Mind F*ck Used To Get Debt Collector To Stop Calling Wrong Number

A reader tells us how he got a debt collector who kept calling looking for someone else to stop calling, by turning the privacy invasion tables on him and freaking him out.

“Washington Mutual kept calling my phone for the past 3 weeks, about 10 times a day and I usually just hang up. But this time I made the person identify himself, where he was at…”

“While I had him on the phone, I looked them up on zabasearch.com [a free people-finder search engine] and confirmed where he lived and his phone number He was like, “What are you doing?”

“I am gonna have everyone else call you and see how you like it,” I said. “Maybe submit your info to telemarketing companies or whatever else I feel like doing if you keep it up.”

When I read him his address and phone number he was soo confused. Then he got pissed and said they will stop calling and hung up.”

LOL, hilarious. We can talk all we want about filing police reports, filing small claims lawsuits over breaking the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but sometimes there’s nothing more effective than a good ol’ fashioned mind-fuck to get them to stop calling.


Edit Your Comment

  1. snazz says:

    zaba is amazing!!! yet scary at the same time…. so much information available to anyone!

  2. qwickone says:

    I love it!

  3. snoop-blog says:

    i can never get them to tell me their full/real name. and most of them are probably in india anyway.

  4. Jaysyn was banned for: https://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    Wouldn’t work on me. There are 12 people with the same name, including middle initial, as me in my state.

    8 of them live in the same city. I really didn’t think my name was *that* common.

  5. Kenneth says:

    Great Jorb!! I’ve also found it handy (although this wouldn’t have worked in the above case) to use Grandcentral.com and only give that number out to businesses that require my phone number.

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

    I bookmark this to use against the a-Hole(s) from Charter who keep calling wanting me to upgrade from one service I don’t want to another I don’t want, but just keep hanging up.

  7. Chongo says:

    that is pretty awesome… one thing though, what about the bigger collection agencies who have computerized call initiations. I remember way back in highschool when I was a telemarketer (for only 2 weeks I swear!), we would just wait with our headsets on and listen for a beep which means the computer has connected us.

    Still funny though and a good idea.

  8. snoop-blog says:

    does a telemarketer have to give you their full names if you ask?

  9. joeblevins says:

    Predictive Dialers. When they used to call I would hear the delay and clicks. I always started with ‘Why does your predictive dialer have such a long tag time?’ Funny to hear they stumble off the script.

    Dont’ get many phone calls anymore.

  10. Buran says:

    I’d just sue them in court for harassment.

  11. PeteyNice says:

    This post so is full of win it is scary. The OP is a hero.

  12. She Laughs says:

    @joeblevins: I have to remember that one. Most of the time I ask them why they couldn’t get a better job. That usually pisses them off enough to hang up.

  13. snoop-blog says:

    i always use the same line on telemarketers and it seems to work great.

    solicitor: may i speak with snoop?

    me: um i just got this phone like a week ago, and i keep getting calls for this guy, but this is not his number.

    solicitor: sorry we’ll romove your number from our list.

    or if you answer your phone first and they put you on “hold” until someone comes on, tell them they’ve reached the law offices of smith and cooper and to remove your number from their list. both of those work like charms, and no one has to get upset or bent out of shape.

  14. snoop-blog says:

    i’ve had my number sold to telemarkers…. twice (and i know who it was). but it didn’t take long at all for me to get off those lists. which was good because i’ve had the same number for 8 years and i don’t want to change it.

  15. rioja951 - Why, oh why must I be assigned to the vehicle maintenance when my specialty is demolitions? says:

    I tend to freak the marketers by requesting them to state their user/employee ID and Emergency, almost like if you were calling 911. Normally they sputter, and try close the call.

  16. tneria01 says:

    I ask them their full name and a call back number (just in case we get disconnected), then I ask for their full company name, supervisor, manager and their phone numbers…Then I go into my “this number is on the do not call list”…you do understand your are breaking the law by calling me”. Then I mention this phone call is being recorded.

