The other day, I got a call from the Justice Department. I had a moment of sheer panic before I remembered, I contacted them first. For over a year, I’ve been getting harassed by a collections agency. A dim-witted collections agency that thinks that I am someone else. Yup, they had the wro-o-o-ong number. A fact that I had repeatedly explained to the half-wit who called me the most frequently: “Dude. The only Nellie Oleson I’ve ever heard of was on the Little House on the Prairie.”
Clearly, there was some kind of mix-up. Someone was playing a joke on the debt collections agency. But no matter how many times I explained myself over the phone, they refused to believe me. Highlights from the phone calls I received include the collections agency (later revealed to be Northland Group) calling me a liar, calling me very late at night and oh yes, refusing to identify the name of their company. For a year, I was unable to report them because they had a blocked number. But they started calling me again this month and voila! Their number suddenly appeared on my Caller ID.
Since my phone number is on the do not call list, is an unlisted cell phone number and as I’d told them over and over that it was a wrong number anyway, I filed an online complaint report with the Oregon Attorney General. They followed up tout suite, calling Northland Group and telling them to take me off their list. Immediately. Ding!
I’m double-dipping here, since I already posted this on my personal blog, the rose city journal. But it's a cautionary tale. Companies that hire collections agencies have to be very, very careful of whom they entrust with their business. From a customer retention perspective, you don’t want to choose a collection agency who is rude or unpleasant to a current or future customer. Companies like Northland Group give the collection agency industry a bad name. You can find and hire collections agencies who work hard, remain pleasant on the phone and who won't do anything to embarrass a client or to offend customers during a phone call.
There are rules that collections agencies have to follow and Northland Group ignored all of them: refusing to self-identify, calling a cell phone number, calling a number from the do not call registry and continuing to call back after being told it was a wrong number are just a few of the things they did wrong. From a marketing perspective, choosing a collections agency like Northland Group won’t help your bottom line.
There’s an easy way to prevent abuse by a collections agency that you hire for debt collections. It’s called “seeding,” and it means including your name and a few key staff members on the list of customers to call. That way, you can find out first hand if the debt collections agency that you've hired is following your instructions, and representing you in the way that aligns with your company’s marketing and PR initiatives.
If you're being harassed over the phone by a company that you did not authorize to call you, your local Attorney General's office can help. The AG is the original consumer's advocate, going to bat for citizens under siege. You can file a complaint online with the Oregon Attorney General and make the harassment stop.