Dell Has Called Every Day For The Past Eight Months… And I'm Not A Customer!

Every day for the past eight months, Dell has called Kat to demand payment for a bill she doesn’t owe. Kat unfortunately inherited the phone number of a Dell debtor when she started a new job, something Dell would rather overlook—along with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Kat has tried calling, escalating, and having the debtor tell Dell to leave her alone. Dell continually assures her that the problem has been fixed. And then they call again.

She recently sent us the Executive Email Carpet Bomb she lobbed towards Dell’s headquarters:

To: tips@consumerist.com
Cc: michael_dell@dell.com, donald_carty@dell.com, ronald_garriques@dell.com, michael_cannon@dell.com, mark_jarvis@dell.com, lawrence_tu@dell.com, susan_sheskey@dell.com, andrew_esparza@dell.com, paul_bell@dell.com, stephen_felice@dell.com, david_marmonti@dell.com, brad_anderson@dell.com, jeffrey_clarke@dell.com, martin_garvin@dell.com, alex_gruzen@dell.com, joan_hooper@dell.com, william_gray@dell.com

Good Morning,
This is my last resort. I am writing today to share with you a problem that has become so excessive over the last eight months that I no longer know what to do with it. I have given up the idea of ever having a Dell hassle-free life so I am just trying to live mine by minimizing their interruptions in my day to day life. Here is my story:

I am not a Dell customer. I DO NOT OWN ANY DELL PRODUCTS (AND I NEVER WILL). I got a new job last July and for my job I inherited a very important phone number that all of my clients have used for the past seven years. I work for an extremely small non-profit (i.e. I am the only paid employee) and I work with youth and their families. I have 30 families who move around often and the only way we keep in contact is through this stable phone number so changing my number was not and option.

In August 2007 I started receiving calls from the Dell collection center in India. The calls were not for me or my job, they were for the man who previously had my job and phone number. He linked his personal Dell account to his then work phone number. The first ten times Dell called I gave them the previous employee’s new phone number and asked them to remove my number from that account as it was no longer current… But the calls kept coming….

Steps I have taken to avoid hearing from Dell:

1) I notified the person they were trying to reach. I had him call and change his contact information. He did that and Dell assured him the problem was solved and that they would not call me again. But the calls kept coming…

2) I had 6 lengthy conversations with supervisors at the Dell Call Center in India. Sometimes they would give me a badge number, recording ID, their name and one time in a thick Indian accent I was told I was speaking with a “Michelle Woodward” for the record. Dell promised the problem was solved and that they would not call me again. But the calls kept coming…

3) I called the customer service line on Dell’s website. Since I am not a Dell customer and I don’t even know what item they want me to pay for that I do not own, it was a long and frustrating call. In the end Dell assured me the problem was solved and that they would not call me again. But the calls kept coming…

Now, 8 months later, Dell calls my work phone up to three times daily. I finally bought a new phone (but I can’t change the number because I need it to do my job) just so I could set it to ring silently when Dell calls. I try to ignore the calls the best I can, but recently the calls have started coming from local DC numbers as well as the Indian 800 number. I am sometimes fooled into answering the local calls only to find that I am again on the phone with a company where I am not a customer.

Now I understand that people must lie and give fake phone numbers to dodge paying for their stuff. I am sympathetic to a point about how hard it must be to streamline a system. But I have done everything in my power to point Dell in the right direction, but they refuse to take my number out of the system. Dell you don’t want me. Please leave me alone.

Finally someone suggested that I write to consumerist. I saw the Dell executive emails on your site, so I will be CCing this email to them as well. All of them. We will see if they respond. Maybe I will start calling them three times a day.

Sincerely,
Dell’s used up call girl
Kat

We see that Kat cc’d Lawrence Tu, Dell’s General Counsel, who should be able to recognize that Dell is flagrantly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. 15 U.S.C. 1692c(b) states:

Except as provided in section 1692b of this title, without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector, or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as reasonably necessary to effectuate a postjudgment judicial remedy, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.

We’re not sure if Kat has standing to sue Dell for harassment under the Act, but maybe a helpful consumer lawyer can appear in the comments and offer some advice.

(Photo: publicprivate)

Comments

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  1. Amelie says:

    I sympathize with her situation. I received calls from various collection agencies several times a day for someone who shared my last name. Knowing the douchbaggery of collection agencies, I never picked up. They have since given up.

    Then I got a new cell phone and received several calls a day for the deadbeat who used to own the number. I picked up for those calls and had success in getting them to stop.

    Call centers from India are particularly persistent as the employees jobs are threatened if they don’t succeed.

  2. I sympathize as well. It took about two years at our new phone number for the debt collectors and truancy officer to stop calling the person who had this number last. The debt collectors I get why they kept calling and calling and calling, but it kinda snarked me off that the school and the truancy officer kept calling after I corrected them thirty-odd times. How hard is it for a school with 400 students to keep track of a phone number? Especially when he seems to be their star problem student.

