|“This message is intended for Diana Martinez. I received a fax order regarding a complaint that was filed against you. I have been retained to serve these documents at either your residence or place of business. If you have any questions or concerns about this complaint or wish to rectify the matter you can hit any key on your phone to speak to our office directly or call us at the following number 410-306-5975. When calling please reference file number CQY1237. You have officially been notified.”|
I received the recorded message above along with two others within three days of each other. No, I am not Diana Martinez — never have been — and I have had my same cell phone number for more years than I can remember. Of course, these calls are from scammers — unscrupulous types posing as debt collectors, if one can believe the posts that come up when Googling the number. These are the worst of the worst who threaten arrest, lawsuits and wage garnishments and apparently making random phone calls in some instances to do it. Unbelievably, some people do call them back, and an “account” is located. From the reports I have seen, when there is an actual debt it has been discharged in bankruptcy or paid off long ago. All appear to be out of statute.
I am not about to call them back. Luckily, my iPhone makes it incredibly easy to block a number and stop the calls. But I am one of the lucky ones, I know this is a scam and I know better than to call back. When I think about the potential impact of this scam on elderly relatives who would be utterly convinced and intimidated by the caller, I get angry. Bad guys ruin it for everyone. They do things just because they can.
Calls From the Past
Think back to 1991 and the couple of years preceding that fateful year that gave us the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Calls from people selling light bulbs. Calls from the telephone companies themselves offering cheaper long distance rates than the one that called me the night before. For younger readers, let’s remember that long distance wasn’t always free like it is today on our cell phones. We thought 10 cents a minute was a pretty good rate until someone else offered us 8 cents, and then 5 cents. I think I changed long distance providers three times in just as many months because of the deals. Then I got sick of the calls and told people to stop calling me. Heck, I had little kids back then and the phone calls routinely interrupted dinner, bath or bedtime. This was also before caller ID was free, and you had to rent a box to hook up to your phone to see the caller ID message. Those were the days!
This trip down memory lane is merely to illustrate that there are always bad guys. Enterprises or people use new or old and reimagined technology to such a degree that it starts to cause harm, or at least perceived harm, until somebody finally says, “there oughta be a law.” Telemarketing calls were labeled as “invasion of privacy” and the TCPA was conceived. After the genetic modification that we call the legislative process took its toll, the law was born. Today we are still fighting the battle so that our informational calls to consumers can be made using technology, legally and effectively. We know the arguments in favor—consumers need to hear from us to prevent potentially harmful consequences, nobody opens their mail anymore, etc. But it is bad guys, like the one who left me messages for poor Diana Martinez, that undermine our efforts to use technology for its intended purpose.
In the meantime, we must remain active in our efforts to influence those in power at the Federal Communications Commission to give us rules or a resolution, because we aren’t the bad guys.
Debra Ciskey is the Chief Compliance Officer at Wakefield & Associates. Inc. She is a member of the board of directors and a certified instructor for ACA International.