LEGAL RIGHTS BULLETIN: Debt Collection Management

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If you owe money and you don’t pay it back on time, the person or business you owe the money to can hire a collection agency.

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Note, however, that sometimes people pose as a collection agency in order to scam you. Always confirm that they are who they say they are before telling them about your debt.

Look up company information online or in the phone book. Then call the company to see if they have been hired to collect your debt and if the person who called you actually works for them. Find the company number independently and do not use the number given to you by the caller.

Scammers will often try to scare you away with a lawsuit, calls to family and friends, and threats to get you arrested. These are red flags. If this happens, you are probably not dealing with a real collection agency.

Collection agencies must follow the rules established by law.

Usually, collection agencies must send you written notice of a debt before they can contact you by phone, text, email, or in person. Written notice may be sent by mail or email. The notice must include the following information:

  • The name of the person or company that says you owe them money.
  • Details of the debt you owe (for example: unpaid Visa credit card).
  • The amount you originally owed and the amount you currently owe.
  • A statement that the collection agency will provide you with a breakdown of the amount you owe if you ask.
  • The name and contact information of the collection agency.

There are other rules collection agencies must follow. For example, they can only contact you at certain times: Monday to Saturday between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.; Sunday between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. They cannot contact you more than three times a week.

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There are also rules about who a collection agency can contact about your debt. They may contact your family, friends or others who know you, but only to obtain your home address and phone number.

They are allowed to contact your employer, but only once, and only to confirm your employment, professional title and business address. Unless the person they are contacting is also your surety, contacting these people for any other reason is against the law.

If you want to pay off your debt and you’re sure you’re paying it to the right office, keep the following in mind:

  • Do not send cash.
  • Always get a receipt for all payments you make.
  • Deal only with the debt collector who contacted you to make the payments.
  • Try to negotiate. The collection agency may be willing to reduce the debt.

Collection agencies have a deadline to collect a debt. Usually, the debt must be collected, acknowledged or sued within two years from the date the debt was due.

If you have any questions, contact the Chatham-Kent Legal Clinic for assistance.

Rashin Alizadeh-Dimeski, CKLC lawyer (www.cklc.ca, 519-351-6771)

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