    (And many, many, many, many FERPA violations on my answering machine. MANY.)

  3. spamtasticus says:

    Rather simple really. Add your number to the federal do not call list. Then start filing a complaint for each and every call. It carries a $10,000 fine for each call.

  4. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    @spamtasticus:
    It would’nt apply since the calls are being placed for the purpose of collecting on a debt. Still, the OP needs to be sure to maintain careful and detailed logs of the calls. I work in collections and the fines for what dell is doing are quite steep.

  5. Dobernala says:

    Keep a record of the calls and get a lawyer. Don’t know the how the laws work, but I think you can get some money for each call you get after telling them to stop.

  6. katylostherart says:

    yeah, that indian call center man, they really get around. what’s the legality of that? are people in collections call centers legally obligated to give you their real first name or some sort of id number? if so, does this not apply if the center’s in india? if it still applies because the primary collections company outsourcing is located in the us how do we go about getting this fixed?

    i mean i could see how maybe one man with an indian accent calling to collect someone else’s debt has a common western name, but not if you repeatedly call the center and everyone seems to have picked a name out of a catholic school’s year book.

    how is that legal?

  7. mgy says:

    My girlfriend called me in tears one day because Old Navy had found out her work phone number and called nonstop about a bill that was late 10 days. Seriously clogged her lines. She told them to stop calling, but they didn’t. I picked up the phone, called the number and as deeply and firmly as I could, told them that they will not call again. I had the man repeat it to me over the phone, I informed him that I was recording him (I wasn’t), and that there would be hell to pay if we received another call. He kept on insisting that he needed to talk to my girlfriend, but I kept on enough that he finally just agreed to stop the calls.

    I find that being cooperative with these people gets you nowhere :

  8. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    A friend of mine who works for a large tech company that uses outsourced India tech support informed me of a few things.

    What is being said in this letter is true, and will most likely not stop from just calling and talking to people in India. I was informed that the people are paid by the call, so they tend to put in the wrong information. They most likely said they were changing it, but probably did not. What if, like it states in the letter, that it is a false number… they now lose their chance of collecting and getting that paycheck. Yeah its shady for them to do it, but their business ethic is pretty low.

    This is what we get in america as consumers who demand lower prices, and as investors who want higher profits. The prices get raised while merchandise and service quality goes down, in the ever increasing world of higher profits.

  9. ampersand says:

    I dunno if she could sue, but maybe the person who owns the debt could sue for violating his privacy by talking to her about his debt?

  10. NeoteriX says:

    I don’t even think the email to Dell is necessary or helpful. The magical win solution:

    Next time they call, you tell the agent on the other end that you are not the debtor they are looking for and that they are “now on notice” of that fact. Any further phone calls will be construed as a willful violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and you will be forced to take legal action against them with attorneys fees and punitive damages to the extent permitted by statute. Good day.

    That will shut them up, and worked quite well for some debt collector harassing my parents (looking for the wrong person). Oh and, IANYL.

  11. Thomas Palmer says:

    SUE THEIR @$$!!!

    Sorry for the language, but if any company deserves to be sued for something, it should be this.

  12. calvinneal says:

    You are dealing with persons from a lawless third world nation. They have no rights at home. They know nothing of your rights, Remember, these are people that have complete contempt for Americans. They cannot be arrested or stopped. Change the number, give it out to everyone and then forget it!

  13. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    @mgy:
    Good. I hope they stop calling your girlfriend. You have no idea how much trouble an agency can get if they continue calling a workplace EVEN IF you owe a debt. By law, ANY employee including yourself can request a verbal cease and desist and the request HAS to be fulfilled. And no, you don’t have to: Fill out a form, have to be the debtor making the request, or pay the bill THEN have the calls stop. If a collector has the cohones to tell you he or she needs to speak with your GF then they’re full of shit. Since the calls can interfere with your work policies and may result in your possible termination for breaking those policies, the “verbal do not call” is very serious. Therefore, MGY…if those assholes continue calling your GF then they are breaking the law, plain and simple. Bugging your poor girlfriend while she’s at work is un-cool and only adds to the already stressful retail workplace. I hope it gets resolved.

  14. FLConsumer says:

    Ask them for an address to send payment to, then send them a certified return-receipt letter (make copies of everything for your own records) stating the facts (and the law) and that THEY agree to pay you $500 per phone call 7 days after receipt of the letter. This gives them plenty of time to delete the # from their system. It also provides you a nice source of income when you take it to court. This isn’t much different from the idiotic “End User License Agreement” Dell packages with everything they sell. Probably would stand up in court as well.

  15. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    @FLConsumer:
    Good suggestion: writing and sending a request to only communicate via mail and not telephone is a good strategy. Once you make the request with the collector a 10 day C&D is placed on your account in order to give you sufficient amount of time in which to have your request received. After you have confirmed the request is received then it’s time to start making notes.

