Finding a land line phone number for a skip is as rare as finding a wheat penny in your grocery store change. I mean really? Who has a home land line in this digital age? Could be my debtor’s mother or other elder family member. And that does me absolutely no good as a collector.
People are using their cell phone numbers for everything. My one little cell phone has conveniently replaced thousands of dollars in other equipment. Cell phone numbers are the primary number used on most people’s accounts. The phone number for a utility contact, when buying a new car and even when applying for credit cards. This makes me believe that because of the way people use their cell phone number and not a home phone number that one day we will be able to cold call a debtor on a cell phone to attempt to collect a debt without permission and without suffering consequences. Especially since this may be the only phone number that they have at all.
The shift in the cell phone age has made phone tracing harder. I can get a land line address from several of the different databases that I use. Cell phones do present more challenge added with a higher cost to get the billing address (that might even be a fake!)
The general debtor population absolutely has become skip trace savvy. Privacy has become such a common headliner that the concern for keeping a name and address secret is acted upon by providing a false address from the creation of the account. Since account maintenance can be handled online there’s no need for a paper bill to be mailed to the account holder and therefore no need to provide a real and verified address for the account.
If all have is a cell phone number in which to contact a debtor, I will try to leave a message hoping to get a call returned and make a connection with my skip – open a line of communication with them and get a confirmation that the next phone call is welcome.
Should I just say, “Can I call you back?” Without asking specifically what number exactly that I can call back on, guessing that I am calling on the debtor’s cell phone number just because I hear loud music in the background and glasses clink. Obviously that person is not at home. Well, the answer will either be yes or no. I just have to ask to make sure that I am not in violation and have permission.
There are companies that provide collections agency’s with high volume phone number scrubs providing the name and address along with telecom carrier information to help ensure compliance. I have my own process for skip tracing cell phone numbers or discovering that a phone number is indeed a cell phone number. With the portability of phone numbers from a land line, to cell phone and then possibly to a VoIP service such as the overwhelmingly popular and free Google Voice or Magic Jack; you really don’t know what kind of phone you’re calling until you actually make the call. This is why the FDCPA gives us a free pass for a first time error. Quite often I don’t know I’m making a mistake while I make it and we all know we’ll figure it out as soon as it’s done.
Valerie Good McGilvrey
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