Tuesday, 1 August 2017
Tuesday's Tale - A Tale of a Phone Call -or- Checkmate
A few months ago my friend started to get phone calls on her landline from a collection agency, asking for Joe. She said they had the wrong number and there was no Joe at her place.
Saying you have a wrong number is a common tactic for people trying to avoid collection agencies, so this particular agency did not believe this very true bit of info. Thus, they kept calling back, at first once a week, then more often. She kept telling them that there was no Joe, and that they had the wrong number.
She asked to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor informed her that they knew they had the correct number because that was the number given on the application, and the company who'd passed on the debt had successfully contacted Joe in the past. As far as the agency was concerned, this was Joe's valid number. Because of that, they had no compunction over calling at annoying times, like early-early in the morning, at dinnertime, etc. Anything to get my friend to hand them over to Joe.
This went on for months. My friend, who'd had this phone number for several years, tried everything she could think of to get them to stop. She tried sending them notarised proof of her identity and ownership of the address and phone number. Company didn't care. They'd only accept proof that Joe didn't live there "any more" (their words). This baffled her, as the Agency's records did not list her actual address as an address-on-record for Joe.
It would have been too much hassle to change the number, as this was a number she used for her home business. She tried getting the number blocked, but whatever regulating body she'd gone to said that this couldn't be done without proof that this person was harassing her.
But how to prove the harassment? My friend came up with this idea:
The next time they called, she answered the phone and listened to them rant on about how they were going to escalate, blah, blah. About five minutes in, she told them, "By the way, I'm recording this conversation without your permission." Indeed she was. She'd set up a recording device and was capturing the lot.
Agency: You can't do that. It's illegal.
My Friend: Yes. I know. There's nothing you can do to stop me.
Their reply: they hung up.
However, this did not stop them from further phone calls. Every time they called, she hit "record" and then informed them about five minutes in that she was recording their conversation without their permission. They'd hang up.
Until two weeks later.
My Friend (five minutes in): I'm recording this conversation without your permission.
Agency Supervisor: We are aware of your actions and have decided to take this to the next level. We have reported your actions to our attorneys, who will be taking legal action against this.
Normally, this would rattle the usual blowhards who such tactics as recording phone calls as bullying actions, but taking things to the next level was exactly what my friend wanted.
My Friend: Excellent. I'm glad you've chosen to get your attorneys involved. See, in order to serve notice, or contact me in any way, they'd have to verify that I am who I say I am, and then serve me with notice. They will finally be able to prove to you that one thing that you've refused to accept all this time; I am not Joe, nor am I associated with Joe in any way, shape or form.
Agency: We do not have to prove you are Joe to serve you with notice to stop your illegal recording.
My Friend: No. But it will drag your sorry butts into the courtroom. You will provide evidence in the form of your records stating I've informed you I'm illegally recording your phone calls. I will then provide evidence of those recorded phone calls, which are many, including the ones I might have recorded without informing you earlier.
Agency: You will be found guilty. This will have an impact on..... blah blah, stuff about legal ramifications regarding her job, her credit rating, and that it's not worth all this trouble to protect Joe when it would be much easier to just get Joe to pay, yadda, yadda. Usual agency bully tactics.
My Friend: Actually, it will serve to prove that you've been calling me and harassing me. All the information you have regarding Joe will become a record of the court, thus giving me access to his information.
(Note: she didn't have access to this information before, as the agency wouldn't release any information beyond Joe's first and very common last name, so my friend couldn't sleuth out any further info, including the company who had reported the debt. Essentially, she had been held an information prisoner.)
My Friend: Once we've established beyond a reasonable doubt that all these phone calls I've been recording have come from you, looking for Joe, and I am able to track down Joe, me and my attorneys can then file harassment suits against your company, with Joe as a witness to corroborate that he has never lived here, nor was this ever his phone number. We shall also include the original company in our suit for providing false information. Either way, somewhere someone has listed an incorrect number for Joe, a number you've been using to harass me. I'm going to tell you, for the very last time, that you have the wrong number. You might wish to consider contacting the original company. Could it be they accidentally gave you an incorrect phone number, and nobody at your agency has bothered to check this when I kept telling you you had the wrong number?
By this time, my friend had had enough. She told them if they called her once more, they would hear from her attorneys.
A few days later, the agency called back. My friend informed them she was recording their call, hung up, and then contacted an attorney.
The attorney wrote a stiffly-worded letter to the agency recommending they re-check the phone number with the company. Also, if the company verified the number as correct, and were so sure it belonged to Joe, that they contact my friend's attorney. Any further direct contact with my friend that didn't go through her attorney, would results in charges being filed.
My friend reports she's not received another phone call from the agency. However, she does not discuss any contact her attorney might have received.
That makes me wonder. Did the agency learn they did, after all, have the wrong number and the story is over, or that there's some upcoming legal action my friend can't talk about?
The problem with true stories is that sometimes you don't get to know the ending.