Voice of the White House

April 24, 2008

Washington, D.C.:
“I had a very interesting conversation on Sunday with a friend of my wife’s. It was concerned with the huge and growing number of Americans who are falling deeper and deeper into debt and struggling to pay such vital bills as food and rent.

Today the New York Times ran a front page article on the outsourcing of telephone debt collections to India. Much of what my wife’s friend was borne out by this article, but because the subject is of great, and growing, interest, I am putting all of this together for the interest of the public.

With millions of Americans falling behind on debt payments, the larger debt-collecting companies are outsourcing their collection methods to India. There, the trained operators call the American debtor on the phone. They remind them that they will probably be getting tax rebates and that perhaps they could pay “just a little” on their back bill. Even a few dollars would show their really good intentions.

Do not trust this approach because it is a snare and a delusion. In most cases, the debts involved have passed the statute of limitations and not only is it impossible to sue for the unpaid balances but the debt itself has vanished from the credit report system. By sending in even a dollar on the back balance, the debt is automatically renewed again and further harassments, phone calls, registered letters and debt-collection suits can, and will, follow.

The best advice here is not to send in a penny.

Here are some other valuable suggestions to save your capital and avoid harassment.

As almost all bill collecting now is done either by phone call or by mail, why not change your phone number? First, call your carrier and stop service, being very sure to pay the back bill. Then, after suffering a short period when you have no phone, start up again with a new carrier but under a different name. Why? Because the phone companies will supply to bill collectors, lists of their customers for a fee. So if you shut down the Joe Blow number and just start up under the same name but with a different carrier, be certain the bill collectors will very soon have the new number.

And when you get the new account (if they want other numbers you have recently used, tell the person at the new service that you have been out of the country, serving with the Armed Forces) to be even safer, you might want to have an unpublished number. If you have a new number under a new name and an unlisted service, you might also wish to add a caller ID to your service.

That, in and of itself, will shut off bothersome calls but if you really want to clean up your act, find a local mailbox service and rent a box. Give them an old address. That way, all your current bills, letters and magazines will go to that address and be reported to various agencies of interest. Then, with the new address, send in to the USPS a form indicating a change of address. Do not give them the drop address but another, more creative, one. One good new address is: 350 5th Ave., New York, NY 10018. This is the huge Empire State Building in New York with thousands of people working there.

The post office does not know which office number or which floor is involved so eventually the mail is returned. Or you could give the address of a local hotel or a huge office complex. In any case, you are giving a legitimate address and it will take weeks for the letter or bill to be returned to the sender as undeliverable.

Speaking of returned mail, go to a local firm that makes up rubber stamps and have one done that says ‘DECEASED’ on it. Then, if and when a new bill comes in to the drop address, you can stamp this in red ink on the surface and take it to any USPS station and drop it into a mail slot.

As almost all bill collecting is done by phone these days, these simple steps should materially ensure your continued privacy. This is a subject of increasing interest and we will have further informative and helpful suggestions at a later date.”