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Mistaken or Stolen Identity in Debt Collector Mixup

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Last week, Reader Anthony sent me a most puzzling email and one that kind of hit home for me. He has a fairly common name, much like Jim Wang is pretty common, and he’s been getting debt collection calls for another Anthony who lives in the same geographic area, shares the same exact name (including middle initial), and has fallen behind on some debts. here’s a portion of his email:

This other person, also in N. CA, with middle initial S., apparently is 3 months late on his credit cards from Macy’s, Capital One, and this one NCB Management (Google says this firm is a collections agency).

I’ve been getting repeated collections calls from these companies instead of this other guy. How did my name end up associated with this person? My best guess is a mysterious call I received on May 5th, from an unknown number, when a woman asked to verify my name and the up-to-dateness of my information. All that she asked was “Hi, am I speaking to Anthony Smith?” and “is this your current phone number?”…? Well of course it is, I answered. Then I tried to ask if she can tell me who she’s calling on behalf of, and she just said “sir, I am not allowed to reveal that information”…

But starting from the next day, I started getting collections calls, perhaps once a week. Every time I explain (with less patience each time) to the rep on the phone that I am the wrong person, and they apologize and promise to remove my number from their list. Except they don’t, I’ve gotten contacted on three occasions by Macy’s, twice by NCB, and three times by Capital One.

Fair warning to your readers – if they ever get one of these calls, make sure to be very specific on what they verify…


I did some research and some experts at Bankrate told me that there are potentially two scenarios:

  1. His identity might have been stolen or his credit report was commingled with another person’s report. In this case, it’s best for Anthony to review all of his credit reports to make sure it wasn’t one of these two. Hopefully it isn’t because these can get messy to unwind.
  2. It is a case of mistaken identity, the best option for him is to dispute the debt in writing and take advantage of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the collectors can’t prove it’s him, they have to stop contacting him or face stiff penalties. Unfortunately, he will probably have to do this no matter what the cause, since the debt isn’t his.

I’ve been fortunate never to have been mixed up in anything like this (thank you to all the other Jim Wangs out there!) but I can see this becoming a big pain. Does anyone out there have any additional advice for Anthony?

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7 Responses to “Mistaken or Stolen Identity in Debt Collector Mixup”

  1. Glenn Lasher says:

    There is a wealth of information on dealing with debt collectors over at The Consumerist. I recommend going over there and dropping the term “debt collector” into the search bar and sifting through the articles that come up. Amongst the search results, you will find sample letters to shut them up, info on suing them if they cause you too much trouble, and victory stories.

    Here’s a link: http://consumerist.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&limit=20&search=debt+collector

  2. tbork84 says:

    I would recommend keeping records of every conversation and exchange with them if possible in writing or recordings just to be on the safe side.

  3. mannymacho says:

    Well hey, as I recall Bargaineering did a pretty good series on debt collectors a while back also…

  4. Shirley says:

    My oldest son received a demand for collection for a $500+ debt that was not his. We sent a letter of dispute (using a sample from Consumerist) stating that the debt was not his and also asking for proof of the collection company’s ownership of this debt. He never heard from them again. :-)

  5. Anthony says:

    Hi – I am the “Anthony” in this post.

    Minor correction – I realize now that my original writing was a little confusing. I meant to only say this other person with the same First and Last Name, also living in N. CA, *BUT*! with a DIFFERENT Middle Initial.

    A little progress update – Macy’s and NCB hasn’t called since. I wrote to Capital One and they responded with further assurances. We’ll see about that…

    Macy’s assured me this other person did not re-use my SSN. Also checked my credit reports – this other person did not steal my identity. This mess up is all on the bank’s side, using that likely 3rd party contact finder to hunt down a phone number.


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