How Did a Debt Collector Get My Phone Number?

Debt Collectors
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Debt collectors are third-party businesses that collect unpaid debts for the creditors who originated the debt. For example, if you have a past due balance with ABC Credit, they may hire XYZ Recovery Services to collect the debt. If you’ve never dealt with a debt collector before, you’re probably confused about how they got your phone number, especially since they’re not a company you’ve done business with. Here are a few ways the debt collector might have gotten your phone number.

The Original Creditor

When your original credit card issuer, lender, or service provider assigns or sells the account to a debt collector, they also give the account information, including your contact information. Whatever phone number(s) you gave your creditor, the debt collector will also have.

Your Credit Report

Your credit report contains your latest contact information, including your address and phone number. Your current creditors report your information to the credit bureaus, who then include it on your credit report. Since debt collectors have access to your credit report, they're able to get your recent contact information from your credit report.


You can file a dispute with the credit bureaus to update any inaccurate personal information.

Caller ID

Thanks to caller ID, debt collectors can get your number if you call them first. Say, for example, you get a letter in the mail and call from your cellphone to inquire about the debt. Once you give them your name or reference number from the letter, they save the phone number you called from with your account information. Don’t be a bit surprised if debt collectors start calling you at a number from which you first called them, even if it’s not your primary phone number.

Someone You Know

A neighbor, friend, family member, employer, spouse, ex-spouse, or someone else who knows you may have given your number to the debt collector. Debt collectors use a process called "skip tracing" to get phone numbers and other contact information for people who owe debts. They locate people who know you and get as much information as they can about you. The debt collector will present a sense of urgency saying they need to speak with you about an important business matter and ask for your number in an indirect manner, like “Is Susan’s number still 123-4567?” Your friends, wanting to be helpful, may give the collector your phone number.


Debt collectors are legally allowed to contact other people to find out where you live, where you work, or to get your phone number. However, they're generally only allowed to contact these individuals once.

The Internet

You may try to keep your phone number private, but it’s not as easy as you think to hide, especially when so many businesses are in the business of collecting and selling consumer information. You’d be surprised at how much of your information can be found using search engines. Collectors may simply search online to find your phone number listed in a directory, public records, or social networking site. If you have an uncommon name, it’s often easier to dig up information about you online.

Dealing With Debt Collector Calls

Part of a debt collector’s job is to locate you. They’re trained to use various tactics to find people, those who are hiding and even those who aren’t. Unless you’re moving around a lot, changing your phone number often, and not giving your number to anyone, you probably won’t dodge debt collectors for very long.

You may be angry that they’ve found your number and started calling you, but the best action at this point is to deal with it. You can stop collection calls from that collector by sending a letter asking that they stop calling you. If it’s your debt (and you have the right to be sure that it is), paying the collection is another option that will ensure you don’t have to deal with calls about that debt again.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "What is a Debt Collector and Why Are They Contacting Me?"

  2. TSI, Transworld Systems. "What is Skip Tracing for Debt Collection?"

  3. Federal Trade Commission. "Debt Collection FAQs."

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