We have all heard the news of outsourcing American jobs to Mexico with their cheap, almost free labor costs, and of course the transition of skilled computer related jobs to countries such as India. Why would any company pay $40 or $50 an hour for something that can be done in another country at a fraction of the price? Many companies have indeed done just that. I for one wonder how much of this out sourcing has contributed to the current credit crunch. If people here in the US do not have jobs, they can not buy the goods?

Today I found a new twist on the off shore adventures by a company registered in Mill Valley, California, Astra Business Services. My wife took the call, some lady calling herself Angela Cook called and asked if we could deliver an important message to a neighbor. “Please tell her to call 866-823-1670 as soon as possible.” My wife is a kindly soul, and wrote down all of the information.

I have to admit that my ‘spidey senses’ were alerted. We have only just moved into this house, our telephone number is not secret, but it certainly is not in the local directory.

I had some questions for my wife, the fundamental one was ‘how did they get our number’? My wife thought about it for a while, and she agreed, something was amiss.

Well, I decided that before I played the part of Good Samaritan I would do a little investigating. A quick Google revealed that the call back area number 866 is a toll free number. Now I have lots of friends, but I can’t name one that wants to pay for incoming calls. My wife assured me that the young lady on the phone was very nice, and sounded very sincere.

I just wasn’t buying into the game. I decided to call the number and see what I could extract. It was answered by a gentleman in the name of Astra Business Services. I asked for Angela Cook, who I explained had called a few minutes prior. There was what can only be classed as a pregnant pause. Not being easily led away from Red Meat, I plowed on. If Angela is not available, can I talk to her supervisor?

As if by magic, Angela is suddenly located.

It is a very erudite and educated young lady that is put on the line.

So what is it that Astra Business Services do?

Well we are involved with Personal Business Information.

I am not sure what that means, my wife took a call from you a few minutes ago asking if we would relay a message to one of of neighbors. Clearly this is not a personal message, I know of few individuals that offer 1-800 service. So what are you selling?

Oh, we do not sell anything, that is not our thrust.

So tell me about Astra Business Services? Where are you headquartered?

Our headquarters are in Mill Valley, California.

So what kind of business are you in?

umm, well we are a financial services organization, we are in the personal business information industry

I am curious as to how you obtained my number as you do not even know my name, and the person you are actually trying to locate apparently is my neighbor.

Oh, I got it from 411.

That doesn’t seem entirely credible, it stretches my imagination that you can call 411 ask for Joe Smith in some town, and then also ask if they can also supply the telephone numbers of his neighbors, it just doesn’t work that way.

We might have got it from a skip tracer.

Skip Tracer? You said that this message was business related but did not concern money. So you are in the skip tracing business?

Oh, no, we are not skip tracers.

You mentioned that you are headquartered in Mill Valley, California, is that where you are calling from?

No, I am calling from India

Needless to say, by this time it was abundantly clear that this was some kind of collections call, even though the young lady was insistent that this important message was not connected with money. It didn’t take a whole pile of research to track down this company, and on their web site is this illuminating piece of information:

Together, this deeply experienced American/Indian management team has launched a one-of-a-kind company with a singular focus on American consumer delinquencies.

A further few minutes on Google revealed that these folks have a modus operandi of annoying people who are not connected in any way with the person involved. So here is a piece of advice, if you receive a call from 866-823-1670 don’t bother calling it back. It is just a call center in India, if you want to have some real fun though, call the company in Mill Valley at (415) 384-0730 and ask to speak to Feroze Waheed, he is the CEO. I am sure that he would love to chat with you.

Update: Feroze Waheed is actually located in India. This makes this company even more suspicious. This is not out sourcing, this is predatory. How can a company be based in the US when the major players are some place else?

I have also received no reply from the company, no doubt they are just to busy calling people from their 866-823-1670 number. I would love to hear from any reader that has suffered from this organization, so if you have a story, drop me a line. The big black box on the right hand side of the page that says Writers Wanted will get my email addy.

Simon Barrett

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