    Usually by this time they are so frustrated or mad or scared, they hang up the phone. If they are still ready for more I bring out the big guns and tell them I work for the phone company and can run a full SS7 or VoiP protocol search to get the actual number they are calling from. I then ask for their home or cell phone and tell them I can call them from any one of our telephone switches in the country (I really can do this and really work for a phone company…but would never do that). I’ve never used one of those services like zabasearch.com. But that would be a kick…”Can you please hold a minute while I verify your home phone and address?

    I’ve never gotten a second call back.

  17. robdew2 says:

    I have found this method very effective for wrong numbers but only after I have told the same company more than once that they are calling the wrong number.

    phone rings

    Me: “Hello?”

    Them: (ask for wrong person)

    Me: “Speaking”

    Them: (they go through their spiel, whatever it is, eventually asking a question)

    Me: “Actually, I lied. I am not the person you keep calling for. I will pretend to be this person every time you call though. I have told your company this is a wrong number, and you keep calling. I will waste your time and money just like this every time you call again.”

    This method has been 100% effective.

    I’ve only used this for collection agencies, not telemarketers.

  18. HRHKingFriday says:

    @robdew2: Yeah, I used to do that too. Highly effective. Especially when you figure they’re working on commission, or that their call center is paying them by the hour or call.

    In fact, I used to get telemarket calls when I was a kid, and out of boredom, would just say “uh huh, yeah” a dozen or so times, and then just hang up out of the blue. Ok, maybe I was a really bored, really weird kid.

  19. intelligentselection says:

    Now, the following may not be the best course of action, but if we are talkin’ mind fucks, here is what I have done in the past… among other things…

    Telemarketer or political advocate or whoever calls, I act very interested, have them explain. All of a sudden I get ‘interrupted’, hold the phone away and shout to no one, “I’m on the phone! Be quiet!” and go back to listening intently.

    It happens again, “I told you to be quiet!” back to listening…

    Again, “Shut up! This is an important call!” Back to listening with a “please go on”

    then a very loud “I SAID SHUT UP!” then proceed to start smacking the palm of my hand a few times, maybe an extra “This is what happens when you interrupt my phone calls!” or something else similar, then usually they aren’t on the phone at this point.

    Except once, the guy continued with his sales pitch.

    I say that this may not be the best course of action because while most telemarketers inherently do not care for you, there might be someone who thinks you are hitting a child or something and that they have to do something about it.

  20. strathmeyer says:

    I would’ve gotten on Google Maps/Street level and described his neighborhood and house to him.

    And Robdew2’s idea is awesome. You could probably just say “Yes” and then put them on hold.

  21. camille_javal says:

    My former roommate kept getting calls from one group, and got one when her best friend, an actor, was visiting from out of town. He got on the phone, and went into a thing about how she had been killed in an accident – but very, very authentically, with pitch-perfect tone to his voice and choking up, just subtle enough – we sat there, staring at him and choking down laughter, as the operator consoled him, until it became surreal (wait, *was* she in an accident? she’s sitting right there…)

    They never did call her again.

  22. obfusciatrist says:

    Funny for telemarketers, but I have a better way to get (current) debt collectors to stop calling you:

    Pay your bills.

    If this is old debt that has been written off and is beyond statute then they aren’t WaMu’s (or whatever company’s) bill collectors.

  23. freshyill says:

    Wow, I did find myself on that zaba site, but it’s an address I lived at for one year in college, from 2000-2001, and the entry was actually entered in 2002. And if it wasn’t me looking, I probably wouldn’t have realized the listing belonged to me at all, since I have a fairly common name.

  24. freshyill says:

    Oh, I spoke too soon. I found myself again at an address I lived at in New Jersey two years ago.

