Everyone knows not to call me in the early hours of morning unless it is a dire emergency. If the telephone rings while I sleep, I must assume the world is coming to an end; therefore, I lunge for the phone, ready to hear what calamity I am called to battle in defense of family and country.
And this is how this story begins: the ringing of the telephone jangles REM sleep, yanking me from dream time into daylight. The caller asked to speak with Gilly Young.
“Huh? Who the hell Is Gilly Young? Who is this?”
“Gilly Young. I want to speak with Gilly Young.”
“Wrong number,” I said and without further thought, perched the receiver back onto the cradle.
Although I knew it would be impossible to reclaim my interrupted sleep, I buried my head under the pillow. Streaks of daylight, however, had already pierced my eyelids and there was nothing left to do except drag myself from my warm bed and start the new day. Little did I understand that something else had already started.
For the next fifty days my telephone rang every three or four hours; the caller always asked for Gilly Young.
At first I was polite, explaining I did not know and had never known anyone named Gilly Young. The calls persisted. Caller ID identified the callers as, NCO Financial, a collection agency. I looked up NCO on the Internet and what I discovered was eye opening. It appeared these people were infamous. I learned that NCO Financial will use any means ethical or not to collect a debt.
I discovered on the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2004/05/ncogroup.shtm that in May 2004, NCO had been charged with “violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by reporting inaccurate information about consumer accounts to credit bureaus.” So, this company was lying to credit bureaus about consumers and ruining their credit ratings. How despicable is that? NCO was ordered to pay $1.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges and yet here they were four years later still in business, ready, willing and able to commandeer my telephone line for their own purposes. They insisted they are within their rights to do what they need to do to collect what they are owed. Never mind that I did not and have never owed them a cent.
After numerous conversations with NCO employees I discovered that it did not matter to them that I did not owe the money. What mattered was that they suspected I knew the debtor. Had they looked up the history of my telephone number, they might have discovered that I acquired the number around the time that Gillie Young had given it up.
NCO was convinced that I knew where Gilly Young was and they were determined to extract that information from me. I was the only one standing between them and their money. The number of calls throughout the following weeks intensified; some calls were made by humans; many other calls were placed by automatic dialer. How I hate those machines!
I turned to the Kentucky State Attorney General’s office for help. The State Attorney General’s office said they would mail NCO a letter, ordering them to stop the telephone calls. The following week the number of calls diminished, but they kept coming. Finally, after another complaint to the Kentucky State Attorney General’s office, I managed to get the private number of the NCO VP in charge of their telephone operations. Having that telephone number in my hand sent a wild tingle up my arm. I realized that the power of the telephone can work both ways. Now, it was my turn to make telephone calls and I was determined to make as many as I needed to make.
At first the NCO VP denied all and any wrongdoing. Now, how stupid is that in this age of caller ID and telephone records readily at hand? Did she really think I did not have undeniable and detailed proof that NCO had telephoned me one hundred and thirty-four times that month? In addition NCO had no proof that I knew Gillie Young or had ever known Gillie Young. The only thing this person and I had in common was a telephone number. By the way, is Gillie Young a man or woman? Who the hell Is Gilly Young?
At about this time I was beginning to suspect that only a law suit would stop these people. Unfortunately, I do not have the unlimited funds that a suit like this would have required. NCO is huge and with plenty of legal staff to protect itself from a nobody like me. I was beginning to feel like a mosquito around an elephant, all the time wondering how sharp my stinger would have to be and whether my unlimited telephone calling plan was really unlimited.
One morning as my middle daughter (who is also an attorney) and I were discussing strategy, the phone rang; it was the NCO VP. She told me this would be the last call call from NCO. She did not explain why the decision was made and I did not care. The ordeal was over.
By the way, NCO, she said, was willing to give me one hundred dollars for my trouble. Oh, yeah! But no thanks. I wrote a letter to them, saying that the time I wasted on their company, (if I were to place a monetary value on my time) was worth more like a thousand dollars. I never expected to hear the name Gillie Young ever again.
Until last week. When the telephone rang early one Monday morning. . . .
“I want to talk with Maria.”
“You have a wrong number.”
“Well then put Gilly Young on.”
“Who the hell is Gilly Young?”
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