I usually don’t answer phone calls with “Unavailable” on the caller ID or numbers I don’t recognize.  I am on the Do-Not-Call list, but somehow some telemarketers still get through and I prefer to just ignore them.  Last week the phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize, but it was a number with my area code.  Thinking it may be a friend who had a new cell phone or parent from my child’s class I answered:

Me: “Hello?”

Caller(in an urgent voice): “Is this the “sahmCFO family” that lives on “Saving Money Lane?””

Me (concerned and nervous – did something happen to someone I know and love?): “Yes, yes it is.”

Caller: “Do you know a “Mr. Debtor” who lives on your street?”

Me (relieved and suspicious that this isn’t a call about somebody’s welfare but a fishing for info call): “Umm, No I don’t think so.”

Caller: “Well, I was just speaking with him regarding something extremely important but we got disconnected and I really need to speak with him.  Do you know him?”

At this point in the call I am seething mad.  My 3-year-old and 4-year-old were at preschool at the time of this call and my heart had skipped many beats in the first few seconds of that call, thinking something had happened at school, and that this was a legitimate call – not a fishing expedition.

Me: “WHO IS THIS!”

Caller:  “My name is “Jerk-Face” calling from “Scumbag Collections” and we are trying to reach your neighbor regarding an important business matter.”

Me: “I don’t know him, please don’t call again.”

In 2006, when my husband and I made the transition from 2 incomes to 1 income we had a rough six months, we endured endless but legitimate calls from our credit card companies.  We paid our bills late sometimes, and the phone calls would start at 8am and go on until 8pm.  I was home with an 11 month old and a newborn and it was one of the most stressful times of my life.  We have not paid a bill late in 4 years and I cannot tell you how nice it is to be able to answer the phone again with no fear.

Until now.

It’s called a “Block Party”.

What Is A Block Party?

The collection agency or debt collector will call three or four or five of your neighbors and tell each of them that an urgent message must be given to you. “Can you please go over to his house and see if he is home?” or “Is he OK-he hasn’t called me back.” or “Can you leave a note on her door?” or “When you see him in the yard go over and tell him to call me immediately” or some similar statement. Usually the debt collector will refuse to tell the neighbor the reason for the call – “Sir, I’m not allowed to say as this involves an urgent private issue”. This only arouses the suspicion and curiosity of your neighbors.

The result is you begin to get calls and visits from your neighbors. They tell you that you need to call “Mr. Jones” or whoever the collector is and, of course, they want to know what is this about. When this happens, the effect on you is exactly what the debt collector wanted – fear and embarrassment.

Back to my disturbing phone call…

I DO know my neighbor.  He is the best neighbor I’ve ever had.  He is a 75 years old gracious man, with a wife in ill-health who he takes loving care of, who teaches me how to fix and maintain my tractor.  He invites my kids over to feed his fish in his KOI pond.  He is always willing to lend me any tool for any job I need.   He helped my brother remove a dead-deer carcass from the undercarriage of his car (don’t ask:)).  He is one of the “good ones” and there is no way I’m ratting him out or embarrassing him.

I know for a fact he owns his house free and clear.  We sometimes get his mail by mistake and I have seen MANY elite credit card offers in there.   He lives a very simple life, so this may just be a bill that slipped through the cracks.

It doesn’t matter why the collection company is calling, it is NONE OF MY BUSINESS! I am not a secretary for collection companies and I refuse to endanger the good relationship I have with him over this sleazy call.

To top it off, this was not the ONLY call from a collection company I received last week.  There were two other calls from debt collectors both looking for someone with the same last name as us.  Calling here in hopes we know the debtor.  And Yes, we also know this debtor they are looking for –  it is a family member. But again, I am not a secretary and I know the financial situation of this particular family member.  It is not good.  They have fallen on hard times and are trying to keep food on the table.  I’m not ratting them out either.

I am VERY ANNOYED THOUGH!  We pay our bills on time but still must endure numerous collection calls. This is ridiculous, but apparently NOT illegal. The collection companies also seem to be “caller ID spoofing“, so you assume the call is local and are more likely to answer.

Be aware.  Even if you pay ALL your bills on time you still may get “Collection Calls!”  Tell them to not call again.  But “Block Parties” and “Family Fishing” expeditions are the new thing.

You should be in the clear though if every person you are related to, has the same last name as you, lives in your vicinity or works with you pays every bill on time….

Otherwise you may be invited to the “PARTY”.

(If you are being harassed by collection companies you may want to read the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (via FTC.gov) and know your rights.)

UPDATE:

This is the phone number who called me about me neighbors debt:

(954)538-7533

UNITED COLLECTION BUREAU, INC

I did a little research to get their “real number” – Apparently I’m not the only one getting these types of calls…

I do plan on calling the FTC (filed online – reference number: 25959253) and my AG’s office to file a complaint.

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