Anyone know how to trace a call?

I’m trying to get an address out of a phone number without too much hassle. I’m in a minor dispute with a collection agency for AT&T. I cancelled an account, said “send me a full and final accounting of these weird amounts you want to charge me and I’ll figure it out and pay it.” They never sent me the final accounting. So I never paid it. Now I’m getting called by some collection agency. The last conversation, about ten minutes ago, went approximately as follows:

Paul: “Like I said yesterday, send me an accounting and I’ll send you a check.”

Collection agent: “Why are you so hostile? Yesterday, you hung up on me, now you’re raising your voice.”

Paul: “Because I have a simple request: send me an accounting and I’ll send you a check. It’s a reasonable request. Instead, I’m getting calls from some collection agent.”

Collection agent: [completely ignores my second attempt to tender payment on a very reasonable condition, or perhaps it's the third or fourth? I lose count. Goes on with spiel.]

Paul: [shouting now] “Shut up and listen to me. It’s very simple. Stop calling me. Send me a…”

Collection agent [interrupting]: “Ok, fine, your credit report will be…”

Paul: [now really pissed off]: “Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act I’m instructing you…”

Collection agent: [hangs up].

Unfortunately, all of the really good rights under the FDCPA, like to have all contact stopped, require written notice from me to them. Which requires more than some random-ass acronym that I’ve already forgotten by way of their identification. And suing these people when they don’t comply with section 809 wrt sending a written notice to me about the debt or the validation that I will demand thereunder, when it is sent, will also require having an address.

So I need to get an address out of this phone number. (I assume here that I can get the phone number out of the stanford IT people who run the local phone system, as the call was on my landline w/o caller id, but I don’t even know that.) Anyone know how?

And then I need to make myself a quick grand or so in statutory damages. I am not at all amused. In fact, I might not even bother with written notices. I might just file a quickie lawsuit based on the FDCPA violations they’ve already committed, namely, section 806(6) (placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity) and 806(5) (repeated telephone calls with “intent to annoy, abuse, or harass” etc. — calling again and again after I’ve offered to tender payment, in exchange for an accounting to which I have a perfect right, and ignoring repeated offers to tender payment, seems like pretty good evidence of an “intent to annoy, abuse, or harass”). I used to be a legal aid lawyer. I’ve done lots of FDCPA work. It’s the one area of law where the deck is actually stacked in favor of the consumer.

(Oh lookie. It looks like California civil code sec. 1788 has some nice provisions too, and they’ve already violated 1788.11 for the same reasons above. And another statutory damages provision! Which is explicitly cumulative with other remedies! Tee hee. Tee hee. Worst comes to worst, if I can’t trace the call, I suppose I can always file a john doe lawsuit and then subpoena the records from the phone company, or AT&T’s records of whom they sold the debt to.)


13 Responses to “Anyone know how to trace a call?”

  1. Matt Says:

    I’ve sometimes had luck w/ putting the number in google, but it’s less likely to work if it’s a personal number or a cell phone.

  2. Mike Says:

    Call ‘em up and offer to mail them a check.

  3. eric Says:

    There are some web sites where people report this sort of annoying call, and you can sometimes learn the caller’s identity, if not the address, that way. So I would second Matt’s Google suggestion.

    If you do pursue the matter, you might also consider a claim under Cal. B&P Code sec. 17200, which applies quite broadly to unfair business practices and provides for some very nice remedies. (Obligatory disclaimer: I’m on inactive status in California, this is not legal advice, yada yada yada.)

  4. Paul Gowder Says:

    Thanks guys. Assuming Stanford’s IT people can actually get me the number, I’ll try those. (Perhaps it’s time to order caller ID.)

  5. ben wolfson Says:

    You should sue them just on the principle of the thing.

  6. Ed Says:

    Fuck this weak debt law shit. It’s time to get serious Paulto. It’s time to RICO.

    All you need to do is show that the debt collection agency and AT&T constiuted an enterprise seeking to unlawfully collect your debt over period of time. Then, you get treble damages.

    Come on Paul. Strike one for the little guys!

  7. Paul Gowder Says:

    Congratulations, Ed, you’re the only person alive with a twitchier civil RICO trigger finger than mine.

  8. Ed Says:

    Paul – If you tell me that you are a civil RICO fan, I just might cry tears of tender, mob-busting joy.

    People here really, really hate RICO. I don’t know why exactly. I think they have this bizarre idea that civil RICO is used to harm small businesses or something.

  9. Paul Gowder Says:

    I am a huge fan of civil RICO. The only litigation weapons that make me happier are the remnants of the various special writs, particularly the qui tam and the quo warranto.

  10. Mike Says:

    Congratulations, Ed, you’re the only person alive with a twitchier civil RICO trigger finger than mine.

    We just filed one a few weeks ago. Class action.

  11. Ed Says:

    Ahhhh – the qui tam. Allowing anyone to become the legal equivalent of Steven Seagal.

  12. Jason W. Says:

    I don’t know if you have Westlaw access, but there’s a reverse phone lookup tool on there. If Google doesn’t give you the number, it’ll give you a bunch of websites that want to sell you the same information you can get from Westlaw’s reverse lookup.

    (And if you don’t have access, I’m sure you know someone who does.)

  13. Uncommon Priors » Why must I be surrounded by idiots? Says:

    [...] call received at my on-campus apartment landline? I’m getting calls from a collection agent [previously] on a disputed debt, and I can’t get them to send me anything in writing, so I can’t [...]

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