It appears that my former sister-in-law used my contact information for a loan a few months ago. The company called me looking for them and I had no knowledge of their whereabouts nor did I authorize them to use me as a reference as I have not spoken to them in well over ten years. A few weeks ago, my niece (daughter of the same person) apparently did the same thing because I received a separate call looking for her. Do I have any legal action that I can take or request to make this end? I don't want there to be any adverse impact on my credit. Thank you.
1 Answer from Attorneys
What kind of legal action do you mean? And against whom? It may well be that neither your sister-in-law or your niece intentionally gave out your phone number. It could be that one of them (or both) owes a debt. In such cases, the debt collector tries to call them, If that fails, the collector begins to call family, friends, neighbors or co-workers. This is legitimate IF the debt collector is calling for the purpose of acquiring location information. The other reason that they do it is to shame, humiliate and embarass the debtor into paying as the debtor usually does not want their family and acquaintances knowing that they are in financial trouble.
The next time they call, ask if the agency is a debt collector or original creditor. Get the name of the company and their address. Also ask if the call is recorded (it usually is but ask). Regardless, if you have the means, tell them you also are recording the call. Tell them that you have had no contact with either your niece or sister-in-law for over 10 years, that neither lives with you and that you don't know where they are and that if the debt collector/creditor continues to call you that you will take legal action to end the harassment. Then hang up. Reiterate this is in a written letter that you will send to the collector/creditor.
Send the letter via certified mail and keep a copy for you. That should put a stop to the calls.
Regarding your credit, have you checked your credit reports? If so, then are there any strange accounts on your report which do not belong to you? If so, then check out the identify theft fact sheet at Privacy Righs - http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs17a.htm. Follow the directions. If your sister-in-law or niece has indeed used your identify then they possibly could go to jail if you fill out a fraud affidavit and the creditor or collector prosecutes them. If you are not ok with that, then the debt will stay on your report.
If you do not have your credit report, get one from all three bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to one free report per year. Based on the circumstances you related, I would start with one credit report. Start with Equifax. 4 months from now, get a report from Experian. 4 months after that, get a report from Trans Union. The order in which you get reports is not really important, but I have found Equifax to be th most accurate so I would start with that. You need to check all three reports because information sometimes is not reported or reported differently on the reports.