  16. Skellbasher says:

    @calvinneal: The company they are calling on behalf of is in the US , therefore they are liable under US laws. The OP shouldn’t be required to change their number to escape illegal calls.

    OP : Find a knowledgeable FDCPA attorney, this is an open an shut lawsuit that should get them to stop the harassment.

  17. oneswellfoop says:

    Have a setup by your phone for recording calls. When they call again pick up and start the recorder. Inform them, after getting the reps name and ID number, that you are recording the call and ask them if they understand that. Don’t let them get a word of information or argument out of you until they have said that they understand and accept that the call is being recorded. Have them state the company they are calling from as well as all relevant details so that you can prove that it is Dell calling.
    Inform them (as stated above) that your name is :insert name here: and you are not the debtor. Tell them they are on notice of that in regards to the fair debt collection laws. Tell them that this is harassment, is causing you emotional duress, disturbing personal and work time, and interfering with your ability to perform your job, endangering your employment in the job that you have, and otherwise taking on substantial fiscal liabilities by continuing to disturb you. Have them state that they understand this and will stop calling.
    Don’t argue, repeat things as many times as necessary, and say only what you have to to steer them into saying that they understand the things you have said. Do the same the next three or four times they call, and then sue dell in small claims court for compensation for your time and added stress. I’d see if the non profit could sue dell as well, to add to the good cause. It’s possible that charges could be brought for harassment. Contact the FCC and see if Dell can be fined for harassment.
    Good luck.

  18. Riddar says:

    @FLConsumer: Great advice, except for the bit about the $500 per call. Unless backed up by specific law (as in the case of a few state-specific spam laws) aren’t necessarily entitled to any money for being called just because you sent them a letter. You would need their written agreement for anything like that to be valid. On a side note, EULAs are not always binding past existing law, and you do technically agree to those.
    [www.theregister.co.uk]

    Now, if this were to become a harassment suit (and if your advice was followed and the calls continued, I imagine it could) I imagine Dell would settle on other terms.

  19. Mary says:

    @mgy: I had a severe problem with Old Navy’s debt collectors as well, for a problem that in the end turned out to be THEIR fault instead of mine.

    They called me 10 times a day for a week before I finally managed to answer the phone (they only called during my work hours, when I had the phone in a locker and couldn’t answer). Nothing I said or did helped, they wanted me to pay a fee and a charge that I didn’t feel I owed because it was their mistake in the first place. They promised me they would take care of it, they never did.

    This hassle ended up lasting two months, and the result was not just that I ended up paying $80 for a $20 charge just to get them to leave me alone, but also that I closed the account after the first charge and refuse to shop with them or any of their associated companies again.

    I think I came out better in the long run because their products are terrible, but I strongly suggest that nobody ever, ever consider getting an Old Navy/Gap credit card.

    Ever. Ten calls a day is not me exaggerating, I started keeping track.

    Good luck to the OP, if this doesn’t solve her problem she certainly should call a lawyer. I believe collectors are only allowed to call a certain number of times, and this probably exceeds it.

  20. jimda says:

    i think she should pay the bill, that will shoe them, who will they call then?

  21. dweebster says:

    I had a similar situation to this courtesy of Sprint’s “outsourced to Jamaica” debt collection. Although they had the correct number (not hard for Sprint to find) and person (me), unbeknownst to me their warehouse never logged in some returned phones a few months prior to them calling me. Even though I had deliberately charged the phones to my credit card to avoid any interaction with my service account, Sprint (probably illegally) credited my service account and THEN charged the service account for the phone hardware. The long and the short of it was when I mentioned to my credit card that Sprint was long overdue with a credit for the returned phones and have all documentation, they investigated it and eventually put a chargeback through. At that point Sprint put the service account into arrears without bothering to tell me, and then suddenly some debt collectors on the island of Jamaica are shaking me down for two thousand dollars – and told me all of my phones would be turned off the next day if I didn’t send them $2000.00 I did not owe them. It was my first interaction with a “debt collection” process as I have always paid all my (legitimate) bills, and I was told over and over by the Jamaican idiots as well as the CSRs that once it reaches collections you can only pay them whatever they demand if you want them to go away. Mafioso tactics like that are bad enough, even worse when they are trying to collect a non-existent debt… and they seem to have set up the system with absolutely no way to get their records corrected. Not even Sprint CSRs that could SEE Sprint’s error had any method of staving off a complete disconnect within 8 hours.