  25. Munsoned says:

    The guy (let’s call him Mr. “X”) that used to have my phone number must have crazy-awful credit. We got our number about 5-6 years ago, and have continually gotten calls from collection agencies looking for him. The last one that called was especially lame: they tried to tell my wife that I must have had some “relationship” with Mr. “X” that I’m hiding from her. Another one said that Mr. “X” put me down as a reference on a credit application, but the collection agency calling me couldn’t even tell me my own name (remember, they’re calling for Mr. “X,” not me). Unfortunately, every time I get through to them that this dude no longer has this phone number and get them to stop calling, the account gets sold to another agency and the whole process starts all over again. Sigh… ;(

  26. Sam Glover says:

    @obfusciatrist: Did you even read the post? It wasn’t his bill.

  27. Shaggy says:

    @obfusciatrist: Wow, that’s funny. How about somebody like me, who actually pays their bills on time? My dad (who has a very similar name to mine) got into a lot of financial trouble, including losing his house. Unfortunately, the various collections agencies decided that *I* am my dad, and proceeded to call 15-25 times a day, threatening me and just generally being unpleasant. No matter how many times I told them that I’m not who they think I am, they never believed me. You know what stopped the calls? Paying a couple hundred bucks to a lawyer to get them to threaten them.

    I’m really sick and tired of the “if you don’t want bill collectors to call, pay your bills” response to stuff like this. Yeah, sure, pay your bills. Follow the rules, and do what you’re supposed to do. The problem is, the bill collectors don’t follow the rules. They routinely break the law and do things they shouldn’t do, and they routinely get away with it because, for the most part, they people they are victimizing are poor and can’t afford to force the bill collector to follow the rules.

    Just recently, my wife and I had to hire a lawyer due to take care of an unscrupulous bill collector trying to collect a 10 year old “debt” that had already been payed off nine years ago. Even with *proof* of the debt being already payed off and the fact that they could no longer *legally* collect the debt, we *still* had to hire a lawyer to force them to obey the law.

  28. Peeved Guy says:

    Gawd. I hate this crap. I got a new cell phone (and new number) about a year ago and the collection calls for the previous owner started coming in immediately. One company was particularly onerous, American Home Finance, or some shit like that. I always knew when they were calling because of a) the number and b) they are all Indian. After a few months of telling them that I wasn’t Mr. So-n-so and to please stop calling me, I had a conversation like this:

    Me: Hello
    Collections Rep: Is XXX there?
    Me: Let me talk to your supervisor.
    Supervisor: May I help you?
    Me: I have had it with you guys calling me. I’ve been telling you for the last 4 months that XXX is no longer at this number. Again, stop calline me.
    Super: OK, we’ll update our records
    Me: Yeah. I’ve been told that before. DO IT, this time.
    Super: Yes, sir. I’m sorry.
    Me: By the way what company is this?
    Super: American Home Finance. Would you like to refinance your home? We offer very cometitive interest rates?

    I was shocked and appalled at that guys audacity, but, at the same time, I kinda had to admire him for trying.
    Haven’t heard from them since.
    The really funny thing was that I got a call from T-Mobile looking for the previous owner. That dude was seriously flummoxed. He had just talked to XXX the day before. HA!

  29. obfusciatrist says:

    Sam, nope. Somehow I missed that half sentence. So I retract what I said with apologies.

  30. obfusciatrist says:

    And now I see it is in the title of story so I look even douchier. My aggregator cut the title off after four words and I jumped right past it when clicking through.

    I promise to spend the rest of the week in remedial reading comprehension classes.

  31. mac-phisto says:

    @HRHKingFriday: not weird. in fact, there is (or was) a group out there that provided training to keep telemarketers on the phone longer. the idea was to make telemarketing less profitable & therefore get companies to abandon it as a viable means for lead generation.

    i used to do this when i got telemarketing calls. i would just put the phone on the coffee table, flip on the tv or play nintendo & keep saying “oh really?” & “uh-huh” occasionally. after a few minutes, i’d interject with “sorry, i wasn’t really listening. what are you calling for?” the goal was to get them to give up…longest call i can remember was 3 cups worth of mario kart grand prix.

    the trick is never to say “yes” or “no”. “yes” could get you signed up for something if you’re not listening & most of these companies move on after the third “no”.

    i don’t get solicitations anymore on my home phone b/c it’s a cell.

