Being Harassed by Scientology Solicitations
November 30, 2018 10:31 PM   Subscribe

A case of mistaken identity has turned into a Kafka hell (more inside)

I live in NYC. One day, I got a call from a California number that I didn't know. I picked up and it was a polite gentleman from the Church of Scientology asking if I used to live at xyz address. I explained that I never lived at xyz address and that it was a case of mistaken identity. He apologized and thanked me for explaining.

That was more than a year ago. There have been multiple calls per month, even a text message. Earlier this month, I got a letter from Scientology in California asking if my surname happened to be related to a certain family. Seeing this as an opportunity to remind them this was indeed a case of mistaken identity, I called the office number of the person who wrote the letter and left a message explaining that no, I am not connected to that family.

This person called back and left me a message asking why I quit my auditor training. I received another letter a week later from a different person from the Church asking why I quit my auditor training. Today, I received a package with DVDs in it, presumably filled with more Scientology propaganda, but I'm not going to open it.

Looking back on this, my mistake was calling them and confirming my mailing address. I guess the good thing is I have more evidence?

There are a number of people who have the same first and last name combination that I do. And, I have ZERO ABSOLUTELY ZERO NO interest in Scientology at all!! I certainly have never done this training they say I have done!!
I've watched Going Clear and read the Paul Haggis New Yorker pieces and am beginning to feel concerned. They are not listening to me and using manipulation tactics like they would to try and bring someone back into their cult. I'm simply not the person they are looking for and they won't believe me despite my numerous good faith attempts to explain this to them.
I'm looking for suggestions for how to address this legally and/or how to protect myself.
Thank you
posted by eusebis_w_adorno to Law & Government (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm sorry, but an old friend of mine was once involved in Scientology. She told me that no matter what, they will never remove anyone from their mailing list.

I find that hard to believe, but that's what she said.
posted by suelac at 10:36 PM on November 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


This Reddit thread is filled with alleged success stories of methods used to force Scientology to remove you from their mailing lists. Take with a grain of salt, perhaps, but there are a few methods here worth trying. The key is not just to try, but to be persistent. You have to counteract their aggressive manipulation with the same assertiveness. I hope you have the stamina. If not, bring in a friend or two to help.

As a data point, my college roommate's Mom had an e-meter reading done by Scientologisfs one time, and hung around just long enough that day that they got her info and harassed her for years. After she returned all of the letters to sender with nasty messages on the envelope (it took several months of disciplined effort) it stopped. YMMV. They don't like seeing their dear leaders' names disparaged and floating through the mail for so many eyes (at the post office, granted) to see. They want to be in total control of their image.

Good luck!
posted by nightrecordings at 11:04 PM on November 30, 2018 [7 favorites]


If you aren't able to get them to take you off their lists, you might also look into ways of just not being easy to contact. I'd probably try these even if I was trying to get them to remove me from their records in your shoes.

For the mail angle, you might try this suggestion from jgreco to file a USPS Prohibitory Order Form 1500 against them. I've heard it used against junk mail, but I see no reason for it to not work here.

I'm less certain about how to deal with the phone, but if you can, it'd probably be a good idea to screen your calls for numbers you don't recognize. If you can create a contact that contains the numbers of any of the Scientologists that have tried to contact you, you should be able to configure your phone to block calls from those numbers.
posted by Aleyn at 1:01 AM on December 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


good idea to screen your calls for numbers you don't recognize

I let any call that my phone does not recognise from my contacts go to voicemail - and screen there.
posted by GeeEmm at 2:09 AM on December 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yeah, ever since phone spammers started spoofing local area codes, anyone not already in my contacts has to leave me a message and I'll get back to them if I feel like it. It makes the experience of being spammed much less stressful.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:07 AM on December 1, 2018 [7 favorites]


This is junkmail and telemarketing.

I agree you should use the USPS form.

I would also explicitly tell them (record the name of person, date & time) to put you on their Do Not Call list. If they called again, I would document it and try to collect $$ from them via reporting the continued solicitation to the FTC.

(It’s not wise in this situation necessarily, but I very much like the idea of writing “Return to Sender” on their envelopes + disparaging things about Miscavige, always ending with the hashtag #Where’sShelly?)

Try the first two traditional methods. Consider the second method...

WAIT!!!!

YOU JUST GOT A PACKAGE??

I think you should assume there is material they might bill you for in that package. Bring it to your USPS office to get an official record of sending it back unopened. Fill out the proper USPS form to block their mail in the future. Keep a copy for your records. Keep an eye on your credit report going forward. I don’t think they’re known for falsely billing folks and sending those “debts” into collections, but since you don’t know who they think you are or what kind of contract that person has with them, be vigilant.
posted by jbenben at 6:46 AM on December 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


From an anonymous member:
Anonymous because I still have family in Scientology. I grew up in it, but have been out for years. But I know enough about the inner workings of it that I can give you the options that are likely to be somewhat effective!

