Since getting married six years ago and getting our phone number, we’ve had a pretty interesting barrage of debt collection calls on and off for people who may or may not exist. (We also had a lady who was consistently failing to dial 1 before calling her son in Texas long distance and refused to believe she had the wrong number. We’re pretty sure she’s in a home or something now, because those calls stopped.) They started for Gene—or Jean, I’m really not sure—then came in for David, then a few years later we got calls for Dedria out of the blue (it might be Deidra, as one caller pronounced it that way). Of these three, I’m pretty certain that David was the actual last person to have the number before us; I know this because right after we moved in we got an automated call from a pharmacy for a different guy with the same last name. I don’t know if Gene/Jean and Dedria ever had this number at all. With the volume of calls I kind of think Gene/Jean was real, but Dedria probably fake-numbered a bunch of people because it makes no sense that we wouldn’t get calls for her until three or four years later.
About a week ago a fourth name came up: Tanya. I knew it was a debt collector right off the bat because it was one of these law firms that’s basically just a fancified collections agency. I’ve dealt with their kind before: They have a routine where they call, you answer (or the machine does), and there’s no one there. Probably using predictive dialers, the bastards. I solemnly swear I will do everything in my power to retroactively make the use of those a capital crime when I become a supervillain. But since I’ve dealt with this crap before, I called right back and got us removed from the list—only to find out there was a new name to worry about. I was enraged, because that meant the cycle was about to start all over again.
As of tonight we got the third call, from the third different company looking for Tanya, again all in the space of a week. The second was the only one I got with an actual person on the line, and my patience was absolutely gone; I was not particularly civil, but I still didn’t swear at the person on the line. I did, however, make my exasperation utterly clear, as I did when I called back the first company. The third was a robocall telling me to call back a certain number regarding a debt, and these piss me off almost as much as predictive dialers. Not acceptable! So I called back and started firing off a list of names that are not at this number, just to let the rep know I was serious. She couldn’t get us off the list fast enough.
It’s not in my nature to hassle people who are just doing their job, especially at a call center. But a call center following unsavory if not outright illegal practices, yeah, I’m gonna let courtesy slide a little.
There are several villains in this piece. By villains I mean actual bad guys, not competitors for the title of beloved supervillain who just didn’t rate “super”.
First, there’s the inventor of the predictive dialer. This jerk must be brought to justice. I have a feeling company #3 was also using one of these vile devices, but theirs was a newer model that, per FCC rules, has to play a recorded message. The law firms that pull this crap apparently don’t actually bother with little niceties like obeying the law. The first time I dealt with a collection mill I got repeated and frequent hang-up calls; it wasn’t merely a one-off accident. Next time this happens, I have a mind to report the idiots to the FCC. This is of course a stopgap until I have death drones and the legal authority to deploy them.
The second villain is the entire concept of the unsolicited robocall. Unlike predictive dialers I doubt this was something just one person thought up before it spread. Now I don’t blame pollsters for using robocalls, because they’re an effective way to reach a lot of people, even though phone polls are notoriously bad. I also don’t mind getting a robocall from a pharmacy when my prescription comes in, or something like that. I don’t mind when I have to call Amazon and their system calls me first and then places me on hold briefly, because I expect that. But a robocall from someone I’ve never dealt with (polls excepted) is beyond the pale. I want blood.
For the sake of digression, and catharsis, I’m going to call out a few robocallers by name. Guy with the foghorn who calls my cell phone telling me I’ve won a cruise: I hope you get hit by an iceberg, at home. Fakey cult leader from New York City: You are not a prophet, dickhead. Stop calling yourself that. Scammers calling my prepaid cell to tell me I’ve earned a discount on the bill I don’t get: I hope you idiots choke. On anything; I’m not picky. But die, die, die. (And on the subject of scammers, while not strictly robocalls I want horrible things to happen to the callers claiming to be from Microsoft.) And all debt collectors who rely on robocalls: Not cool. You call with a person or you don’t call at all. It shouldn’t be my responsibility to call back.
The final villain, of course, is Tanya herself. What I know, by inference, is that she fake-numbered a whole lot of accounts she signed up for all at the same time, so that they all went into collections at about the same time. I mean not hearing of Dedria for three or four years before her name came out of the blue, okay, maybe it’s some older number. But six years? After six years, this person I never heard of before has three different companies looking for her all in the same week? That’s not a coincidence or one of those funny things that just happens; that’s some deliberate malice right there. She didn’t care what the fallout was to whoever owned the number she gave out, but it was never ever hers. Tanya has a mighty karmic slap due.
Incidentally I managed to look up Tanya’s real number. It’s one digit off from mine. In spite of learning daily never to underestimate human stupidity, I don’t believe for a minute she simply gave out the wrong number to all these companies by mistake. And it definitely wasn’t just one company; I know collection accounts get bounced around, but obviously not this fast. I think she intended to skip out on some debts, and falsified her number on purpose. Of course if she really is stupid enough to have made this mistake so consistently, screw her anyway.
The next company that calls for her—I don’t doubt there will be more—I can correct that little error for them. I almost hate to do them the favor, but it’s a matter of deciding who I want to punish more. In this case the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy, but if they quit bugging me it’s a win. I can live with that. At least correcting the number means when each collection account bounces to a new company, it won’t be my problem. And assuming the wrong number wasn’t sheer stupidity, not that it was clever either, I have the bonus of throwing these calls back in her face when she thought she could duck them forever. Would that I could get rid of calls for Gene/Jean and Dedria the same way.
Well, one problem at a time. Someday I’ll have minions to deal with this.