  32. deweydecimated says:

    I am getting automated calls for the deadbeats who apparently used to have my phone number. Must be real winners, since we’ve had this number for two years and companies are still looking for them. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to get to a human to tell them to stop calling this number.

    The rare times that we have had a human on the line, it’s been really interesting…. Since we know the names of the people they’re looking for, they don’t quite believe that we don’t actually know them, or that we’re not just pretending not to be those people. One actually asked me to pass along a message to tell the guy he had been laid off!

  33. She Laughs says:

    There is also a site you can report this kind of harrassment, maybe that helps:


  34. sharki3232 says:

    I just did a zabasearch, and according to them I don’t exist! Hooray!

  35. Trick says:

    This is just *one* way to deal with these scumbags… not *THE* way to deal with them.

    For this person, it worked. However, most collection agency losers are not so arrogant that they think they can give their true name and nothing will happen.

    This won’t do a think for “Bob Smith” from ABC collections when it is really “Some Loser” from “Non Fake Name Company.”

    Still cool you got this person worried :)

  36. sixseeds says:

    I have a really common surname, so when explaining to debt collectors that my name is NOT Belinda and that I do not in fact know any Belindas proved ineffective, I would launch into a long-winded, pedantic lesson about Spanish colonial history and how it is that my particular last name came to be disseminated over several continents. They haven’t called back in a while.

  37. PlanetExpressdelivery says:

    You guys should seriously look up celebrity sound boards for situations like this. There’s nothing like the confused ramblings of a telemarketer when Arnold Scwharzaneggar asks him “Who’s your daddy and what does he do”.

  38. XTC46 says:

    funny, most collectors don’t give out their real names. I have had family members working in the collection departments for some large national companies and they had “code names” assigned to them by the company. They would give customers that name and people would forward calls to them based on that name. Their real names were only used internally and never given to customers.

  39. XTC46 says:

    @PlanetExpressdelivery: ahh the celebrity soundboards. I spend hours if not days in high school calling people with those.

  40. spanky says:

    @obfusciatrist: Wow. You didn’t even have to read the article. The relevant information is right there in the headline.

    The guy is clearly at fault for not paying that other person’s bills, though.

  41. JayXJ says:

    You want true hell? The phone book misprinted a business’ phone number as mine. I got dozens of calls a week (had fun with a few of them) until I got my number changed.

  42. TechnoDestructo says:

    Ask them “What are your crimes?”

  43. emax4 says:

    Zabasearch is half-assed though. I typed in my name (unique) and although it showed past addresses, when I clicked on the link it always said “no info found for (my name)”

  44. ldavis480 says:

    Zabasearch is half-assed though.

    This is half-assed: go to people.yahoo.com, type the first and last name of a person that doesn’t exist (I searched for the name “Poopypants Nosuchpersonever”).

    It comes up with a link to http://www.intelius.com saying:
    “Poopypants Nosuchpersonever Unlisted Phone Number & Address Found. – Information was found in Public Records, including Age, Address History and Family Members.”

    I mean I’ve seen my share of stupid ads but that one is completely false advertising.

  45. PiningForTheFnords says:

    I’d love to yell something like “I CAN’T TAKE YOU CALLING ANYMORE!” Then fire a starter’s pistol and hang up. Never had the guts to pull that one.
    I usually say, “Sorry, I don’t speak English,” (in English, of course) and hang up.

  46. hhole says:

    A few years ago I used to have the same problem but this company would call me at 6am in the morning. Apparently their autodialer didn’t know PST vs. EST. After getting daily calls (including weekends) for about a week, I broke out the Internets. Found the name of the company on the net, found the names of all the management, tracked down the home numbers of as many as I could confirm (thanks Zaba) and began my name removal procedure.

