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I have a land line in my house that I've meant to cancel for the longest time.  I never use it, and no one close to me ever calls me on it.  The only calls I get are usually from the Sheriff's Charity, from people who want me to remodel my house, and then, from those dreaded Debt Collectors.

Only Debt Collectors are not calling for me, they call for my neighbor.  Former neighbor.  One who left many years ago under some very unfortunate circumstances which I will not go into on account of my being brought up to have respect for my neighbors both current and past.  Something, collection agencies, this one in particular, $%@&^@$ #$@!# Management, apparently do not have. (for the time being I will withhold the name of the actual agency).

You see, they keep calling for my neighbor, for several years now, like my number was the one he provided them on the loan docs or whatever.  This I know to be highly unlikely because I didn't have my current phone number until about a year after my neighbor left, and where he went to, I know he probably would not have access to it nor the motivation to provide it.

Anyway, if they had just called me on one solitary occasion, to say, "sir, we are trying to locate your neighbor, do you know where he might be?," I would have been annoyed by the call, but I might have pointed them in the right direction.

But instead, they call, simply asking for my neighbor, like he's Saddam Hussein, and I'm hiding him in my cellar.  And I've tried everything to make the calls stop.

Me: "He doesn't live here, please do not call me."

Collector: "I'm sorry.  I will take this number off our records."

The next month, more calls.
Me: "He doesn't live here.  He is at $#@#$ #$@#$#$@#. (yes, I even told them where they could find him, please don't hold that against me, it was after the phone rang daily for several weeks).

Collector: "Thank you.  We will update our records."

As Spongebob would say, three days later.
Me: "F! Bomb, F! Bomb, F! Bomb, F! Bomb"

Collector: Click.

Nope, that didn't work either.

Like I said, this has gone on for years now.  I am seriously annoyed, but I haven't done anything yet to take action, beyond telling them on the phone to stop calling.  Personally, I think that should be enough.

But apparently no isn't no unless it is sent in a formal written communication.

Sample Letter I'm Supposed to Write  
So, I have this letter now, and I got all the contact information from Mr. Debt Collector, when he contacted me tonight.  I also went through the alphabet soup of agencies I was going to file formal complaints with.
Collector:  "Really sir, there is no reason to escalate this.  Your number will not be called again."

Me: "You mean not called again like you are doing right now, or like last month or the month before or the month before that?"

But here's the real thing that is bothering me.  I think that the Collection Agency knows where to find my neighbor.  They just know that from him, the debt is uncollectable.

So what do they do?  They call his neighbor.  They are probably calling the neighbor on the other side of him too.  They're probably calling the people that currently live at his house, and of course, anyone who is a relative.

Why?  Are they really trying to track him down?  No, they are just hoping someone else will pay his debt.  They have taken a practice known as skip tracing and are using it to collect debts any way they can.

I am told that it is illegal, that you can only use this practice to get information as to location.  And that you can only call once.

But to stop this practice, you have to be proactive.  You have to keep logs, write letters, contact agencies.  How many people are going to go through this trouble?  The collection agencies know this and are taking full advantage of it.

They are basically, just preying on people's good will and good nature, hoping that we will pay the debt of thy neighbors.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Cancel that number (5+ / 0-)

    You don't need a landline. Ive been entirely wireless for 7 years (currently on Verizon 4G and loving it)
    why pay for something you don't use?

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Sun May 27, 2012 at 06:35:38 AM PDT

      •  I have caller i.d., but (0+ / 0-)

        this particular co. still shows up as just OUT OF AREA, which I thought was illegal in itself.

      •  telecom technology is such that these agencies (5+ / 0-)

        can spoof various telephone numbers all day long...and I'll bet one could change their phone number and it wouldn't take them 2 weeks before they find out what your new number is.

        Every detail about us has become a profit source for someone else.  Every shred of information about you seems to be worth something to someone else, and if it can be sold for a fraction of a penny, it will be.

        Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

        by Keith930 on Sun May 27, 2012 at 07:14:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  what's worse is that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cv lurking gf

          I'm not the debtor.  Just the neighbor.  I am positive that they know this and it was not an innocent error.

          If a collector is calling a neighbor, it should only be when they cannot locate the debtor and merely for the purpose of obtaining location information.

