So Deanna Melville got this text message.

“Dude don’t know if u can get ahold of Jr ‘Nelson’ . . . but sheriffs are at his house waiting for him . . . ‘Jesse’ went a little nuts and cops got called and they found guns in Jr’s house and he isn’t suppose to have any — Just thought u could get in touch with him and give him a heads up not to go home!”

The problem? . . . Well, one of many: Deanna is not Dude.

The lingering questions abound. How nuts did Jesse go? Did Junior get nabbed? Was he all, “Dude, you should have warned me!” and his friend, “Dude, I tried!”?

And, maybe, most important: When on Earth is Deanna Melville going to stop getting his calls and texts?

Shortly after she and her husband bought new cell phones last November, the Farmington couple learned they’d inherited the numbers of another husband and wife in town, “Mike” and “Claire.” (Their names have been changed, as were Jesse and Nelson’s, to shield their identities.)

“Before we could even update our friends and family of our new phone numbers, I started getting calls for ‘Mike’ and my husband started getting calls for ‘Claire,’” Melville said. “Then I got porn cartoons sent to me. We both started getting lots of calls from collection agencies at all times of the day and night, both weekdays and weekends, which we are still getting!”

Melville and her husband have tried setting collection callers straight — the numbers don’t belong to “Mike” and “Claire” anymore — to no avail.

Turns out there are a few reasons behind all that.

Wayne Jortner, senior counsel with the Maine Office of the Public Advocate, said federal rules require phone companies to hold onto residential phone numbers for up to 90 days and business lines up to one year before reissuing them. That has to do with weighing the hassle factor of getting other people’s calls against something called “number exhaustion.”

Five or six years ago, Jortner said, Maine was put on notice that area code 207 was close to running out.

“There’s a finite number of numbers to go around,” he said. “There’s been a lot of number conservation measures taken,” and that risk seems to have died down.

However, as a result, numbers can be recycled pretty quickly and not everyone in the old owners’ life gets the memo.

Add to that the rules that apply to over-the-phone credit collectors: When you say stop calling, they don’t have to listen.

Julie Stolt, examiner-in-charge at the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, said the Melvilles are in good, frustrated company. Theirs is a pretty common problem.

Her agency hears from frustrated cell and land line owners about five times a month who are tired of getting barraged with other people’s collection calls. Ultimately, the old number holder left that number when applying for credit, Stolt said. “Of course, they don’t update their creditors when they have a phone number change.”

Stolt tells people to get the name and address of the creditor and send a cease and desist letter by certified mail. The letter should state your case — this phone belongs to me now — and include the language, “I am hereby exercising my rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and I request that you cease all communications with me.” It’s Maine and federal law that they have to comply.

“It has to be in writing, you can’t do it over the phone,” Stolt said. The bit of incentive to write that letter: “They can (try to) collect on their debt for up to seven years.”

Over in Sabattus, Linda Therriault has endured about six calls a week for six years from creditors asking for “Barbara B. Jones.” (Her name’s also been changed.)

“After about two years of this I finally started answering the calls and even returning the calls to advise these people that my cell phone number was not her,” she said. “It stopped for about six months and now it’s back to the good old days, except now I get about 10 calls a week.”

The kicker: Therriault got her new number six years ago because the exact same thing was happening.

Sometimes Melville and her husband can laugh at the stray messages — “We r at Butchs party, thought you were coming!” — but one early morning call in August made her nervous. Melville’s credit union rang to report that her account had been overdrawn. An account she used for savings, only putting money in, not taking any out.

“She informed me of what check number it was, and I said I hadn’t written any checks,” Melville said. “She then asked me to confirm my name, and when I told her my name, she realized that she had the wrong number for the account. Obviously, that call initially caused me some panic, especially to have been woken up to be told that.”

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Sorry, wrong number

There’s another sort of number annoyance older than the cell phone, even older than the collection call: The slightly wrong number.

In South Paris, Jean C. Saunders’ home number is just a hitch off from Wal-Mart’s and from a dental office’s.

“When the caller learns it is not Wal-Mart, I’m sometimes asked for the Wal-Mart number — sorry, I’m also not information,” Saunders said. “One day I received a call obviously intended for the dentist’s office. The caller began with, ‘My husband was there last night.’ To which I replied, ‘No, he was NOT.’”

Fernand Rivard of Lewiston has had his home phone number 13 years — he’s no landline-owner-come-lately. For years, as often as four times a month, he’s gotten calls for a local appliance store.

“Most of the people, they’re very rude, ‘Oh sorry,’ bing, bang, boom, they hang up,” Rivard said. Friends and family, of course, know his number by heart. “I don’t want to change the darn thing.”

He is, though, losing his patience a bit:

“The last few calls, I told them they’re going out of business and into liquidation.”

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