On Debt Collectors

Posted by Louis Brandy on 08 February 2010

When I moved to Pittsburgh, I got a new cellphone number. I traded in the lackluster views of my 850 area code for the it-is-what-it-is 412. From almost the very first day of having this new cellphone number, I began receiving calls for a guy named Paul. In the beginning, people would apologize. Some people, however, started asking me weird questions. Like what my name was, and if I knew any Pauls.

Over time I began to realize that Paul, and my phone number, were in the hands of debt collectors. I would receive a dozen calls in a week and one by one be forced to tell each collector that I was not Paul, I was never Paul, and they needed to stop calling me. Most were polite, some were not. At first, the aggressive ones were fun to deal with. Several people tried to tell me I was covering for Paul, or I was lying about not being Paul. Some would ask me my name, which I never gave (replace Paul’s name with mine? Oh god.), and this seemed to really piss some of them off. After a month or so of dealing with these calls, I’d end up off of most lists, and the calls would stop. A few months later, presumably after the bad debt had been sold to the next round of collectors, the cycle would start up again. This has been going on for almost 5 years although I admit that each outbreak of this debt collector herpes is less severe than the last.

I found out quite a bit about Paul through debt collectors. One told me I’d end up in jail… again. I asked if he knew what a debtor’s prison was, and he didn’t. Another told me to stop buying drugs so I could pay my debts. A third told me that I’d lose my third job this year if I didn’t pay. I have no idea how much of this is true, of course. It should be noted that the fact that I am not Paul, it is actually fairly illegal for these debt collectors to reveal anything to me about Paul. But reveal they did. It’s hard to say which of these were true, and which were tactics. I have reason to believe at least one of them was just making shit up completely.

But not everything was made up. I know Paul’s full name. I know his (former?) address. I know his occupation(s). I know several of his friend’s names. I was dealing with people that were not scrupulous at all. On more than one occasion I had to bust out the Fair Debt Collections regulations (or at least bluff my way through them) because of some asshat on the phone trying to bully me into admitting I was really Paul. Or trying to get me to pay for Paul’s debts so that the calls would stop. And so on.

About a month ago, all of this changed. I started receiving calls from probate and estate “people” (they thought of themselves as legal professionals, but to me there were more like debt collectors for dead people). You see, apparently Paul had died. And apparently the probate people don’t quite have the same set of rules that the debt collector people have because they told me quite a bit more about Paul.

Paul had a shitty life, it appears. It is, of course, hard to tell given that my only information about Paul is through debt collectors. Maybe Paul faked his own death to get away from all of these assholes. He is, hopefully, living on a boat in the keys. If not, rest in peace, man.

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