    In my case it was my entire family’s cell service at risk, in the OP’s case it’s her sanity and her job. From Dell’s agent’s behavior, they’ve obviously also set up a pattern of harassing innocent people with absolutely no way of correcting it. Dell has corporate locations in United States soil, and you should be able to subpoena and take them to court once you’ve documented enough of this criminal behavior. I know for a fact that Dell hides their Executive Escalation offices behind a frustratingly deep army of idiot minions (a huge layer apparently in India), so it looks like if they already haven’t taken the hint then you might consider the recording and documenting noted above, then invest the $100.00 to sue the bastards in small claims for the lost work hours and whatever else they are violating with this. At a minimum send a registered letter to their “Executive Counsel” at the address here: [www.hoovers.com]
    alerting them of your phone number and that they have been made well aware many times of the fact that their agents are illegally harrassing you and that you are prepared to take legal action against them if they do not cease and desist. You might even ask for some financial reimbursement for you and your employer for the damage already incurred, what the hell.

    BTW – IANAL. But I do buy stuff.

  22. bohemian says:

    Re: the people with the Old Navy harassments. I can’t imagine those cards in the long run having any benefits to them. In the long run you would have spent less effort, headache and probably money if you paid cash or used a regular debit or credit card.

    I had some dweeb in an Old Navy ask me six times in the process of paying for a couple of t-shirts if I wanted to sign up for a card. There is obviously some serious profit margin in getting people to use these cards.

  23. thirdbase says:

    Do these calls originate from Dell’s Buffalo office.

  24. mgy says:

    @Meiran: 10 calls a day is a lowball estimate I’d say. She had explained to them that the payment was already in the mail, but it never stopped them.

  25. dweebster says:

    @Meiran: Call up Gap HQ in San Francisco [www.hoovers.com] and request your money back, with interest *and* an apology letter and maybe a store credit for pulling that shit. Even though these companies outsource their credit operations to global nogoodnicks like G.E. Capital and others, it’s still THEIR company name on the cards and it’s up to *THEM* to make sure their outsourced credit thugs aren’t mucking up their expensive corporate image by wrongly shaking down innocent people. Paying the thugs off so they “go away” works to get them off your back, but then they are more emboldened down the road to continue screwing with other innocent people – which will eventually be YOU again (via another company’s card if necessary). Gap sales and reputation have been gradually sinking into the toilet for years, and for what they put you through may be open to making things right for you. AND – when an exec gets personally involved, it finally has a chance of changing the problem. CSRs can’t do much if anything – regardless of their IQ and ethics, they’re stuck with what the computer lets them do… It’s the Big Shots that hold all the control, and those are the ones you need to reach.

  26. jennieblue22 says:

    @socalrob: I know many (including people close to the family) that work for these tech companies, and ~85-95% of the time, it’s NOT the people themselves, but the company they work for (in this case, Dell) that engages in these shady practices, or orders the tech guys to do so. The poor tech guys risk losing their jobs if they don’t comply, then get blamed by the governments (Indian and US) if the company gets caught. (In this case I bet they didn’t get the money from the guy who owes, and Dell wanted the money paid no matter what) It’s a sad catch-22, and part of the reason my own mother quit working for tech support (here in the US, but for similar reasons). Many less wealthier workers probably didn’t have that option, both in India and America. That’s why I try to make it a point to shop where I know the businesses don’t do this kind of thing.

  27. Amy Alkon000 says:

    The Feds act on very, very few of the complaints.

  28. Pylon83 says:

    The issue here is the fact that the FDCPA only applies to 3rd party debt collectors. If the person calling is a Dell employee, collecting under Dell’s name, the FDCPA does not apply, and the OP can’t utilize its protections. See 15 U.S.C. 1692 §806(b) and (b). The OP needs to ascertain who the person calling actually works for, and if it is indeed a 3rd party debt collection agency, and not a Dell subsidiary, I’d also suggest going the attorney route. This isn’t to say there are not other civil remedies for the situation, but the FDCPA isn’t one of them.

  29. SkyeBlue says:

    I’ve found from experience that the best way to get the bill collectors, and others, to leave me alone is to help them out since they can’t seem to do their jobs very well.

    When I started getting calls for my X on an Mervyn’s credit card account he was not paying, I GLADLY just gave them his new address and phone number. Took care of that problem and got a bit of revenge in to boot.

    When I kept continually receiving collection calls at my home number that I have had for 5 years for a man I don’t know I just looked his telephone number up in my local phone book and gave it to them. NO calls for him since. This after a year of receiving calls asking for this man and telling them that NO this was not his number. I guess it hadn’t occurred to this “Bill collection professional” to just try calling directory assistance.

    A pissed off eBay buyer who was given my telephone number by an online people search company as being an acquaintance to a eBay seller who had ripped him off for a $1,000.00 on stereo equipment. He had a name, but that was all. A short Zabasearch.com search found the guy living in California.

  30. Isn’t there a FDCA rule that says he can request in writing that they no longer call him?

  31. snowpuff says:

    While Dell has made a mistake, the people the OP is writing to clearly do not know about it. Yelling at them in a long meandering letter is not a productive start…

  32. mgy says:

    @snowpuff: Of course they don’t know about it. That’s the point of the letter. They are the movers and shakers. They get things done. Obviously the OP has attempted the traditional routes, and had no luck. I applaud the EECB attempt in this circumstance.