First, they will never stop calling you and sending you mail. If you really want it to stop, change you number and don't leave a forwarding address the next time you move. But obviously that's not practical for most people.

Scientology has this very ingrained idea that the more phone calls/mailers/etc they send out, the more people will come in. They don't care about the quality, just the quantity. So they have a name, address, and phone number and just DGAF if it's even the same person.

But they DO have a very strict way of "protecting" Scientologists from those antagonistic to Scientology (aka, how to keep the blinders on). If someone they call/mail is antagonistic towards them, they put a label on their file and call it a "dead file." It's forbidden for Scientologists to contact that person. If you're successfully dead-filed, you'll probably still get the stray mailer or call, but it will DRASTICALLY stop. For context, listen to "Oh No Ross and Carrie's" series about how they got kicked out, but still get calls from a different branch of Scientology that didn't get informed.

So here's your course of action:
1) Take their calls. Each time they call, start yelling at them about all the criticisms you have of Scientology. Don't talk like a reasonable person, they need to view you as RABIDLY anti-Scientology. Don't worry about hurting the feelings of the person you're talking to, if anything you're planting doubt in their mind and hopefully leading to them eventually leaving.
2) Write back to every single letter. These are probably coming from different locations, so even if one location dead-files you, you'll still be in the system elsewhere, which is why you have to write to all of them. Generally say something like "I never did anything in Scientology AND I HATE IT" etc. You have to take the take general approach to calls, where the letter-reader feels how much you hate it.
3) Mailers that are typical impersonal junkmail. This is trickier, because it's hard to get taken off these lists. I think the best approach is the same as #2. Write it as "RETURN TO SENDER" and write your note on the back of the envelope. Maybe be a little more polite as this is publicly visible.

If you're not comfortable doing the above, the alternate approach is what I have to resort to - because I have family still in, they would be ordered to disconnect from me if they found out my true opinions.
Alternate approach:
1) Screen calls, and block the numbers that come from Scientology. They'll call less often, but they'll still call, and they'll keep using different numbers. If so far you've ONLY gotten calls from California, you're lucky - easy to screen CA numbers.
2) Write RETURN TO SENDER (note you are not the right "your name" and request they remove your address). Small chance of working, as they don't prioritize updating addresses, but you can hope with enough volume coming back someone will just take care of it.
3) Alternate option for calls is to take the call (or if you accidentally took the call) and ask them to remove that number from their list for "reason" - I usually say it's a work number and provide them will an alternate number to call. This has not been very effective, but it will usually temporarily slow the tide of calls.
4) Change your voicemail to not say your name so they can't confirm it is you anymore.

Good luck!
posted by taz at 7:25 AM on December 1, 2018 [16 favorites]


This isn't a Kafkaesque nightmare. It's just a case of junkmail and telemarketing. When the mail comes, put it in the trash. When the calls come, don't pick up. If they leave a voicemail, delete it. If you have the ability, block the number(s). End of story.

Treat this just like "Jenny from cardmember services" and the people who want to sell you carpet cleaning or who leave a flyer on your doorstop. The fact that it's Scientology doesn't make it different.

I live near a Scientology Center and get invitations to come for "brunch" or an info session there at least once a month. It troubles me not -- junk mail goes into the recycling bin.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:25 AM on December 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


I think the only two options here are the passive call-screening approach and just living with it, or becoming a suppressive person. Honestly, the latter sounds like more fun.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:40 AM on December 1, 2018


If this escalated once you confirmed your mailing address, I wonder what would happen if you called and "updated" your mailing address to something else. OK, 1600 Pennsylvania probably wouldn't pass muster but I'm thinking someplace giant that deals with so much incoming mail already that this would be a drop in the bucket. Your most-hated political organization, maybe, or the Amazon returns processing center?
posted by acidic at 8:56 AM on December 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hi, I'm a long-time known critic of Scientology.

I don't know anyone who's tried this, but I imagine it would be effective:

Every time you get a phone call from them, tell them you're going to (a) forward all their mailings to a Scientology critic, and (b) email that critic with a log of all their phone calls to you.

You are welcome to mention my name (Kristi Wachter - I am On Their List as a critic due to my critical websites) if you like, or you could try mentioning Tony Ortega (http://tonyortega.org/), who used to write about Scientology for the Village Voice and maintains a serious trove of critical information about them.

If they know that the material they send will be sent on to critics, that might just make them stop sending it.

(You're also welcome to actually send me any materials you want to forward, although I'd hate to put you to all that bother. Although if you'd like to take acidic's suggestion and give them a new mailing address, I'd be HAPPY to give you the address where I receive donated materials for my critical sites.)

It might set your mind slightly at ease to know that staff members and volunteers get points for each letter they send, so it's not personal, and it's not really likely to escalate beyond continuing to pester you from time to time. But the more you can impress upon them that you are actively critical of them, and happily in touch with active critics, the more likely they are to actually leave you alone.
posted by kristi at 8:30 PM on December 2, 2018 [9 favorites]


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