What you need to know first: You are NOT, NOT, NOT responsible for your adult child's debt. You did not create this debt. It is not your job to pay it back. There is no law that says you have to pay it back. You do NOT, NOT, NOT owe any of your adult children's bills, any more than you owe any adult relative's or relation's debts. You do not owe your grandchildren's prior debts, even if you have adopted them (and if you have not, you do not owe their present debts out of your own money). The exception to this is the Health Care Act, which means you must pay for health insurance for your adult child through age 26, if you have health insurance. But that will come directly out of your paycheck, and no nasty individual will call you to demand payment.
Moving along, this is the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and its FAQ. You will see no way, no how the Government expects you to pay for that wild weekend in Denver you didn't attend, or the DVD club that extended your adult child 10 free DVDs for $162.85 postage and handling, or your adult child's satellite TV complete with the Porno Channel.
Also spelled out- how the collector is supposed to behave when he or she calls. Is it how debt collectors actually behave? Well, some do, and some don't. You will see, however, that they can call you, and ask for information as to the whereabouts of your wayward Lulubelle or Junior. They aren't supposed to blab about the amount of the debt. They aren't supposed to threaten you with jail, because nobody, not even the adult child, is going to jail over a debt. They can't call you before 8 AM, or after 9 PM at night.
Your first line of defense is INFORMATION. If you are dealing with a relatively professional individual, you should ask for the name of the collection agency, and its address. You can explain that this is your adult child, you know your rights under the Fair Debt Collections Act; that you do not wish to be called again on the matter, and that you will be sending a letter, return receipt requested, that they do not call you again, either here or at your place of employment.
When you send that letter, they cannot bother you any more. Period. They might, but they aren't supposed to do that by law. At that point, it behooves you to start a log, recording the date, time, name of the person who called, and what was said. You may even rig up the land-line with a recording device, so you have proof of what was said. You can find many an attorney these days whose practice is devoted to representing individuals who have had dealings with collection agencies that behave badly. And the FTC and your state attorney general are certainly interested in collection agencies who don't follow the law and try to frighten old people out of their money. It often takes them months to respond, and even more months to deal with the situation, but they are interested.
Or, you may just want to make sure you have caller ID on all phones, cell and land-line, and not bother. That's what the reject list on your cell phone does. Learn to use it. Eventually, they will stop calling. If you accidentally pick up the line and there is the collector again, hang up immediately. There's no law that says you must speak to anybody on your phone. And don't be so darned polite to people who, 100 years ago, the butler wouldn't have let through the front door!
The obnoxious, who won't take no for an answer, are another matter entirely. I have to admit, I've had these call me, and I kind of enjoy playing with these. But you have to understand, I am SO fed up with them, their inability to listen, and their extremely blatant lies, on top of my Lulubelle's actions, that I just can't resist.
You can, of course, just hang up on these, as well. If you have an attorney handling the matter, they are supposed to call the attorney once you've informed them. But they don't listen. Seems as if they are hard of hearing.
Therefore, if these sons of guns won't listen, particularly in the case of bottom feeders and/or the extreme jerks, take a tip from the olden days, when perverts used to make random (or not) calls to frighten women, with obscene language and heavy breathing: Get a big coach's whistle, or if you lack lung power these days, an air horn. Calm yourself. Hold the phone or receiver up to the whistle or air horn, and BLAST AWAY, LONG, LOUD AND HARD. I've heard of the alternative, leaving the phone or receiver next to the very loud TV or radio speaker.
You will have a certain sense of satisfaction, if nothing else. And the bully in a cubicle 1,200 miles away will think twice before calling you again!