    I’ll never forget the one female executive I reached at 5am in the morning, and how mad she was that I called her on a Saturday morning. When I promised that I would call her as often as their company wrongly called me it sank in pretty quick that I was there to play hardball. Needless to say, I’ve never received a call from them again. I can only imagine the conversation she had with the call center manager on making sure my name was purged from every database they had.

    Thanks to Al Gore for inventing the Internet!

  47. hagdirt says:

    @JayP71: I’ve had that, and it definitely sucks. What sucks even worse is being one digit off from Call Directory, or the Social Security benefits hotline. (I’ve had both, both office numbers, thankfully.) The people you get tend to be persistent, angry and/or confused, and really, profoundly not open to the information that they called the wrong number.

    (We did get some pretty funny messages, sometimes. My favorite: “I didn’t call no office, lady, so you get off my phone!” Um. Sorry to… bother you, sir. I’ll get my voicemail out of your way, then.)

  48. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    as a collector I applaud this poster for turning the tables. One of the main problems is laziness and just plain spite from collectors. Many MANY times I’ve called someone and had them BEG me to stop calling because we had the wrong number. I remove the number only to see that it had been removed BEFORE but the dumb ass collector never updated the comment field indicating its a wrong number. The account gets skipped on, someone thinks its a contact, then adds it back to the friggin account. Not only that, when I finally remove the damn number and UPDATE the commment I’ll find the exact same number listed in the previous number fields. Being proactive, I delete the duplicate numbers as well. No need to be calling innocent people. Then again, not alot of collectors have the same code of ethics or are just inept. This particular collector is evil. The scary thing is that he THINKS he’s trying to “do his job” when all he’s doing is being a professional shit disturber.

  49. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    Another thing to remember guys, if a collector calls you on your cell….even if the debtor is really YOU, you have the right to have the number removed. It’s against the law to cause the debtor to incur extra charges for the purpose of attempting to collect on a debt. Example: A collection agency is forbidden to send you a certified letter or package that makes you pay to recieve it. Since minutes are’nt free all the time, then you are paying to speak with that collector. Not a very well known fact however I thought it may help. Oh, and if the collector begins arguing with you about the time of day and that you “must be on a free cell phone plan” just keep your cool and say something like “look you are only allowed to call between 7am and 9pm and my free minutes don’t start ’till after 9pm…therefore you are using up my minutes. Furthermore I don’t have to explain myself to you”
    Another rant: As a collector we employ some “overseas” help and they are the rudest people I’ve ever had the misfortune to speak with. I’ve spoken with MANY customers who have said that the “overseas” collectors have “yelled” at them. Hung up on them. Been sarcastic as hell. Challenged everything. Gotten angry when their accent was too thick to understand. And the funny thing is: If I’m rude and nasty I could get fired in a second. What will happen to an “overseas” collector with the same company?: Re-training. Hah!

  50. SkyeBlue says:

    I kept getting calls at my home number for some guy who I guess had given MY phone number (which I have had for 5 years) to a debtor of his. I told them over and over that this wasn’t his number and to quit calling. The last time they called I simply looked up the guys name in the White pages and gave it to the debt collector. No more calls.

    Pretty bad when you can do a debt collectors job better than they can.

  51. gingerCE says:

    How do I contact Zabasearch. I just typed in my name. I want my name, address, number removed from the listing.

  52. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    You don’t have to pay for certified mail!
    You pay for C.O.D. [Cash On Delivery}.
    And only a fucking idiot would pay for a COD package that arrived that he knew nothing about!
    That’s one of the oldest scams around.

  53. antisocial says:

    The guy in the picture looks like he ‘s getting f*cked somewhere other than the mind…

  54. rioja951 - Why, oh why must I be assigned to the vehicle maintenance when my specialty is demolitions? says:

    @PiningForTheFnords: Oh! gotta remember that one. Maybe I’ll try it with my cordless while using the indoor range I just built.

