You are minding your own business, watching TV, cooking dinner, taking a nap, when the phone rings (could be the land-line, could be your cell). You don't recognize the number, if you have caller ID, yet you answer.
If the person on the other end is a professional, you're told something such as, "I'm Ms. Jones from the Green Money Collection Agency, and I'm looking for INSERT NAME," which happens to be the name of your adult child, whose biological progeny inhabit your home. "The purpose of this call is to collect a debt."
Perhaps the person on the other end is not so professional. If this is the case, perhaps you will be treated to, "INSERT NAME?" with no time to respond. "You owe X Corp three thousand, five hundred and forty two dollars and sixty-two cents! You are a scumbag who hasn't paid what you owe! If you don't tell me you'll be paying that money TODAY, by wire transfer, I will have the sheriff at your house TODAY, to arrest you and take you to jail. I'll have you arrested AT WORK, you deadbeat, and your mug shot will be on the Internet for everybody to see! Got that? Give me your bank account or credit card number NOW!"
When you try to explain to the screaming maniac at the other end that you are indeed not your adult child, and you're sorry he or she is so angry, you'll receive in reply something such as, "Well, you ARE his mother, aren't you? I'm an attorney, and I can have INSERT NAME jailed like that! You need to help him out! What kind of a mother are you, to raise such a deadbeat! What's your credit card number?"
And there are all sorts of debt collectors in between!
Then too, there are what are known as "bottom feeder" collection agencies. These are companies that buy bad, written-off or even already paid debt from companies that extend credit, or even from other debt collectors, for pennies on the dollar. They then try to force people to pay it, and they don't care if your husband is Joseph Johnson, Sr., with a different social security number and age. They are trying to make big money out of a very small investment. They are often cruel to those they call, totally ignore the law, and have been known to scare old folks into giving up their bank account numbers just to keep the people working there from constantly calling and screaming at them.
To make matters worse, there is identity theft. This is where somebody, someplace has gotten hold of some of your identifying information, and opens credit in your name. It is most tragic that stranger ID theft exists. It goes completely against the grain of familial bonds to note that more commonly, it is indeed somebody to whom you are related who has stolen your name, social security number, address, etc. and charged up a bunch of stuff in your name.
So, that professional person or screaming jerk may call and ask for you! And you know for a FACT that you don't drive a 2012 Audi with big payments, or attended the Sturgis, ND motorcycle rally, and you would never, EVER get a subscription to five magazines about sex!
You're dealing with thugs, pure and simple. If the debt collector is professional, even nice, you are still dealing with a thug who stole your identity, or sold it to somebody else. And as hard as it may be, it is probably that adult child who thinks he or she is entitled to what you, and/ or your spouse, has earned.
But we can learn to successfully deal with this.