          They are not doing this.  They are just calling me as the neighbor until I say stop it.

          And they will only accept my "stop it" if it is in written form.

          This is illegal, but since it is essentially self-enforced by us citizens, they don't have any real reason to stop this kind of harassment.

          •  Betcha it is a job security thing for the caller (0+ / 0-)

            they usually are monitored... calls per hour... etc. Even if they do not get the debtor to pay up the more numbers they ring makes it look like callers are keeping busy... meeting their activity goals etc

            So... build up a sizable list of phone numbers over time... and maybe share and swap them with a friend or two at work and call the numbers every so often a certain amount during each day... pads out the day keeps their personal stats up.  

            "Don't escalate"... hmmm could be covering their little activity stat scam.

            Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

            by IreGyre on Sun May 27, 2012 at 09:17:31 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I doubt that (0+ / 0-)

              It is all automated. The phone rings and the account comes on the computer screen. The individual on the phone has no control over who he or she calls. This is a management issue, not the fault of the caller.

              •  well somebody somewhere not the caller (0+ / 0-)

                decides to have those phone numbers in there... whether it is in a layer of management below the top or is ordained directly from the top... this seems to be a pervasive practice and it does something for somebody somewhere... and as always variations of "follow the money"... includes follow the incentives whatever they may be.

                All automated systems are run and programmed by people who both do what they are told and also have goals and stats that they are measured by... and the team lead/manager of the callers would be working with whoever runs the software and IT side of things and they have to do what the bosses above them want but part of that is having fudge factors in what they do to achieve at least part of that.... it is in their interest for reasons we can guess at to have a wide net... both because it catches just a bit more and also because it makes them look busier to the upper management... those middle managers have to balance things to cover their own asses too.

                Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

                by IreGyre on Mon May 28, 2012 at 08:33:30 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  been trying to convince my wife to cancel (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean, JeffW, 714day

      the landline, but she still wants it for the peace and security if there was some kind of emergency and we couldn't use our cells.

      plus it is tied to a security system which we could work around but it would cost as much as leaving the landline intact.

    •  That won't help unless you are willing to root (0+ / 0-)

      your phone (and rename to otacerts.bad) so you can install a good call blocker that supports wildcard name/number blocking (such as call master) so you can block things like "local call".

      There is no saving throw against stupid.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Sun May 27, 2012 at 07:11:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I hate to get all apocalyptic so early on a Sunday (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But it seems to me that if there ever is going a future "revolution", it will be fought mostly with technological weapons, not guns or pitchforks.

        Unless average people can understand what you just said about changing phone roots,etc, they will be like targets in a shooting gallery.  We all leave countless digital foot and fingerprints every minute of the day, which identify our locations, our interests, our activities, even our future plans.

        From time to time someone here will write a diary about "going off the grid."  To really go off the grid, and become invisible, if one should desire or need to do so, would be hard to pull off.  That reality has practical uses for the debt collector today...tomorrow?  Who knows.

        Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

        by Keith930 on Sun May 27, 2012 at 07:51:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, rooting your phone just gives you (0+ / 0-)

          (and any applications you allow) full access to everything on the phone, bypassing the normal limitations and sandboxing.  That can be good (as in the case of things like LBE Privacy Guard, Titanium Backup, and Root Call Blocker) or bad (if used by spyware so it can remain undetected).  Even better is installing a custom ROM, whether one based on the normal one with all the bloat and crap removed (including CarrierIQ and SmithMicro) or a fully custom one like Cyanogen.

          There is no saving throw against stupid.

          by Throw The Bums Out on Sun May 27, 2012 at 11:47:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So how about expnding and linking this, maybe (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Keith930, Neither Nor

            write a diary, it would be most useful.
            I've been trying to get my ex to root her smartphone so that she would be able to tether a computer to it and not have to pay so much more or for a separate data plan (like I use with a MiFi). She won't trust the 'rooters' that advertise on Craiglist, and I just snow her (very low tech) with the tech details stuff.

            C'mon, TTBO, you can do it, good info waiting to get out.

