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Lisa received a call from a debt collector. They asked for the last four digits of Lisa's Social Security number. Is it okay to give them that information to stop the calls?

QUESTION: Lisa in Houston received a call from a debt collector. She doesn’t owe any money to that company, so they asked for the last four digits of Lisa’s Social Security number. She refused, and they told her the calls would continue. Is it okay to give them that information to stop the calls?

ANSWER: Before you do that, I want their name and their physical address and the name of their supervisor so that you can track these bozos down if something goes down. If they give you all of that, then they are probably a somewhat legitimate collector, and they’re out there fishing everybody with your name trying to find the person. You can get them out of your life by giving them four digits, and it’s not going to expose you to identity theft. Four digits isn’t going to kill you.

Yeah, I’d give it to them, but I want to have a little bit of proof of legitimacy on their part. Otherwise, I can stop the phone calls from coming. It’s called a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission and a sports air horn. I’ll deafen the idiot. We can have some fun with this.

The easiest thing is to get the record cleaned of you, and four digits will do that. But let’s make sure this is legitimate and not somebody out here just coasting around. I suspect it’s a legitimate collector using illegitimate means. I think you can poke around in this and get some level of comfort, and then go ahead and give them those four digits and get rid of them.

If they won’t give you their physical address or any information, I wouldn’t give them the digits. I’d tell them I’m getting ready to report them to the Federal Trade Commission because they’re harassing you. We’re going to put a trace on all the calls, and we’re going to record all the calls from this point forward. We’re going to do our best to put them out of business and have the attorney general come knock on their door. Just get all up in their stuff. But I’m guessing if you just say, “Listen. It’s real simple. I’ll be happy to do that. I talked to my financial counselor, and he said if you’ll give me a physical address and your supervisor’s name as well as your real name—not your pseudo-collector name—and your real phone number and address of the company, and I’ll be happy to give you those four digits and you can go away. Otherwise, you’ve really bothered the wrong dog, and I’m going to bite your tail.”