Earlier this year, I bought a new Vodacom SIM.
As with most new SIMs, the number I received had been recycled – and I got the occasional call for the person who had the number before me.
By the end of November, however, I was receiving calls from a Cell C call centre on an almost daily basis.
After the second call, I asked them to please remove me from their list. After the tenth, I begged them to stop, saying anything to try and convince them that they will never find the person they are looking for by calling me.
Everything pointed to this being debt-collection related — it’s a recently recycled number which was receiving messages about someone’s outstanding bills.
However, when I asked the operator what the call was about she said that it was a “personal matter.”
When I asked whether it was debt-collection related, they were happy to lie: “No it’s not about debt,” one agent told me.
A spokesperson for Cell C explained that call centre agents are required to conduct a security check when calling a user and can’t disclose that the calls are related to debt collection until the correct person has been identified.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to debt collection, agents are required to contact all available numbers linked to the debtor in an attempt to recover what is owed.”
Cell C said that my number had been previously linked to a customer that has outstanding debt with a variety of organisations.
“As such the credit bureau has linked all associated contact numbers with the debt that is owed.”
It did not disclose whether my number had been ported to Cell C previously and reverted to Vodacom when it was recycled.
Cell C said that the number could have been owned by the debtor, or provided as an alternative contact.
Making it stop
The frustration finally came to an end when I received two phone calls from Cell C’s debt collectors within an hour of one another.
Politely, I told the second caller that this was getting ridiculous now and that they need to take me off whatever list they were using.
The agent asked me to confirm that I did not know the person they were looking for at all. I did, and she put the phone down. I haven’t received a call from them since.
Cell C explained that this is an expected behaviour from debt collectors.
“Once it is concretely determined that the number is not linked to the debtor, it is escalated to the supervisor and a request is sent to the Dialler Administrator and Analytics to add to the exclusion list,” Cell C said.
“This is different to the marketing database, which only requires a single call for removal.”
This means that if you receive a number which is linked to someone that owes money, you can expect to go through the motions of explaining that you don’t know them and your number is new.