I actually used t work with this company and can understand some frustration this might help some of you and with other collection agencies.
Are they calling because they own the debt or do they call saying they are a "third party collection agency" for verizon or cingular? If they are not third party then they may have purchased the debt from VZ or Cingular. This is perfectly legal and they can put it on your credit report if it is under 7 years old. Keep in mind that the only way that they get this is from the company they say the bill is from. Often people will contact a company like Cingular without realizing they have an internal collections department and they may have records not available to their customer service, or may have wiped the records if they sold the debt to afni or another agency. Afni is the jewel of collection agencies and prides itself in being overly compliant with the law, so don't take the frustrations out on the person on the phone. Here is what i would do.
1. If any agency tries to collect on a bill over seven years old politely ask them for their address then send them a letter certified mail asking them not to contact about the matter any further, some will do this if you tell them but legally they can keep calling unless you do so in writing.
2. Fraud is only a valid defense if you never had the service, arguing that you never had the service when you lived at the address of the service will get you nowhere. keep in mind that the burden of proof is on you when it comes to your credit report. If you never lived at the service address you must show where you lived during that time, tax returns, bills, insurance are all ways you can prove where you lived. If someone has stolen your identity they have committed a crime! This includes family members!!!! To claim this as fraud where you are not responsible you must file a police report, and a report to the Federal Trade Commission. This is very important because people that steal identities won't just use them once, these reports will help with future problems. If it was a family member that did this keep in mind that if they did it to you what would they be willing to do to someone else?
3 Read two things, The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act they dictate how agencies can collect debts and you can file a FCRA complaint when they overstep their bounds.
4 Ask if they will settle this for a lesser amount. Many times the older the debt the more likely they are to settle this. Most agencies will give you a first notice and 30 days before they report the debt to a credit bureaus, if the debt is already been reported to the bureaus keep in mind that if you take a settlement it will be reported as "Settled In Full" not "Paid In Full" and this may affect your credit less favorably. Get any settlement in writing before you pay it.
5 This will not work with AFNI because it is a legally gray area, but ask for credit deletion in exchange for payment, sometimes it works sometimes it does not.
6. Record every conversation, If they break the law this may be your best proof.
7. Ask for a bill copy, and do so in a formal dispute in writing if you think you do not owe the bill.
8. Do everything in writing and keep copies of it all and any responses.
9. Know the laws of your state, some states are more restrictive than the federal laws.
10. If you owe the bill pay the damn thing! Don't refuse to pay because you did not like the service or its just the "principle" of it. You may think that $200 phone bill won't affect you credit but if you refinance a house and it lowers your credit scour just enough to cause the bank to loan you the money at a interest rate only a fraction of a percent higher in can cost you more in the long run. For example a house loan for $100,000 for thirty years the difference between 6.00 and 6.1% interest is over $1,159
11. Read all terms and conditions of any service agreement!!! Phone, Cable, Sattelite and other companies have very restrictive language in their service agreements, there are often clauses only allowing returns within 30 days, early termination fees ( with some phone companies $200 per line thats $1000 for cell phone family plans with 5 phones!!!, and of course you may think that you will just sue them but guess again you agreed to waive that right!!!! The best defense you have is keeping informed and get involved with group putting pressure on politicians.