Written by attorney James A Johnson

Unwanted calls

Question: I have tele-markers and debt collectors calling my cell phone all of the time. Some of the calls are for me but some are for a guy who had my phone number before I did. What can I do to get the calls to stop? Answer: The first thing you should do is to register your cell phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. You can register online at or by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number you want to add to the registry. Once your number is registered and on the list for 31 days, tele-marketers and telephone solicitors will be prohibited from making unsolicited calls to your number. If you receive an unwanted call after you have been on the registry for 31 days or if you receive a recorded message call, you can file a complaint by going to the website listed above. Adding your number to the National Do Not Call Registry does not prohibit debt collectors from calling you. In order to stop debt collectors from calling, you must mail them a letter demanding that they stop calling your telephone number and requesting that all future communication be made in writing. Once a debt collector receives a written "cease communication" letter, they are prohibited under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act from calling your number again. However, original creditors (the company who gave you the credit to begin with) are not subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and can continue to call you even if you send them a written notice. Just about the only way to stop an original creditor from calling you is to settle the debt, change your phone number(s), or file Bankruptcy. One other interesting item is that debt collectors are also prohibited from using an automated dialer to call your cell phone. Most collection agencies use auto dialers because they can program in a lot of telephone numbers and a computer can dial the numbers all day long until someone answers. Then when someone answers the phone the computer connects the call to a live debt collector and the account information pops up on that collector's computer. If there is a pause when you answer your phone before you are connected to a live person, if you hear a click before a live person starts talking, or if you get a recorded message on your voice mail the collection agency is probably using an auto-dialer. If you can document the fact that a debt collector called your cell phone using an auto-dialer you may be entitled to a minimum of $500 in damages for each call under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. If you receive a call from a debt collector who you believe is using an auto-dialer you should document their name, the company they are calling from, their phone number, the time of the call, and ask them to remove the phone number that they just dialed. Unwanted phone calls, especially ones made to a cell phone that you pay for each minute of calls received, can be aggravating. Although the steps above may not completely eliminate all unwanted calls, they should go a long way toward cutting the number down significantly.

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