            "Double, double, toile and trouble; Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble... By the pricking of my Thumbes, Something wicked this way comes": Republicans Willkommen auf das Vierte Reich! Sie Angelegenheit nicht mehr.

            by Bluefin on Sun May 27, 2012 at 03:48:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Unfortunately the exact instructions vary from (0+ / 0-)

              phone to phone and even based on the actual software version so you do have to do a little research.  Perhaps I will make a diary covering the general concepts and where to look for instructions ( and as well as how to keep your phone secure.

              There is no saving throw against stupid.

              by Throw The Bums Out on Sun May 27, 2012 at 04:43:24 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  You highlight a critical issue (10+ / 0-)

    I'm glad you wrote this diary because this kind of abuse has been increasing in recent years, since Bush's 2005 Bankruptcy "Reform" act was passed (with strong support from Joe Biden and a few other Democrats) The reality now is that people who are overwhelmed by student or other debt cannot go broke and get a fresh start in the same, relatively simple way they could pre-2005. That pile of debt never goes away for most people and when they simply stop paying, the debt is sold for pennies on the dollar to professional vultures of the kind who keep bothering you.  Sure, there are ways you can stop the harassing calls but for the sucker they are after, there probably wont be any escape.

    For many in the  American working class, debt slavery is the only political issue that matters - but you wont hear anything from either party about this crushing reality.

    If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

    by Valatius on Sun May 27, 2012 at 06:57:19 AM PDT

    •  what is more, I am curious how often in this new (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      phonegery, meralda, JeffW

      world where bankruptcy sometimes can't go away or is too expensive to file for, are relatives and good samaritans the ones who are paying the collectors.

      I know I only have a hunch, but I think that some of the aggressive tactics that are happening are not necessarily aimed at the debtor, but really at the people in the debtors life.

    •  if you have debts you cannot pay, then you (7+ / 0-)

      are quite unlikely to be in a position to throw a few bucks into the coffers of either political party.

      And sense the Supreme Court has ruled that money = speech, your indebtedness renders you voiceless in todays political landscape.  You don't exist.  

      Mistreated pets and farm animals have more advocates and NPO's working on their behalf than the poor do.

      Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Sun May 27, 2012 at 07:10:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This practice is wholly illegal. (7+ / 0-)

    Next time they call, record the phone call.  Notify them that the call is recorded before they start.  At the end of the call, notify them that if they call again, you are contacting your lawyer.

    The next time they call (because they will) tell them you need to speak to their legal department.  If they refuse, ask them for their address to send a legal notice to as you will be suing them for illegal harassment.

    If their legal department picks up, play the prior call to them.  Tell them that you will be suing them for harassment unless they offer a settlement. They will begin to negotiate.

    There are many lawyers out there who would take this case as it is easy money

    Just my 2 cents...

    •  ironically, when I googled the collection agency (6+ / 0-)

      there were three ads that came up right away for firms that take cases against them.

      Obviously, their reputation proceeds them!

      •  I would call and get a consult... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW, 714day

        You may end up with a nice settlement for your trouble.

      •  More suggestions (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Obviously from what you wrote in your diary, you have a good handle on what you need to do.  Plus, you've gotten some good suggestions about escalating it.

        Please make sure that you POLITELY BUT FIRMLY get the name of the person who is actually calling so that you can include that in your log and so that you can seek action against that person too.  Why?  Telemarketing employees tend to burn out because of the high rejection rate they encounter during calls, but REAL possibilities of legal action against them as individuals tend to encourage them to proactively avoid illegal telemarketing.  However, few if any such actions are taken.  I know, having done telemarketing calls myself.  I was as careful as possible to stay legal, reasonable, and polite.  But I've also taken my share of telemarketing calls - especially from debt collection agencies - where the callers don't care about that or think that I will be too embarrassed to stand up for myself.  Whether it's the first or the 100th call, have your game plan and POLITELY BUT FIRMLY follow it.  (That means that using the F-bomb is out. Also, the F-bomb simply postpones the call to another time when they call you back again.)

        And if you do follow up with legal action, see if you can have it turned into a class action lawsuit.  The heavier the financial consequences of a legal action, the more serious action the complaint defendant(s) will take to avoid additional legal actions and to adhere to law and courtesy.

        •  i'm pretty sure the person gave me a bogus name (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          again I don't want to give the actual name he gave me, but it was like Tom Jones, and not to stereotype, but he had an accent that didn't accord with the name he gave.

