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Have you received calls on your cell phone from debt collectors calling for someone else? Did the debt collector use a pre-recorded or computer generated voice?

These calls may be a violation of federal laws, including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Debt collector calls not intended for the recipient can be stressful and, if continued, harassing.

The TCPA protects consumers from harassing calls and telemarketing calls to a cell phone using an autodialer or pre-recorded voice. Debt collectors calling for someone else may be violating this law.

The TCPA prohibits various conduct, including:

1. Placing robocalls to a cell phone using a prerecorded or computer generated voice;

2. Placing robocalls to a landline using a prerecorded or computer generated voice for telemarketing (not collection) purposes;

3. Sending unsolicited advertising faxes to fax machines or computers.

Under the TCPA, recipients of unlawful communications may be able to collect between $500 and $1,500 per violation by filing a lawsuit or joining a class action against the offending company.

The FDCPA prohibits collection calls which contain misrepresentations, such as an assertion that a recipient of a call or text message who is not the actual debtor owes money.

Debt Collector Calling But No Debt?

There are a number of reasons why debt collectors may be calling the wrong person. Debtors may accidentally give the wrong number, or it may be taken down incorrectly by a creditor or debt collection company. Numbers are often reassigned; the new subscriber will start getting calls for the original owner of the number. There is a reassigned number database that collectors are supposed to consult, but compliance is spotty. Poor skip-tracing is another major reason.

Regardless of the reason, debt collector calls meant for the wrong person may be illegal. However, consumers may be able to seek compensation for these TCPA and FDCPA violations through legal action.

If you get collection calls intended for someone else, tell the caller that they have the wrong person. Keep careful track of all calls received after that time: number from which call was made; number call was received on; whether it was a cell phone; whether a recorded or computer generated voice was used in making the call (e.g., "press 1 to speak to a representative"); and what you told the caller.

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