The person calling you is included in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") definition of debt collector1:
(6) The term “debt collector” means any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another. Notwithstanding the exclusion provided by clause (F) of the last sentence of this paragraph, the term includes any creditor who, in the process of collecting his own debts, uses any name other than his own which would indicate that a third person is collecting or attempting to collect such debts. For the purpose of section 1692f (6) of this title, such term also includes any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the enforcement of security interests. The term does not include—
(A) any officer or employee of a creditor while, in the name of the creditor, collecting debts for such creditor;
(B) any person while acting as a debt collector for another person, both of whom are related by common ownership or affiliated by corporate control, if the person acting as a debt collector does so only for persons to whom it is so related or affiliated and if the principal business of such person is not the collection of debts;
(C) any officer or employee of the United States or any State to the extent that collecting or attempting to collect any debt is in the performance of his official duties;
(D) any person while serving or attempting to serve legal process on any other person in connection with the judicial enforcement of any debt;
(E) any nonprofit organization which, at the request of consumers, performs bona fide consumer credit counseling and assists consumers in the liquidation of their debts by receiving payments from such consumers and distributing such amounts to creditors; and
(F) any person collecting or attempting to collect any debt owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another to the extent such activity
(i) is incidental to a bona fide fiduciary obligation or a bona fide escrow arrangement;
(ii) concerns a debt which was originated by such person;
(iii) concerns a debt which was not in default at the time it was obtained by such person; or
(iv) concerns a debt obtained by such person as a secured party in a commercial credit transaction involving the creditor.
They do not fall under the exclusions provided for in § 1692p of the Act,2:
Subject to paragraph (2), a private entity shall be excluded from the definition of a debt collector, pursuant to the exception provided in section 1692a (6) of this title, with respect to the operation by the entity of a program described in paragraph (2)(A) under a contract described in paragraph (2)(B).
They are required to identify themselves as a debt collector by the FDCPA (15 U.S. Code § 1692e(11)3, my emphasis):
... disclose in the initial written communication with the consumer and, in addition, if the initial communication with the consumer is oral, in that initial oral communication, that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose, and ... disclose in subsequent communications that the communication is from a debt collector, except that this paragraph shall not apply to a formal pleading made in connection with a legal action.
Or, in plain English:
If you are the person for whom they are calling/to whom they are writing, they must disclose that they are a debt collection agency in all communications. If the initial communication is oral, they must also disclose that they will collect information for this purpose.
If you are not the person the debt collector is calling for, § 1692b (2)-(3) applies 4:
Any debt collector communicating with any person other than the consumer for the purpose of acquiring location information about the consumer shall—
(2) not state that such consumer owes any debt;
(3) not communicate with any such person more than once unless requested to do so by such person or unless the debt collector reasonably believes that the earlier response of such person is erroneous or incomplete and that such person now has correct or complete location information;
If they contravene the FDCPA...
- You may report them to the Fair Trade Commission (FTC), which is empowered to enforce the FDCPA administratively.
- You can also file a private lawsuit against the company. Violation of the FDCPA is actionable per se, without you needing to prove actual damages. You may be awarded statutory damages up to $1,000 plus legal fees, unless the debt collector can prove that this occurred despite procedures designed to prevent it.
2. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1692p, text truncated
4. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1692b, text truncated