          It could be his real name and I will include it in the report, but my understanding is that it is common for people in this job to give out fake names.

          •  Companies that do illegal calling (0+ / 0-)

            often have their operators either give fake names or hang up when you start asking inconvenient questions. I have been getting calls for years from a fake debt consolidation company. There is no way to track them down. They spoof numbers from all over the country.

  •  report them to the FEC (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cv lurking gf

    Check to see if you can report this with the FECs do not call list.  It's a simple, online form to fill out.  Do it every time they call.  I've done it before with some folks who robocall my cell phone.  We have a landline too, and it has voice mail that I never check.  No one has the number, but the phone would ring day and night, it was maddening.  I think the last time the battery on the phone wore out we didn't bother to replace it.  There's probably 5,000 message now of idiots wanting to sell me tickets to the fireman's ball.

    Is it the same guy calling every week?  If it is, and you file complaints, the penalties can be pretty harmful.  Report  him a bunch of times, then the next time calls tell him you've been doing it and enjoy listening to him flip out.

    I also know there are rules about what dept collectors can do, obviously what they're doing is in violation of something.  Stick them with it.  Or tell them you're recording the call (even if you are not).  That might scare them away.  

    Or get an air horn and blast the mother f*#&er.  That could be pretty funny actually :)

    For every vengeance there is an equal but opposite revengeance

    by mothnflame on Sun May 27, 2012 at 08:17:30 AM PDT

    •  i don't know for sure if it is the same agency (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mamamorgaine, JeffW, cv lurking gf

      that is why I didn't post their name.  But I am pretty sure it is the same debt that is getting passed around.

      I think I am going to take steps and start notifying federal agencies and departments in my state, but I am bothered at having to do this, especially for something that is not even related to me.

    •  Seriously, no air horn! (0+ / 0-)

      It just shows that you are as unreasonable and as uncaring as the debt collection agency and may even leave you open to legal action.  Airhorns can do real damage to one's ability to hear.  Maybe the suggestion is just a joke and maybe it is not.  But if calls are so bad that you want revenge, then take advantage of your legal options and also make some money off it at the same time.  The airhorn will only hurt one caller's hearing.  An expensive lawsuit will force the company to change its ways.

    •  Don't think you mean the FEC (0+ / 0-)

      I don't think you mean the FEC (Federal Elections Commission).  I think you mean either the FCC (Federal Communications Council) or the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).  One of the two latter agencies would be the appropriate place to take this debt collection agency, especially if the calls originate from out of state.

  •  I finally cancelled (0+ / 0-)

    my land line, but before then, I never answered that phone, I just let it go to the answering machine, on the assumption that any important caller would leave a message.  With my VOIP phone, which has caller ID, I don't answer any call from a number I don't recognize, on the same assumption.

  •  Your first mistake was even acknowledging (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neither Nor, phonatic

    that you ever had this neighbor. The answer is always: "There is no one here by that name. You have the wrong number."

    Once you entertain them by telling them that the person they are looking for was your neighbor and no longer lives there, you have just opened the door to being picked for information. You knew enough that this person was your neighbor, and you knew enough that he's moved. Now, they want to know what else you know. Once you gave them his new number (dick move, by the way) they know that you know him more than just "he happened to live next door". Now they will continue to contact you, hoping that you will get tired enough of it to pressure him to settle his debt.

    What you've done is akin to throwing out a rotted carcass to a vulture who happened to venture into your yard. The next day when two showed up, you threw another. Now, you want to complain because you have to keep feeding the wake of vultures in your yard, and they keep bringing more.

    Stop responding. Put their numbers on the do not call list, and start reporting them. You've created the damage by entertaining them, now it's going to take a while to stop them. It's actually easier to get a creditor that you owe money to to stop calling you than it is to get a creditor who has no relationship with you to do so.

    If you really were considering dropping your landline, now is a good time to do so.  When you do that, do not give the phone company your cell number as a contact (They often want contact info, just in case they need to get hold of you) as the creditors will connect that with you, and call that too. If your cell # has been used for anything else utility related, it will likely be stalked and found, because you've been a willing victim up to this point.

