DEAR ABBY: We have a cordial relationship with our next-door neighbors, but we are not close. We are aware that they have been experiencing financial difficulties, but they have never revealed any details and we haven't asked.
About three months ago, we started receiving calls from collection agencies saying that they had not been able to reach our neighbors, and asking us to tell our neighbors to contact them. There have been 15 or 20 of these calls, usually at dinnertime. When I tell them that we have no intention of doing their work for them and embarrassing our neighbors, they become persistent -- even rude.
I am infuriated by this invasion of our privacy, and the harassment to which we are being subjected because these agencies can't do their job. If they have our neighbor's address and have had no response to their letters, they should send someone in person to speak to them -- they shouldn't ask us to do it.
Abby, is this legal? And is there any regulatory agency we can contact to keep from being bothered? -- HARASSED IN SANTA CLARITA, CALIF.
DEAR HARASSED: No, it's not legal. According to the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you should have received no more than one phone call.
You can deal with this problem in one of two ways: Call the local office of the Fair Trade Commission and file a complaint, and they will go after the collector. Or, contact the local bar association and consult a consumer protection attorney. My experts tell me that you may be entitled to damages.