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Mistaken or Stolen Identity in Debt Collector Mixup

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 [3]. 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 [4] 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?