By Scott Tibbs, May 1, 2009
A couple years ago, I was getting frequent harassing calls from a collections agency. The agency was trying to reach someone named "Julie" and I informed them repeatedly that they had the wrong number. I understand collections calls and I have made them myself. But when you have the wrong number and you have been informed that you have the wrong number, you need to stop calling that number. There should be no argument and no debate. End of discussion. I was forced to get nasty with them and haven't gotten a call from that agency since.
Last week, I got five calls in four days from a "restricted" number, meaning whoever was calling me was blocking their Caller ID. The one time someone from the restricted number left a message, the person calling me asked for someone I do not even know, and didn't even have the courtesy leave a telephone number where I could return the call and clear up the situation. There was not even a message the next four times I got a call from a "restricted" number. Fortunately, my telephone provider allows me to block calls from anyone who hides behind anonymity like a coward. Now, if they want to call me back, they will have to embrace ethical business practices and take off the mask.
There is no legitimate reason for a business to block Caller ID when making phone calls, whether for the purpose of collections or telemarketing. If a collections agency is serious about settling a debt instead of just harassing people, they should give people the ability to return phone calls. This could have been settled with the first call if I was not dealing with a bunch of sniveling cowards with the ethics of a snake. All these cowards are doing is wasting their time by calling a wrong number. They won't be wasting any more of my time, though, unless they start behaving ethically.
What needs to happen here is for Congress to step in and make it illegal for any business to block Caller ID when making calls to businesses or homes. As a strong supporter of states rights, I would prefer that this be regulated by the states instead of the federal government, but when calls are being made across state lines it is necessary for the federal government to set nationwide standards. The company that was harassing me in the fall of 2007 was based in New Jersey, so I am not sure how much Indiana could do about it. Furthermore, the Constitution gives the federal government the authority to regulate interstate commerce, and a collections agency in New Jersey calling a home in Indiana certainly qualifies.
President Obama came into office promising "change we can believe in." Protecting consumers from harassing phone calls by companies that have so little integrity that they cannot even provide a number to call back would be a welcome change that all Americans can believe in.