One of the series of 'Pages on things that TICK ME OFF!'
Why do I dislike this woman, a person I do not know, have never met and have no knowledge whatsoever about?
Because she used to have my phone number. Nothing wrong with that, actually, I'm sure dozens of people had it before I inherited it from Verizon when I got a new apartment.
But Dottie Black was special. Dottie Black was unique. Dottie Black didn't pay a medical bill.
And her phone number, which is now mine, is the only way that the collection agencies have to find her. And boy, do they want to find her. Hardly a week goes by without a message on my answering machine from someone I don't know. It's usually a recording, but sometimes it's not, and most of the messages are downright misleading, presumably to entice the errant Dottie to call them back.
But Dottie can't call them back - because she ISN'T AT THIS NUMBER ANYMORE. I am.
The last message for Dottie went like this: 'Once again, this is Customer Service, and we really need you to call us back at 1-800-792-5130. Thank you.'
Being somewhat gullible, and since the message didn't identify who 'Customer Service' was, I returned the call. I knew as soon as the woman answered that she was from out of state - that harsh nasal twang put her somewhere in New England (it turns out it was Massachusetts).
Her: 'HCS, canyouholdpleasethankyou.' I was feeling charitable, so I did, for about 10 minutes.
Her (finally): 'HCS, how can I help you?'
Me: 'Yes, this is ***name deleted***, I was returning your call from Customer Service.'
Her: 'Yes, sir, do you have a reference number for me?'
Me: 'Ummmm, no, I don't even know who you are or what this is about. What company is this?'
Her: 'I'm sorry, sir, I have to have a reference number before I can do that.'
Me: 'Wait a minute, I'm returning a call you left on my answering machine. Who are you? What is this all about?'
Her: 'I have to have a reference number before I can identify the reason we called you, sir.'
Me: 'There was no number. Who are you?'
Her: 'Sir, what phone number are you calling from?'
Me: 'I don't want to tell you that until you tell me who you people are. I've already told you who I am.'
Her: 'I can't do that without a reference number. There should have been one on the message.'
Me: 'There was no reference number or any kind of number. Why won't you tell me who you are?'
Her: 'Sir, that is a confidential matter. What phone number are you calling from?'
Me: 'Who are you? Who do you want to talk to?'
Her: 'Sir, I can't help you unless you give me your phone number. This is a confidential matter.'
Me: 'So if I understand this, you won't tell me who you are, why you are calling or what this is about until I give you my phone number? And unless I do you will keep calling me? Is that correct?'
Her: 'Sir, this is a confidential matter. I have to verify that you have the authority to release the information to me.'
Me: 'What information? What is this about?'
Her: 'Sir, that is why we called your number and left that message.'
Me (starting to feel like I'm caught in a Twilight Zone remake): 'OK, it's ***phone number deleted***.'
Her: 'Thank you. Is Dottie Black there?'
Me (feel like screaming, but refrain): 'No, she's not here. Why do you want to talk to her?'
Her: 'This is a confidential matter for Dottie Black. Since she is over 18 we can only discuss the matter with Dottie Black. Does she live there or do you know where she is?'
Me: 'She does not live here. I'm sure I've told you guys this more than once, even though you won't tell me who you are or what you want. This is not Dottie Black's phone number anymore, it's mine.'
Her: 'Sir, there is no need to be rude.'
Me: 'I'm not being rude - this is my phone and my time and I'd at least like to know what this is all about and you won't tell me anything.'
Her: 'So Dottie Black does not live there?'
Me: 'No, she does not. Dottie Black does not live here, this is not her phone number, I don't know who she is and I don't know what this is about.'
Her: 'OK, good-bye.'
And she hung up, leaving me baffled, a little ticked off at having wasted another 20 minutes of my life on someone else's crap, and hoping that someday, somehow, Dottie Black would appear.
I called the number back the next day and reached a man who at least identified himself and cheerfully provided me with some information: they are Health Care Collection Services (in Woburn, Mass.) and they needed to talk to Dottie Black about an unpaid medical bill or bills. He checked that account and found out that, as I suspected, the woman I talked to last night had not removed my phone number from their file, and I was slated to get another round of calls in a couple of weeks.
When I mentioned that their message was a little deceiving, he admitted that, yes, it might be, but if they said they were a collection agency no one would ever return their calls. Hard to argue with that kind of circular logic; I didn't even try.
So Dottie Black, wherever you are? Please pay your bill(s)!
I'd like to have my phone number all to myself. Thanks.
Things had quieted down for awhile. I thought that Dottie's legacy was gone for good.
Oh how foolish optimism can be at times.
Lately it has been two of the local hospitals, excuse me, medical centers, that want to find my never friend Dottie Black. I'm not sure exactly what for, hospitals aren't as chatty as collection agencies, but they do want to find her. Badly. It takes me an average of three calls to the hospital to convince them that I don't know Dottie Black, I am not related to Dottie Black, I don't know where they can find Dottie Black and I sure can't pass a message along to Dottie Black.
Did I mention the student loans?
Oh, and Dottie? There's some college that wants to talk to your daughter about something or the other, a follow-up to a previous matter. That one might actually have to do with something other than money, so maybe you should give them a call. They seemed very concerned.
It seems that the current practice among deadbeats who don't pay their bills is to give all the companies they deal with a fake or completely made up phone number. Unfortunately a number of people have given out my number. This includes:
- Loretta Johnson. Not much information on her. The robo calls start at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. Lovely. The people at this debt collection agency were so sleazy, they came on the phone after your hit 3 to indicate that they were calling the wrong person.
- Tammy Smith. Not much information on her, other than that two different companies want to talk to her. I guess these guys sell the old debts to each other, or pass them around like a plate of grits or something.
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This page was last updated March 8, 2014.