    I wonder what they will do when they hear a real .45ACP no more that a foot from the phone.

  55. alstein says:

    They always instruct phone people to use a fake name.

  56. bohemian says:

    I had a really abusive debt collector that was calling me every day for about a week. But one of the last times it had a phone number rather than unavailable. So I did a lookup on the phone number. It was the residence of the bill collector! The first name matched the collector as did the town to that number. She called again like clockwork the next day. When I shared her personal information back with her she hung up. No more calls. The collection agency recinded their actions.

    What was really odd was this was federal student loan debt. Why is someone calling me from their house about my student loan? But then again before that I was getting calls from another agency that was using prison inmates to make student loan calls.

  57. olivia2.0 says:

    That site is scary. Is there any way to get off there withOUT paying the twenty bucks or whatever? And all the addresses of mine on there are old, and, oddly enough, it lists an ex-boyfriend (that I lived w/ for several years) as a resident in my former apartment, which I did NOT share with him. Hmm.

  58. secretoftheeast says:

    My family used to get a lot of calls from Chase (we had a credit line through them) from some overseas call center. It got annoying enough that we purchased a telephone with call hold “music” which was some crummy midi synth that played classical music. It sounded very, very obnoxious. Anyway, when a telemarketer would call looking for someone, we’d say “please hold” and immediately put on the music for 3-4 minutes. I don’t know how long they’ve held out for, but all of them hung up by then.

    We only needed to do it 4 or 5 times before we stopped getting telemarketer calls.

    Best $20 I’ve ever spent.

  59. HeartBurnKid says:

    @obfusciatrist: Tell that to my brother, who had to dodge debt collectors calling for some guy named Allen (note: my brother’s name is not Allen) who had the phone number before him. No matter how much he told them that this guy didn’t live there, they kept calling and calling and calling. He eventually disconnected his landline just to get rid of them.

  60. Fortunately I’m fluent in Elvish and Klingon, so I use the telemarketers to practice my verb conjugations.

  61. normanm4 says:

    :)…its a beautiful day! What a great story!

  62. Kishi says:

    Hmm. That site has me listed at my parent’s house- the house they moved to a couple years after I moved out on my own. I’ve never lived at that address.

  63. MissTic says:

    I just tried to “remove” myself from zabasearch. They want a credit card # and $20!!!! What a ripoff. I’d like to see that changed!

  64. cascascas says:

    Here’s another one – call the obnoxious debt collector back on their 800 number. Wait for them to answer, and then say nothing. Say nothing for as long as you think they’ll stay on the line. Then explain that your gonna do this every day until they stop calling. Explain to them that THEY are paying for the 800 call. Explain to them that you can pretty soon wipe out any profit they think they can make from you by running up their phone bill.

    Worked like a charm for me…

  65. Buran says:

    @HeartBurnKid: Seriously. harassment suit. After they are told that it is a wrong number (let’s give them one free “ooops”, so let’s call it after they’re told twice) it becomes willful harassment, I’d bet, something you can sue for. People who do actually owe, but have asked that the harassment stop under the FDCPA, have won such lawsuits. An innocent party certainly should!

    Getting hit with a summons or judgment should get them to eat crow, and if they don’t pay you can seize their assets to force them to pay. Say, their predictive dialer.

  66. Buran says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: Nuqdaq yuch Dapol? (yum)

  67. Javert says:

    @MissTic: Wow. Me too. Looked myself up and there is WAAAAY too much info about me. But they will gladly charge me $20 to remove my information. Hmmm, is this not called extortion? Blackmail? RICO anyone? There needs to be an equivalent of a data “do not call” list that would require a company like zabasearch to check its database against and if you are on the “do not list” list, they have to remove you at no charge. Who’s with me?

  68. SinisterMatt says:


    In a former life as a telephone surveyor, they told us that that used to be their policy. Then some guy gave his name as Osama Bin Laden. Needless to say, they don’t have that policy anymore.