    Hope this is a lesson learned. I don't even acknowledge any info when bill collectors call FOR ME. And yes, in this economy, I have plenty. I will pay them when I can, and being harassed by them on a daily basis isn't likely to make that happen any sooner.

    North Carolina: Where you can marry your cousin. Just not your gay cousin.

    by second gen on Sun May 27, 2012 at 08:53:58 AM PDT

    •  for the record, I didn't give them the neighbors (0+ / 0-)

      telephone number, but I did report to them the circumstances under which I last saw my neighbor (which was still a dick move) and that should have been enough information for them to conclude their harassing call campaign.

      You're right though that I should have just stopped picking up the phone, but after getting so many calls, you just get pissed off from time to time and want to pick up the phone to give them a piece of your mind.

      •  But in the company's mind,... (0+ / 0-)

        You gave them enough reason to suspect that you have some kind of connection with the caller and are worthwhile pursuing with the harassing calls.  Maybe you know enough to track the former neighbor down yourself, maybe you really have contact with the former neighbor and will put pressure on him, or maybe you will just give up and pay the old debt yourself (just like some others who have also been harassed for the same debt?  a debt which might not even be valid?).  Take legal action!  And I hope you can make a lot of money off of it!  Seriously.

        •  i'm pretty sure the agency knows where my neighbor (0+ / 0-)


          that's the point.  i think they are just on a fishing expedition to pursue anyone remotely connected to him to try to get money.

          I think it is a statistics game, where agencies know that if they do this, percentage wise it increases their chances of the debt being paid.

          i don't think any one individual persons action is going to stop this.  I think there needs to be a class action or legislative reform.

          it seems everyone has a story of these type of calls but they still continue, and think of all the wasted energy we collectively go through, changing phone numbers, writing letters, and nothing changes.

  •  I don't think you're having as much as fun with (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    operculum, Neither Nor, JeffW, phonatic, exlrrp

    this as you could be.

    Have you tried telling them your dreams? Not your hopes and visions but the actual dreams you had the night before.

    I find this gets me put on the no call list quickly.

    Which is a shame because I can't find anyone else who will listen to my elaborate whacked out dreams.

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

    by ZenTrainer on Sun May 27, 2012 at 09:28:02 AM PDT

    •  LOL (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      This creative suggestion is equivalent to pacifistic civil disobedience.  (Notice that ZenTrainer doesn't suggest pornographic or otherwise offensive, just whacked-out.)  As I read it, I immediately recognized how and why it can work.  The result probably won't be immediate, but it should get results after several calls.  LMAO!  Love it!!

  •  I have a common last name (0+ / 0-)

    and was listed in the phone book with just my initial and last name, no address. 95% of the calls I got were wrong numbers, telemarketers and collection agencies.

    One of the worst offenders was the State of Iowa. They made constant robocalls, I often received multiple calls in one day. The choices never included "Stop fucking calling me!"

    I got rid of my landline last year. One of the best things I've ever done. The peace and quiet is wonderful.

    I highly recommend it.

    In the meantime...

  •  You mentioned your current heighbors... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    phonatic, Calamity Jean

    ...and I was wondering if they're getting the same treatment? If so, a united front might help.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sun May 27, 2012 at 11:27:11 AM PDT

  •  I got harassing calls for years because (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of the prior owner of my house (if only I'd known he had an outstanding warrant I would have paid less). The collectors and others could not accept that I was not he. It got worse the more I denied any connection aside from buying this house. After a particularly bad conversation, a few days later there was a knock at the door. The man standing there asked for the prior owner. I started to inform him he'd been gone for quite a while, but stopped and asked who he was. It was someone local hired by the collection agency to come to the house. He was polite and once informed of the problem said he be sure to get that info back. Finally, the calls stopped.

    "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H.L. Mencken, 1925

    by cv lurking gf on Sun May 27, 2012 at 01:26:21 PM PDT

    •  Like I said earlier, .... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cv lurking gf

      Just by acknowledging knowing who they are calling about even if you never had a social relationship with that person, you have given the collection agency a slight hope and reason to believe that you have some kind of link that will pay off for them.  End the madness and take legal action against them.  And again, I hope you also profit from taking such action!  After all, if they're all about making money any way that they can, then you should too.

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