than once. Other than to obtain this location information about you, a debt collector generally is not permitted to discuss your debt with anyone other than you, your spouse, or your attorney."



answers from Charlotte on



answers from Dover on

I get calls for people who have never lived at this address but I guess may have had this number (but not for at least 9 years). I have also gotten calls for relatives with completely different names. The only thing I can figure is 1. they have me linked to their names because I grew up in their home and then they cross reference and get my number or 2. at some point they have listed me on some application as a reference or family member.

I don't like to lie to anyone so I answer "I'm sorry but you have the wrong number". The next question is almost always "Do you know them?". I don't like to lie but when I say yes, they ask me for their number. Well, this particular family member has an unlisted telephone number but has had the same number since before I was born (I am almost 39). If they have legitimate business with them, then they already have their number. If not, I am not giving it. Also, if I become their messenger then the calls will never stop. So, I say "yes I know them but they have an unlisted number. Please take my number off your list".

I have then passed the info to my relative that someone from that number called. Only because of who this relative is.

They are trying for one or more of the following to happen...1 catch up to the debtor, 2. reach a friend or relative who will get them in contact with the debtor, or like you said 3. get pressure on the debtor to get the calls to stop.

Once you notify them that they have the wrong number, they are obligated to take your number out of their system for the debtor. You probably have to allow processing time but after that, I believe the calls would be against the law.



answers from Gainesville on

My sister received several calls from a debt collector looking for me, she told me & I felt quite bad. My sister has a different last name then me and I have never put doen her married name on any credit applications or her madien name either! I honestly don't know how they got her number. I told her to go ahead and tell the debt collector that I don't live there and not to call back and if she wanted to tell them my correct number that was fine, because of course I knew I owed (divorce issues) and i don't have to answer the call but this hopefully had the debt collector stop calling her. I would first tell them the relative does not live there, ask who is calling and then tell them not to call again and keep record of it if they call again. It could be harassment.

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