Back at Part 3, we had information to offer creditors and collection agencies. Some of that information we already had. We had an old phone number for Junior or Lulubelle, the names of a few friends, names of the adult child's other parent and other relatives. Just where did we get all this information to offer?
It's the Age of Information. It's all around each of us. I'm sure you must spend some time each day on the Internet, or you wouldn't be looking at this.
That doesn't mean the obvious should be ignored. My ex-son-in-law left behind a great deal of personal possessions, which I described here. One of the items he left behind was an address book, the other the directory from his parents' church in their hometown. When people seek to contact him by calling me first, they are supplied with some of these addresses and phone numbers, including the number of the pastor's office and the number of the volunteer fire department where he claimed to be a member of emergency services (he wasn't, exactly, it turns out, more of an emergency services groupie). Sonny came from a small town, with a small population, where he no longer resides. It's pretty easy to upset that quiet little community by letting collection agencies, credit companies, defrauded customers, and even former lovers now with children call around this bedrock small town and mention his name. While they won't always give up one of their own, they certainly know how to contact one of their own, Sonny, and do, when these things happen.
Sonny really can't blame me. His mother published his location and his employer recently in the church's monthly newsletter. I know this because I keep an eye on that particular church's monthly newsletter.
Is it stalking? Let's see...NO. Sonny is married to a woman who threw a fit when she found out my adult daughter wasn't dead, because then she couldn't collect social security for my grandchildren; actually said that to my attorney, screamed it, in fact, when he called Sonny to see if he would sign adoption papers. Sonny and his wife have been proven to have committed fraud against people with special needs children. Sonny and his wife forged checks on the old marital joint checking account Sonny held with my adult daughter when they were married- several of which caught him on camera doing the deed. I still get phone calls for creditors looking for Sonny and his present wife. The church publishes this newsletter online to save mailing costs, and doesn't have it locked down for parishioners only.
It's not stalking. It's prudently keeping an eye on a situation from a distance, in order to ensure that I am at least prepared should I encounter more creditors, or some other interference at the hands of Sonny. If it makes you feel better, how do you think marketing researchers find information about you these days? Your name turned up in a datebase or on a sheet for the product. They go out there and Google their little hearts out trying to find out more about you. It only becomes stalking when the person doing the research starts to threaten or harass the subject in question. I have no desire to stir up trouble. I do desire to stop creditors to whom I owe nothing from calling my house.
My Lulubelle, you will recall, co-rented a storage unit with us, for her things when she went through her homeless and semi-homeless phase. When she didn't pay, I brought the rent up-to-date, cleaned it out of what I wanted (mostly the cream-colored towels and photos of the kids), and informed the storage manager that I wouldn't pay any more. In the unit was an address book, a scrapbook, some other stuff which identified friends and in-laws. It's fairly easy to find her friends, so they too can share the love of creditors.
It doesn't take a lot of money or a lot of time to find some people. Most people are creatures of habit. They like to be comfortable. They like to stay in the same place, if possible, and if not possible, those related to them tend to stay where they planted themselves 10, 20, 30 years ago. If they went to a particular school, they often join the alumni associations; ditto military service.
And a lot of people are just plain stupid when it comes to participation on online game sites and message boards. They tend to use variants of their names, nicknames, even their actual names. A good example of this is the time my ex-son-in-law disappeared, leaving no alleged trace, and no child support, either. The government couldn't find him, and so couldn't a lot of other people. Boo-hoo-hoo. I found him pretty easily on MySpace. I didn't violate terms of service to find him. He was out there for all the world to see.
Sometimes, however, all the free stuff doesn't work. Facebook flakes out, Whitepages.com has no record, and Google only turns up idiocy. The answer, then, is two-fold: the Government, and paid searchers.
Intelius, USA-People-search.com, Spokeo, yansi.com, Pipl, 123- they all give some form of information on the person, and can give more for a fee. Sometimes the fee is really ridiculous, and sometimes the fee is really reasonable. I like Intelius, as it gives the names of the people related to the subject at hand. Those related individuals, in turn, can be researched next. Intelius and USA-People-search.com information, however, can be a bit stale.
Once you have a rough idea where the person went, you can check government databases, right in the comfort of your own living room, to see if there's any trace of the person. Not every county in the country has a web site, and not every county court has its records online; a great many, however, do. Most are free, some require registration.
It's helpful to copy and paste this information into a spreadsheet or document, formatting it later into a letter or some such you can copy as you need to do so, and send it off to the creditor or collection agency when it's rep calls. Remember, don't put your name on it, and certainly don't put your address. These agencies talk to each other, sell information to each other as well, and if you put your address on it, you will soon receive enough dunning letters to repaper the biggest room in your house.
Why can't the collection agencies and creditors do all this? The people who work for such businesses aren't detectives, and they certainly aren't grandparents with an axe to grind and grandchildren to protect. Most of the employees of such businesses are in it for the short haul, until they get another, real job, or until they pay off whatever it is they've bought that they couldn't afford. And let's face it, it's so much easier to bother you.