Some forum members might find solace in these ideas. Hiding from debt collectors when you cannot take the pressure anymore, is akin to needing to escape and rehab when your life is spinning out of control.
How to Disappear Aka “going private” or “hiding”
Important. A disappearing act is much easier to carry off if the debtor lives alone.
Reasons you may want to “disappear.”
To remain anonymous to all creditors and potential claimants or plaintiffs.
To avoid or evade legal process service of a lawsuit or other adverse action.
Actions to Consider Taking to Become Non Locatable
1) Get a PO Box. This is a critical step. Inform all correspondents of your new address. On the USPS application, if asked for street address, you might list a previous nearby address (or you could list a faux address if so inclined). Why? Because a tenacious and persistent creditor might subpoena the post office requesting that info.
1a) Alternatively, you might sign up for “Earth Class Mail”. With this service, a subscriber can see his/her mail online. When the mail arrives, it’s opened and scanned. This can be a valuable service if affordable.
2) Tell your local post office (in writing or on a form) to no longer deliver mail to your street address.
3) In support of #2, either remove your mailbox, or securely fasten it shut and post a notice “Do not leave mail here” on or near your mail box. If you do remove the mailbox or receptacle, I recommend you post that notice somewhere near the front door or entryway.
4) Do not submit a forwarding address to USPS. That way, all mail delivered to your street address will be returned to sender. Again, be certain you notify all correspondents of your new PO Box mailing address.
5) If you have a garage, park your car inside and obscure any windows so no one can determine whether or not the car is present.
6) Keep some of your windows coverings closed enough to preclude visitors from peering inside your home.
7) Phones, both cell and land line. On the voicemail greeting, change it to the default greeting provided by the phone company/cell provider. Ensure that your name isn’t announced anywhere in that greeting. You can just choose to not answer any incoming calls from either creditor numbers or unrecognized numbers on your caller ID. Turn the ringer way down to barely audible and set the number of rings to only 2 or 3 before it goes to voicemail.
8) Consider buying two prepaid TracFones (no contract to lock you in). Use one phone for family and friends. Use the second phone only for calling banks, CC companies, and debt collectors. Never call a debt collector or bank or loan servicer from your family and friends TracPhone. When you get tired of incoming collection calls, simply turn that phone off to get a needed brain break.
9) Or consider a Google phone or other alternative. The benefits are 1) it’s free 2) includes voicemail 3) you hear no ring 4) you get a number in your area code. Provide this number to your creditors as the best and only way to contact you.
10) Don’t call creditors’ toll free numbers or unknown toll free numbers from a phone that you want to keep anonymous. Your phone #’s ID cannot be blocked on calls to toll free numbers. Also be aware that a creditor’s non toll free number often points to their toll free inbound number, thereby enabling them to see you number.
Other Non-Phone Actions
11) Be cautious of being outside or in your yard for an extended period of time during daylight or early evening hours.
12) Never answer the door for an unexpected visitor. Instead be stealthy to convey the impression no one is home.
13) Decide in advance on an alias and story. If asked if you are “Your Real Name”, respond with something like “Who?” i.e. acting as if you’ve never heard of the person. You could follow up with something like “Who are you looking for? I think you have the wrong address.” Then, if the visitor asks your identity, refuse to answer, or else give them your alias. If they ask about your status, you can say you’re a house guest, neighbor, house sitter, house cleaner, maintenance person, roommate, etc.doing something for the tenant (not the owner - you don’t know who the owner is). You’ll need another alias for the absent tenant
While this kind of discourse can be fun, if you’re concerned you may get flustered, simply refuse to answer any questions, and ask them to kindly vacate the premises and never return. That is the safest course. And, you are allowed to fib to, or make up stories to tell uninvited guests; after all you’re on your property!
14) Update your credit reports at the three major CRAs. Creditors use loads of online database information, like credit reports, to chase debtors. I recommend you order a credit report on yourself, and in that process, provide the new mailing address. This will feed the new contact info to the creditors and aid in the hiding process for you.
While not foolproof the above actions can be very effective.
The above recommended tips will not keep one hidden from a creditor willing to spend a lot of time and $$ to hunt a debtor down, but it will help shield the debtor from 97% of the chatter and grief he/she may be experiencing now. A determined creditor, or other entity, might, if the $$ sum sought is large enough, pay for a skip tracing or other locating service, or even a private investigator, to locate the debtor.
As a bonus, here's the link to a story entitled "Things Debt Collectors Won't Say" from SmartMoney Magazine.