That’s what happened to Consumerist reader Joe, who was baffled when T-Mobile called him on his home phone earlier this week to try to collect on $300 within a few days or else he’d be handed over to an outside debt collector.
One minor issue: Joe does not now have, nor has he ever had, an account with T-Mobile.
After essentially telling the collections caller to smooch his rear end, Joe contacted T-Mobile directly to see if the call had come from a scammer.
“The customer service agent verified that there was indeed a delinquent T-Mobile account associated to my home phone number, but not my Social Security Number,” Joe tells Consumerist. “They suggested I check with relatives to be sure they didn’t belong to this mysterious account.”
Knowing it wasn’t any of his relatives and relieved that the account wasn’t tied to his SSN, Joe hung up. But figuring he might need it in case the authorities ever needed to get involved, he decided to get back in touch with T-Mobile to get a copy of the printed contract.
“Because my address, etc. didn’t match what was on the account, I was forwarded along to the T-Mobile fraud unit,” he recalls.
It’s at this point where Joe says the T-Mo fraud staffer revealed how the collections people got his home number: “They do name-matching on people in the geographic region of the delinquent account and AUTOMATICALLY assign the phone number to the account if there’s a hit… They’re harassing innocent people based solely on a name hit hoping it’s the account holder or a relative of the account holder.”
We’re not lawyers, but this seems legally questionable to us, especially if the first caller did in fact give Joe the pay-now-or-else ultimatum. Who knows how badly this could have spun out of control if it had been passed on to a third-party debt collector?
“I think this is complete bull—,” Joe says (and we concur). “They did agree to remove my phone number from the account, BUT I spent 45+ minutes making calls just to be sure I wasn’t being scammed or a victim of identity theft. How many others are going through this same exact scenario? It’s a ‘you’re guilty until you’re proven innocent’ scenario based solely on a name match.”
UPDATE: A T-Mobile rep has provided the following statement to Consumerist —
T-Mobile does not assign accounts for collections based solely on name matching. This is not our policy, and if this is what Joe heard from T-Mobile, we apologize for the incorrect information he received. Joe will not receive calls from T-Mobile or any collection agencies working on behalf of T-Mobile related to this account. T-Mobile apologizes for the inaccurate information Joe may have received, and for the time he spent trying to resolve this issue.