What to Do About Wrong-Number Collection Calls

Woman upset by a collection call to the wrong number

Hoxton / Tom Merton / Getty Images

It’s not uncommon to get wrong-number calls from debt collectors, especially if you recently changed your number. You can probably understand why that number’s previous owner didn’t give the collectors their new contact information. They may have even changed their number to dodge collector calls, but that doesn’t mean you have to be harassed by calls for a debt that’s not yours.

Sometimes telling the collector that they’re calling the wrong number isn’t enough. Often, they continue to call, even though you have informed them that the number doesn't belong to the person they're seeking.

The agent you speak with might even mark the number as invalid. However, debt collectors use a computerized skip trace system to track down consumers. It's possible that the system continues to confirm your number as being correct for that person. It often happens because that is the number on that person’s credit card application, credit report, or other records.

Send a Cease-and-Desist Letter to Stop Collection Calls

A cease-and-desist letter is the best option to stop collection calls—even if they aren't your debts. The federal law requires debt collectors to stop calling if you have notified them in writing that you wish them to quit calling. The cease-and-desist letter says, “Stop calling me about this debt.”

Debt collectors are required by law to respect the cease-and-desist letter and stop calling. They can contact you once more after receiving the letter, but only to let you know what they plan to do next.

If calls continue beyond your cease-and-desist letter, you should file a complaint and notify the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and your state attorney general that the collectors have violated the law.

Get Important Info From the Collection Agent

Before you can send your cease-and-desist letter, you need to get the name and address of the collection agency. Unfortunately, that probably means you will have to talk to the collection agency at least once. In that one phone call, get the name and mailing address of the collection agency. Let them know that they are calling the wrong person. Then, prepare your cease-and-desist letter.

Cease-and-Desist Letter for Wrong Number

Address the letter as normal, with the date and your name and address at the top. Follow this with the debt collector’s information. Then, use this text to stop calls. Make sure you update the bold parts to fit your situation.

Pursuant to my rights under federal debt collection laws, I am requesting that you cease-and-desist calls to ###-###-#### in relation to the account of [wrong person’s first and last name]. This number is not the number to contact that person.
You are hereby notified that if you do not comply with this request, I will immediately file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the [your state here] Attorney General’s office. Civil and criminal claims will be pursued.

Tips for the Future

It helps to send the letter via certified mail with a return receipt requested. However, if you don’t want to pay the additional fees, you can just put a stamp on the letter and drop it in the mail. Since new debt collectors may resume calls after a few months, make several copies of your cease-and-desist letter so you can easily send it if you start getting calls from new agencies.

Was this page helpful?
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. "How Do I Get a Debt Collector to Stop Contacting Me?"

Related Articles