  33. AaronZ says:

    Can you tell them “hold on a moment” and then leave them on hold indefinately? That’ll put a crimp in the # of calls they get to make (assuming they’re paid by the call.)

    Another thing you could do is use 3 way calling to forward them to a different dell 800#. Then they’re calling themselves! It doesn’t help you, but it might make you feel better to know that they’re just annoying each other. :p

  34. mac101 says:

    @Pylon83:

    You are correct. The FDCPA only covers third party collectors and Debt Buyers. Since Dell is the OC (Original Creditor) they are not bound by the FDCPA.

    The OP needs to look in to their states collections laws. Some have adopted the FDCPA and it is applicable to both third party and OC debts.

    I think that telephone harrasment charges could be filed. It looks like the OP has a log of the calls, and their attempts to rectify the situation.

  35. STrRedWolf says:

    Definitely get a lawyer. It’s crossed that threshold and the OP needs to get a court-ordered TRO against Dell for calling. I think a C&D won’t work in this reguard, but IANAL.

  36. Snakeophelia says:

    I guess I was lucky. While AT&T was persistent at first in trying to reach the deadbeat who had my phone number in the past, they did stop when I called them back and spoke with them.

    The problem was with the deadbeat himself. Just when we thought we’d dealt with all his bill collectors, one called me – two years after the number became our phone number – and that’s when we found out he was STILL GIVING OUT our number as his number when he wrote people bad checks and such. We got our landline disconnected not long after that.

  37. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @snowpuff: She’s not yelling at them, she’s explaining the situation — since they don’t know about it. Of course she sounds frustrated, but not whiny or belligerent.

    And if the story is “meandering,” it’s because Dell is incapable of resolving a simple issue when given the necessary information. She’s just telling the story of their repeated failure. It’s their fault it’s gone on so long.

  38. tankitore says:

    If it’s not your bill, it’s not your problem. Get caller ID and use it. If you insist on talking to them, get them to send you the bill they say you owe. Once you have the bill, you can dispute it once and for all with a letter by stating – in as few words as possible – that the bill isn’t yours. Someone will have to be named as the debtor. Forget about a lawsuit – you are getting some bad advice about that.

  39. onlydarksets says:

    I wouldn’t waste my time with it. Get a new phone number and distribute it to all of your clients. Whenever someone legit calls you on the old number, give them the new number. After a short time, you won’t have any legit calls on the old number.

  40. morganlh85 says:

    Sue them for harrassment for the max possible in small claims court. Have them served at a Dell kiosk (if there are any left…). They won’t show up and you’ll win a default judgement.

  41. edrebber says:

    Most telephone carriers have call blocking. Block the telephone number. Get an air horn and activate into the receiver every time they call.

  42. DogTown says:

    @calvinneal:
    “They know nothing of your rights, Remember, these are people that have complete contempt for Americans.”

    These people are agents of Dell, so Dell is responsible for their work related actions and could probably be taken to court to stop this harassment.

  43. twinklebean912 says:

    This happened to me once, from some collection agency looking for a guy. They threatened, called me names, etc and no matter how often I told them he doesn’t live here it didn’t matter. I had the phone line for at least five years and I told the person that there was no way that this was the number of the person they were looking for unless they were given a fake number and I was the unlucky soul to receive the calls. The guy then informed me I was lying and the guy had to be making calls from inside my house because that’s the number that was registered. After more arguing, I hung up and called my phone company, gave them the phone number of the collections agency, the agent’s name and extension (which i asked for and he gladly gave since it meant the dude might call), and asked them to do what they have to do to prove that I am the owner of the phone line, not the other guy. I then called my attorney general and filed a complaint with them.

    Never received another call.

  44. GizmoBub says:

    Under the law the collection people would be considered agents acting within their scope of employment and would bind Dell by their actions.

    @edrebber: as much as I would like to agree that the air horn would be a good idea, certainly satisfying, it might open you up to some kind of counterclaim if they experience permanent hearing loss.

    The recording of the calls sounds like a good idea as is the requesting of the physical bill to be sent to you. I would recommend that once you have the bill in hand and several recordings of your calls that you make copies and send them to the general counsel for Dell along with a letter stating that you are not the person responsible for the bill and that you have tried repeatedly to correct the situation. Further you should state that you intend to retain counsel if necessary and commence a suit for any and all causes of action (including harrasment and various consumer protection laws) but that you wanted to give them an opportunity to remedy the situation without having to bring the issue to court.

    ***This does not constitute legal advice. I am not a lawyer***

  45. dweebster says:

    @onlydarksets: If you choose to go this route make sure to document in detail every expense to add as damages that you expect Dell to pony up. This situation as described has clearly entered the realm of harassment and Dell Inc. is your stalker. If their behavior continues despite repeatedly informing them you are not the person they are seeking AND even going to the extent of giving them the info of the person they seek, then hire an answering service to screen your calls on that number, get another new number, and send the bill (along with an estimate of the hours your org has lost and Dell should reimburse) to their HQ- return receipt requested. Sue them in Small Claims if they fail to settle up with you – these are actual costs of their actions. The idiots are disrupting your work in a major way, and obviously Dell has given their outsourced Indian collection agency zero ability to do anything but threaten people for money regardless of whether they owe it.

  46. Pylon83 says:

    @GizmoBub:
    That’s an awfully bold legal conclusion for someone who is not a lawyer.

  47. enine says:

    I had a similar problem where debt collectors were calling my brother. I began asking for a supervisor and started explaining that I don’t know how to reach him that the last number I had he doesn’t answer and if they kept trying to harass me for debt that is not mine I would be filing chargers. I also asked for their company name and looked them up on the internet and asked if the address on their web site was where he was calling from, etc, basically getting all the information I would need to fill out complaints and verified it with the supervisor after getting his name and made sure I knew the correct spelling, etc so he knew it would come back to him.

  48. JackAshley says:

    I would attempt to see how much info I could get about the previous customer from the calls, then Dell has the added weight of distributing private information to a stranger :)

  49. GizmoBub says:

    @Pylon83: Uh, while I’m not a lawyer (yet) I do know quite a bit about the law. It’s more an issue of not ethically being able to give legal advice upon which someone should rely as if it were from a lawyer admitted to practice. As for the agency thing, that’s basic legal knowledge [[en.wikipedia.org]) – specifically since there is invariably a contract between the collections people and dell that would be actual authority would would bind the principal, Dell]. So is that enough for you or do you need some kind of memo with case law and citations to Restatement of Agency (Second)?

  50. GizmoBub says:

    Noticed that the link didn’t work: [en.wikipedia.org])

  51. GizmoBub says:

    Still doesn’t work, just look up agency law in wikipedia…

  52. Pylon83 says:

    @GizmoBub:
    I’m familiar with Agency law, but your claim is a bit over broad. Since you don’t know the particulars of the case, you can’t make that conclusion. I imagine the fact that the “Agent” is based in a foreign country might affect the outcome. Further, the state Dell is based/incorporated in might have statutes or caselaw pertaining to vicarious liability. It’s not an absolute concept, and as a (presumably) law student, you should know that a citation to the Restatement of Agency is secondary authority and isn’t binding. I’m not saying that you’re wrong, because I haven’t done the research, but your claim is too broad either way.

  53. Buran says:

    @NeoteriX: The OP has already told them that they are calling the wrong number.

    The answer is to sue for harassment. Repeatedly calling someone who has told you to stop is harassment.

  54. Buran says:

    @tankitore: She has. They are actively attempting to continue to harass her by using fake caller ID to get around her call screening. And if this EECB fails, the law definitely needs to be involved. There’s real hurt for them if they fail to stop at that point.

  55. StevenJD says:

    Forget the email. Start using snail mail via certified mail to transmit legal docs.

    Have the Dell people respond with WRITTEN information concerning the account. Then respond to that information in WRITING via certified mail with this party died, moved or whatever.

    Then when ever somebody calls you can reference your previous mailings and request the party to cease all future contact.

  56. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Get the address where they want you to send the payment.
    Then write a letter stating that you will never, ever pay it & just type out the name & address of the actual ower of the debt. You already have his address. Tell them to take you to court. Tell them to contact you by mail only.
    Leave no fingerprints or DNA on the envelope or letter [wear gloves,don’t lick the envelope, use a tweezers to put a self-stick stamp on the envelope].
    The collection agency will think it’s from the real person they’re trying to contact.
    Mail it.
    I had a similar problem & the collection agency never called my phone again.

  57. Pylon83 says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik:
    Yes, committing fraud is a great idea.

  58. DogTown says:

    Next time they call, have someone else answer the phone and tell the collection agency that this a homicide detective and that this call is interfering with the investigation of a very bloody multiple murder scene at this location and that all further calls to this number will be forwarded to investigators at the police department.

  59. LTS! says:

    This phone line is maintained by your non-profit organization who I presume has some legal authority with whom they engage in other matters of business. Since this line is a business line the most logical course of action is to speak with your non-profit about resolving this issue. You are PAID by them, not a volunteer, and therefore this is your job.

    There’s no reason you should be approaching this from the personal setback standpoint.

  60. FLConsumer says:

    @Riddar: Pre-Do-Not-Call days, I used to have a similar message on my answering machine, that I’d gladly accept telemarketing calls at the cost of $250 per call. If the person did not agree to these terms, they were more than welcome to hang up. In Florida, automated telemarketing calls are illegal and no human’s going to leave a message after hearing that (if they’re listening).

    To make a long story short, I got ~$800 by calling the companies who left messages back and I’d offer to settle with them for less than $250 (~$100 avg). This was far less than what they would be nailed for by using an automated call by the state.

    Definitely more of a valid case than what I’m suggesting to the original poster, but there’s a good chance the certified letter will reach Dell’s legal department and a real human with power to change things.

  61. Buran says:

    @edrebber: … again, they have caught on that they’re being screened and are (apparently) spoofing caller ID so that she’ll answer. I would hope that a good lawyer would use this as evidence of willful harassment.

  62. WraithSama says:

    @Riddar:

    Actually, End User License Agreements for software have a tendency to not hold up in court. This is primarily due to the fact that you are not able to read the terms of the license agreement until after the purchase, and therefore are not given the opportunity to decline the agreement until after you’ve already paid for it.

    End User License Agreements are really more of a roadblock for people willing to accept it as one and not challenge it if necessary.

  63. snowpuff says:

    @mgy: I understand that the writer is frustrated. And that’s completely Dell’s fault. But a better organized letter would only help her cause.

    There is something is journalism called “burying the lede.” It’s when you take too long to get the point of the story. It takes awhile to even understand what the writer is upset about. The best complaint letters get right to the point. Example:

    “I am receiving three calls per day from Dell for someone who does not reside at my address and for a bill that is not mine.”

    Right away, the reader knows the problem, knows it sucks and doesn’t even have to read the rest of the letter to know who to contact to resolve your problem.

    Just a suggestion…

  64. deserthiker says:

    That’s one great thing about having a brother who’s a lawyer. Once some collection agency kept calling us for a bill that my wife did not owe. One call to little brother and problem solved. We never heard from them again.

  65. differcult says:

    @snowpuff: This isn’t journalism, some people actully have degrees with a purpose. Way to be a dick.

  66. backbroken says:

    My guess is that as soon as the designated Dell CS lackey reads:

    “I am not a Dell customer. I DO NOT OWN ANY DELL PRODUCTS (AND I NEVER WILL).”

    …this well intentioned letter is going right into the trash.

    If you are going to ECB, do it the right way.

  67. The Porkchop Express says:

    @Riddar: True!! Just because you say that they owe you money in a letter does not mean that they have to pay you. I think that may even be illegal(ish). They have the right to receive and open mail without it making them obligated to pay. Unless that letter involves something that they ordered or already agreed to.

  68. The Porkchop Express says:

    To those who suggest that the OP get another number. They can’t do it. She stated that lots of her clients move a lot and that her company needs a stable number. If they move a lot, you can’t mail them the new number and be certain that it will get to them. And you can’t be sure that you can give them all the new number when they call, because you don’t know that they will all call before you cancel the number.

    And for the few people that are saying to get a caller id..um, read the letter. if you do read it and use some common sense you will notice that they do have caller id. OP states something like “and now they are calling from a local D.C. number that could be a client”. Don’t know how else the OP would know that.

  69. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    @Pylon83:
    It’s not much of a fraud, you’re telling them the correct info on how to contact the correct person that owes the money.
    Since the person that owes the money has not paid & has no intention of ever paying, obviously he would take it to court.
    No prosecutor would charge anyone on that because it’s a sure loser with a jury, a complete waste of time & looks bad to his or her boss.

  70. Pylon83 says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik:
    That doesn’t make it any less fraudulent. You’re intentionally trying to make Dell think you are the other person. Whether or not you would ever get prosecuted is irrelevant. It’s still fraud.

  71. picardia says:

    @snowpuff: Never underestimate the power of irritating somebody way, way up on the chain of command. Sometimes that works when nothing else does.

    A friend of mine from overseas got a job in a rural area of the U.S.; he is a cardiac surgeon who performs some delicate procedures, so for that hospital, getting him on board was a big benefit for their patients. In theory. The government would not issue him the visa that would allow him to work — even though he had been legitimately hired, was filling a job that few Americans could fill (or would fill, given that he was in the boonies), etc. The hospital couldn’t put him to work until all this stuff cleared. They told him his paperwork had been filed and was waiting approval — then that the paperwork was lost — then that he had never filed it — then that it had been filed but was in error — etc., etc. Never a straight answer.

    Finally, he lost it. He looked up the senior senator for that state in Congress, called the guy’s office, explained things to staffers but REFUSED to hang up until he’d spoken to the senator himself. After about an hour, they actually put him through. My friend explained that the senator’s constitutents weren’t receiving medical treatment they needed because of this. The senator heard him out and said he’d get on it.

    TWENTY MINUTES LATER, he gets a call saying his visa is approved. All those problems with the paperwork, the supposedly insurmountable ones — poof. Gone.

    You should irritate the powerful only as a last resort, but as a last resort, it can work.

  72. frogpelt says:

    @spamtasticus:

    Not that simple, really.

