Skip Nav
How to Stay Focused in a World Full of Distractions
Budget Tips
21 Little Ways to Save Money Every Day
Budget Tips
7 Options For Finding Cheap (or Free!) Fitness Classes

What to Do When You Get a Call From a Credit Collector

Ask Savvy: Bill Collectors Are Calling Me — But They're Looking For My In-Laws!

Dear Savvy,

I'm having a problem with creditors calling my house to try to find my in-laws. They evidently aren't paying their bills, and since they don't want to be bothered with the creditors, the creditors end up calling my husband and I. This is happening more and more frequently. My husband hasn't been in contact with most of his family since we got married, almost five years now, for reasons much like this. My question is - is there any way to stop the creditors from calling us? And can this cause harm to our own credit? The creditors themselves are usually very nice, and I feel badly that we can't help them retrieve their money from people who choose not to pay the bills. We tried contacting my husband's mom when this all started, but all she said is that she has it taken care of, and refused to take the contact information for the collection agency. Is there any way to solve this embarrassing problem and is there any safeguarding we should be doing for ourselves?

To read my answer just

A: Oy vey! It must be awful having to field uncomfortable collection calls for your estranged mother-in-law! The good news is there are steps you can take to stop the collectors from calling you, and none of this will affect your credit as long as none of her cards are tied to you or your husband.

The latest report published by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on debt collection practices was issued in January. It showed that 22.1 percent (or 15,314 consumers) filed complaints due to debt collectors making repeated calls to employers, friends and family to gather information that would assist them in collecting the debt. What this means is that you're not alone in receiving calls on behalf of an in-debt family member, but it also means that the collectors actions aren't in line with your rights.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that was created to, as the name obviously suggests, promote fair debt collection practices. The creditors weren't violating the FDCPA when they initially contacted you, but it is a violation once they've continued to call even after you've told them you're the wrong person. The best solution would be for you to send the agencies written letters requesting they stop contacting you for information about a debt that isn't yours. You have no obligation to communicate with the creditors because you're not the one in debt.

I encourage you and your husband to check your credit report regularly — you want to be sure his mother doesn't open any cards using yours or your husband's social security number. That would trigger a whole other identity theft mess, and one that would be much bigger than the one you have on your hands right now. Just stay on top of it, and everything will work out!


Join The Conversation
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
Collection agencies are the WORST. I got trapped in a bad situation right out of college and my cellphone account went default. Even though I set up a plan with the collections agency to take care of it, I was STILL called every single day. When they talk to you, they're always mean, rude and hateful. I was so frustrated, but learned my lesson.... I am more careful about what companies I sign with (never again, AT&T) and I will never let any of my accounts go default again, so I don't have to deal with those incompetant jerks anymore. My family members never had to deal with them, thankfully, because I was always forthright with the company. I do live in my sister's old house though and she has several delinquent accounts. Even though there's a new phonenumber, collection agencies will still harrass US about my sister! Ugh.
insanitypepper insanitypepper 9 years
We get phone calls from collection agencies about our NEIGHBORS. So annoying!
michstines michstines 9 years
Ugh..been there. I'm always getting calls about my dad. He has messed with my credit in the past. NO FUN.
kaenai kaenai 9 years
Even though I'd been in communication with the collections department for one of my cards, they continued to harass my aunt, calling her at all hours of the day and evening. Unfortunately, her husband works the overnight shift, so he's trying to sleep during the day. He told them repeatedly that I don't live there, but they didn't listen. I ended up telling him to send a letter, but he didn't bother. Happily, I started working again, and was able to put an end to it myself.
verily verily 9 years
I have been getting collection calls for some stranger who gave out my telephone number, so I sympathize. Just telling them to stop calling your number does not work. To stop them, you will need to ask them for their address and send a Cease & Desist letter. I haven't bothered to do that, but that is the recommended path. Instead, I just check my caller ID and don't pick up if it's them. They are starting to give up, as I'm only getting one call a week now. I'm betting they'll stop altogether in a month. Since these are calls for someone you know, definitely check your credit report to make sure they didn't open anything up in your name!
chancleta chancleta 9 years
yowzers i think i'd take the easy way out and change my number
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
my brother in law gave out our number and his collectors call my house constantly. We initially tell them he doesnt live there, and give them the number we have for him (which they always have , he just doesnt answer them) and they will stop calling. UNTILL another company buys that debt and they start calling, or the lawyers get in on it, I have had up to 18 messages a week, and they arent pretty. we have told my brother in law this, and he insists that he paid it (BS!)
cvandoorn cvandoorn 9 years
Yeah, check your credit ASAP because why would they be calling you? You can also ask them to take off your contact info and give them your in-laws' telephone number. If that doesn't work, then you will have to get a new number, and DO NOT give this new number to the in-laws.
moss1080 moss1080 9 years
My best friend recently got married and upon my suggestion checked their credit for the first time (I suggested it pre-wedding) only to find the shocking truth that his mother had opened 5 lines of credit with his information. Needless to say, they are going through a rough patch and now face the reality that they cannot buy a home.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Please hurry and check your credit score, just in case they used your husband's personal information to open credit. I would change my number if I was you two. If you have a cell phone number in which his family has then that should be suffice enough. There is nothing you can do about them calling you because the family is continuing giving your number as contact information. I pray that they have not used your husband's credit. Good Luck!
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
wow. I didn't even know that they could do that. :?
How to Avoid Credit Card Skimmers
How to Respond When Asked For Salary Requirements
How to Avoid Bank Fraud Scammers
How to Decrease Student Loan Debt
From Our Partners
Latest Career & Finance
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds