#FinancialFridays: Debt and collection agencies – here’s what you should know.

If you have debt and collection agencies are calling constantly, its hard not experience anxiety and stress. Choosing to ignore debt may seem like the right thing to do at the time but left unchecked, your debt could grow and you may experience negative effects on your mental and physical health as well as your personal relationships.

Credit Canada has some recommendations that can help you when dealing with collection agencies and persistent debt collectors. Read more below:

Avoidance is not the best answer: Avoiding calls pertaining to your debt may be a way to avoid some stress in that moment, but we recommend that you take the call and get the details of the debt. If you do not deal with your debt, an individual or company may be initiate a summons against you and take you to court. If you are unable to pay the debt, you can try to negotiate a lower settlement amount or payment plan. It’s important to get everything in writing and it is within your right to have all offers and agreements sent to you in written form.

If the call debt collection calls stop, it doesn’t mean that the debt isn’t affecting you: After some time, you may notice that a collection agency may have given up on you. This could in fact happen or they could sell your debt to another collection agency. It’s important to understand that just because the calls and letters have stopped, you could still in fact receive a summons and be taken to court. Also, even if the calls have stopped, your credit score can continue to fall considerably and the severity of your debt may be increased which might make it hard for you to acquire financing down the line.

Debt Collector Calling Regulations: The laws in most provinces stipulate that debt collectors are only allowed to contact you Monday to Friday 7 am to 9 pm and Sundays 1 pm to 5 pm. Debt collectors are not allowed to contact you on statutory holidays. If a debt collector breaks any of these collection laws, you can file a complaint with the appropriate consumer protection office. If you want to stop the collection calls, you may request that the agency stop calling you and that they only communicate with you by mail / email.

Outstanding debts and statute of limitations: If you have an outstanding debt and have been pursued for years by debt collectors for years, there are things you should know. There is no statute of limitations on how long a collection agency or creditor can try to collect on your debt however Canadian legislation does set a statute of limitations on the amount of time a credit has to sue you based on the acknowledgement of the debt. In Ontario, that time frame is two years. While collection calls can continue long after this time is up, any legal action they threaten is not viable and you can file a complaint with the consumer protection office in your province.

Debt collectors and access to bank accounts and wages: Collectors must take you to court and win before they can garnish your wages. This does not apply to funds owed to the Federal government or money owed to a credit union.

Collection calls are one thing, threatening language is another: By Canadian law, debt collectors are not permitted to use profane or intimidating language when dealing with debtors.

When debt collectors call people you know: Debt collectors are allowed to contact your friends, family and employer however they cannot discuss your debt with these people and once they’ve made contact, they cannot call them again. Debt collectors may try to call to get your phone number, address or confirm your employment.

When the debt doesn’t belong to you: If a debt collector is trying to collect on a debt that doesn’t belong to you, you should inform the collector that the debt does not belong to you and that should be enough to close the matter. If they persist, get whatever information you can and inform them that you are aware that it is illegal to harass someone for a debt they don’t owe. If you continue to receive calls, you can file a complaint with the consumer protection office in your province. If this happens, we suggest you obtain a copy of your credit report to ensure that the debt has not been filed on your report and is not affecting your credit rating.

Remember, getting out of debt is possible. If you need help with your debt, our Financial Literacy Program is here to help. For assistance getting your finances back on track, reach out to Caroline, our Financial Literacy Program Coordinator at advice@unitedwaybg.com or 519-376-1560. She can help you look at your financial situation and decide on a path forward.