    They aren’t telemarketing.

    They’re trying to collect debt.

  73. Buran says:

    @backbroken: So you want the OP to *lie*? I wouldn’t give harassers my money either!

  74. mythago says:

    Only really stupid CS representatives would round-file a customer complaint letter because it was too long or insufficiently precise for bloggers’ tastes. Even angry people who don’t write perfect letters have money, and have friends and family with money, and can choose to spend that money on your competitors.

    re Dell specificially, I’d call them and ask to speak to whoever in Legal is their agent for service.

  75. cerbie says:

    @Riddar: a bit OT, but that case is not that far reaching as far as EULAs for us end users. A EULA has not really been tested in a way that generally applies to us, AFAIK.

  76. cac67 says:

    I would get her employer involved with this. They are using resources that her employer is paying for for their own purposes, and I’d bet that that non-profit has counsel that would be happy to make this stop, and possibly secure a large donation from Dell.

    Years ago in a previous job I had an employee who started receiving dunning calls on her desk phone at work. It was a farly small office and my desk was close enough that I could hear her talking to them. The third time in one day I heard her talking to them I walked over to her desk and demanded the phone, then told the person on the other end that she was on the clock, and they called her on my phone, and I was not going to tolerate them using my resources to conduct their business. I told them that the next time they called they would be transferred to my extension and that I would be contacting our legal department if they continued to interfere with my business. No more calls.

  77. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @backbroken: She’s writing them because she keeps getting phone calls about a debt she doesn’t owe. Doesn’t it make sense to point out that she has never done business with Dell (which makes it impossible for her to owe them money)?

  78. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    @NeoteriX:
    Not a good idea, she’s the wrong person and saying she’s the real debtor will only make the situation worse. Collection agencies have all sorts of record searching tools and this is nothing but a bunch of lazy-ass collectors who don’t want to do their job right. Example: doing a reverse phone number search on lexis/nexis to find out who the number is registered to. It’s not always a guarantee but still worth a search and only takes a few seconds.

  79. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    @cac67: Yes, people don’t know that a verbal cease and desist when dealing with a work number is the only thing you need to stop the calls. I should know, I work in collections and this is currently a hot button issue around work because alot of reps are too stupid and arrogant to do their jobs right. Or too inept…sometimes they’ll “zero” out the work number and when the number “drops” to the “history” field they don’t bother to update the number to read “WRK NMBR VDNC” or something similar and when the skip trace people see that “previous” number they just put it right back into the work number field and instead of verifying it (like they’re supposed to) they mark it as a “found” number.

  80. LittleBit12 says:

    Is this a cell number? Since you said you got a phone that allows you to silence their number, I’m wondering if it is (I don’t know of a landline phone that has such a feature, but maybe they’re out there). If it is a cell number, Dell is probably violating federal law every time they call you. It is illegal to use an auto-dialer or a recorded message to call a cell phone (47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)). I’m pretty sure that if they are calling you three times a day, they are using an auto-dialer. If it’s a cell phone, inform them the next time they call that they’re calling a cell phone, that they’re violating federal law, and that the next time they call you will be reporting them to the United States Attorney General’s office for federal prosecution. I’ve had to do this a few times, and it always gets them to stop calling.

  81. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    @LittleBit12:
    Correct, if it’s a cell number then they have to stop calling immediately because you are incurring charges to get that call. This is a good reason to NOT put a cell number on a credit card application. Although no body in their right mind should even consider giving their cell phone number to any third party.

  82. LittleBit12 says:

    @BeFrugalNotCheap: Keep in mind that for many people their cell phone is their only phone.

  83. DuckSeason says:

    I know this is coming in a bit late (like a week late), but this should fix it:

    Dell Legal only does business via mail and fax, which is good because they keep EVERYTHING on record. Contact them via certified mail, request a receipt, and the calls should stop fairly quickly. Dell Legal does not, in my experience, let things like this sit around festering.

    Dell Legal Department
    Dell, Inc.
    1 Dell Way
    Round Rock, TX 78682-7000

  84. katsfamily says:

    We are Kat’s family, and after this episode, abashedly admit we own Dell products. Since the folks at Dell seem to be speaking to her constantly, we wondered if they could do us the favor of telling her how proud we are of her? Better yet, let us be the ones to tell her, and Dell, stop hassling her!

  85. Anthony Fantino says:

    I routinely get various 800 numbers calling me from something i must have filled out online, calling me on my cell phone and I came up with a good idea. If you see a 800 or 900 number answer the phone saying “911 What is your emergency, and tell them that this is the 911 call center for whatever town and that they will be reported to the local and state police and not to call again.

  86. OHRassi says:

    I don’t know about the original poster, but my cell phone has a great feature that allows me to set a custom ring-tone for anyone in my directory. Just add Dell’s automated calling phone number to your directory and set the ring-tone to silent. Presto – no more 5am wake-ups!