Someone who owes somebody some money used to have our phone number (assuming they didn’t choose it at random). We no longer answer calls from “Toll Free” because I’m tired of being pestered by Mike Huckabee and Steve Forbes about this or that (I guess an upside of his run for the presidency is that I used to get pestered by Newt Gingrich and don’t anymore). Historically, none of them ever left a message. But the debt collectors are starting to. They call about twice a day.
The message goes something like “This call is for Jane Jones. If this is not Jane Jones, please hand up now. This involves debt collection and if you are not Jane Jones and you do not hang up, you are guilty of violating federal confidentiality laws.”
Of course, my answering machine doesn’t hang up. So, it’s a felon. I guess I am, too, since I have listened to the message all the way through. Oddly, there’s nothing after the stern warning that tells me anything that I didn’t already know from before the warning except for the name of the debt collection agency and the 1-800 number to call in order to pay up. But you know, that would actually be a helpful thing to tell me before the warning, if only so that I can call them back and let them know that Jane Jones can no longer be reached at this number. If I call back, though, they will know that I listened longer than I should have (and that my answering machine and I are both felons).
I do actually question what legal liability, if any, I would have here. I can’t imagine that it is any. Or any of significance. I’ve read that those disclaimers at the bottom of emails saying “If you are not the intended recipient, you are legally bound to delete this email and pretend that you never read it.” And that has a stronger case than the phone messages, since at least they don’t presume I am going to not read it (or, in the case of phone messages, listen to it).
So no doubt it’s just a matter of covering their posteriors in case they get sued for some confidentiality breach.
Anyway, one of these days I will answer the phone and let them know about Ms. Jones. I already fielded some debt collection calls shortly after we moved in for somebody else. After the second or third time, they stopped calling. These calls from “California State Debt Collection*” have been going on for several weeks now.
* – This debt collection agency – not actually named CSDC – has a very official-sounding name. I think it might be supposed to make it sound more serious. You’re not dealing with a debt collection agency, you’re dealing with a government agency. Even if it’s not a government you actually live in the jurisdiction of. It’s kind of clever, when you think about it.