Americans are in Debt and the Vultures are Circling

Americans are now deeper in debt than any other time in our nation’s history. Especially acute are mounting debts on past due mortgage payments, student loans and medical bills. In fact, medical debt is one of the most often mentioned causes of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. and the situation has only gotten worse during the pandemic.

So, is it any wonder that criminal minds would turn to scams to exploit those suffering from financial woes?
“Do not hang up,” the robocall voice sternly instructs. “Your case has been referred to law enforcement for nonpayment. A warrant for your arrest is being issued.”

Millions have gotten these pre-recorded phony phone calls designed to keep the recipient on the line to see what the threat is all about. Between our home and cell phones my husband and I get at least one every other day even though we joined the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry back in 2003.

Via Flickr and Mike Licht

Many originate as an “autodialed call.” That’s one that is placed by an automated outbound calling system that dials telephone numbers until it detects a connection. After you say, “Hello…” you hear momentary silence as the system quickly passes the call to a live person. This technology has sophisticated internal metrics that predicts the exact right time to place a call to coincide with the availability of one of their agents.

Legitimate debt collection agencies also use these outbound dialing strategies and if you owe money you will have to pay it back. But whether the caller is a genuine collector or a scam artist there are laws these callers must follow.

The 2015 Telephone Consumer Protection Act declared that any debt collector instigating a call via an autodialing system was subject to strict laws governing what they could and could not do. Unfortunately, the Act was struck down by the federal court as being too far-reaching in 2018.

The Fair Debt Collectors Protection Act Can Help – Flickr

Today, debtors still have protection under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Debt collectors are not allowed to threaten to have you arrested, pretend to work for a government agency, try to collect a debt you don’t actually owe, continue to harass you or publicly shame you by publishing your name. Offenders can be fined up to $500 dollars per illegal call. If this is happening to you note the time and number that called you, demand their company information and report them to your state Attorney General’s office.

The Federal Communications Commission says it gets more consumer complaints about robocalls than anything else and its issued hundreds of millions of dollars in fines against illegal callers. In January 2020, President Trump signed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act. This legislation sets fines of up to $10,000 per illegal call. It also requires communications companies like Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T to put technology in place to help consumers identify spam calls using a fake number.

All these safeguards are in place, yet on a regular basis I still get – and I’m sure you also get – these irritating and sometimes frightening phone calls. Why can’t they simply be stopped? The FTC and FCC are supposedly on the case, phone carriers pledge to help, federal legislation aims to stop the practice and state Attorneys General offices say they are “on the front lines of enforcing do-not-call laws.” Really?

The TRACE Act Can Help Protect Consumers Too – Facebook

We are a nation of smart people so why can’t we figure out a way to stop the harassment from unscrupulous debt collectors, criminals out to fleece Americans and all those annoying telemarketers?

This problem isn’t going away. Experts estimate that by the end of this year we will have endured more than 51 billion of these miserable interruptions. Imposing fines haven’t stopped the calls so how about imposing meaningful prison time for the worst offenders?

And while I’m no technological brain seems to me that these calls could not occur without access to a phone line. Shouldn’t all efforts be focused on the obvious frontline solution of how to withhold phone access to questionable characters?

At a time when Americans are struggling to recover from the financial and emotional hardships of the pandemic the last thing they need is for this illegal, nerve-wracking and universally unwanted practice to continue. Is anyone in Washington listening?



  1. Diane Dimond on August 3, 2021 at 9:19 am

    Kevin McKeown

    Twice a week I get a robo call telling me “this is a collection agency needing to recover an outstanding bill.”
    But I have absolutely no debts!
    My landline phone gets knocked up as many as 15 times a day, starting at 6:30 am up to 11:30 pm. Horrible.
    The auto warranty robot has called me from 50 different area codes ranging from Maine to California, Oregon to Florida, Canada to Mexico, and even the Virgin Islands. My ancient Kia has no warranty on it. Phone company can’t do a thing.
    This garbage reinvigorated big time when Covid lockdowns hit in March 2020. Scammers knew millions of people would be homebound, in debt, and scared. And that the Feds would be up to their eyeballs in other concerns, like the elections, Covid, etc.
    And the vultures jumped in en masse


  2. Diane Dimond on August 3, 2021 at 11:51 am

    Bob Burtis writes:

    I have avoided the vultures. Everyday on Facebook you may see questions about the name of your first pet, favorite teacher and other seemingly innocent questions.

    These are often security questions for banks.

    I have been involved in several AI (artificial intelligence) projects for Purchasing and medical insurance. It is not a data search it is data mining beyond anything anyone our age +/- 10 years can imagine.

    The vultures will be using the same software.
    If interested I can send you a couple of links that will shatter your imagination of what is possible.

  3. Diane Dimond on August 3, 2021 at 11:56 am

    Fuomi Deeker writes:

    “We are a nation of smart people”? I’m having trouble seeing it that way.

  4. Diane Dimond on August 4, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    Susan King writes:

    Thank goodness for the silent setting on my phone. Then once you have their number there’s that handy Block Call setting…lol.

  5. Diane Dimond on August 4, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    Steve Liddick writes:

    The problem with blocking robocall numbers is that they have many more numbers. If they don’t get you one one, they’ll get you on another.

  6. Diane Dimond on August 4, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    Pat Kelley Wittorf writes:

    Have you had a call yet from someone purporting to be an “officer” with the Social Security Administration notifying you that illegal transactions have been traced to your SSN and a warrant is being prepared for your arrest and your SSN has been suspended? I had another one just this morning. I was busy so just hung up, but I have stayed on the line long enough in the past to get information to report to the Office of the Inspector General.

  7. Diane Dimond on August 4, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    Jonathan Swartz writes:

    I am on the Do Not Call list and I still get those annoying phone calls. One classic one is that the IRS is filing a lawsuit. In reality, these organizations will never call asking for money. I always ignore any illegitimate phone calls and don’t answer any messages they leave.

  8. Diane Dimond on August 4, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    longbdrdr writes:

    “Is anyone in Washington listening?“
    I’m sure there is a money trail that would explain their deafness.

  9. Diane Dimond on August 4, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    John S writes:

    I learned decades ago, the phone is for my convenience, not the other way around. Voice mail works just fine.
    My only debt is my mortgage. I use no annual fee credit cards for the cash back rewards, but I keep them paid off.

  10. Diane Dimond on August 4, 2021 at 5:22 pm

    Andy K writes:

    Ask anyone who sells cars how 90% of the people make their purchasing decisions.
    It’s based on, what’s my payment gonna be?
    Few of them care about the bottom line, loan term, or interest rates.
    It’s hard to have compassion for dumb people.

  11. Diane Dimond on August 4, 2021 at 5:24 pm

    CheriD@cdepels writes:

    4 phone calls so far today. 2 on my cell, 2 on landline. (angry face)

Leave a Comment