Falling behind on bill payments, forgetting an outstanding charge or leaving a billing conflict unresolved can lead to uncomfortable calls from a debt collector or a collection agency.
These calls can be distressing and overwhelming. It’s important to know your rights and the steps you can take to put a stop to the calls for good.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions and suggestions for how to handle the situation.
• What should I do when a debt collector first calls?
The first thing you should do when a debt collector or collection agency calls is to write down the name of the company contacting you (if it’s not the original creditor) and the name of the person calling. Get their phone number. Confirm the amount of the debt, who you owe it to and when the debt first started. If the debt amount doesn’t seem familiar to you, tell the debt collector you will call them back after verifying the amount.
Use your old statements to help confirm the amount or call your original creditor. If the call is from a debt collector, you might also want to confirm with your original creditor the company’s identity and if they have the authority to collect the debt on their behalf.
• What do I need to know about making payments?
If the debt is yours and the amount is correct, the best thing to do is pay it right away. This is the fastest way to resolve the issue. Of course, it isn’t always possible to pay the full amount or as quickly as they want you to. If you cannot repay the debt in full explain your situation and offer to pay the debt in installments, or ask if they will reduce the amount you owe.
Make sure to receive confirmation of your agreed payment amount and terms in writing before submitting payment. When you repay the money you owe, don’t send it in cash and always get a receipt for any payment you make.
• What are my rights when dealing with a debt collector?
Know your rights when dealing with a debt collector or agency.
• An agency is not allowed to collect more than the amount you owe and cannot charge for its costs to collect the debt.
• They cannot contact you on holidays, before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m., or during certain hours on Sunday.
• They cannot use threatening, intimidating or abusive language.
• They cannot contact your friends, your employer, your relatives or your neighbour for any information other than your telephone number or address.
• They cannot suggest to your friends, employer or relatives etc., that they should pay your debts, unless one of these individuals has co-signed your loan.
• What should I do after paying a debt collector?
Once you have repaid the agreed amount to the debt collector and your debt is cleared, it’s important to make sure you complete a few more steps. First, be sure to keep a copy of all paperwork and receipts just in case you need to refer to them in the future. It is also a good idea to get a copy of your credit report from TransUnion and Equifax, the two credit bureaus in Canada, to confirm the collection is reported as paid.
It may take a few weeks for it to appear. If it doesn’t, contact the credit bureau(s) using the credit report dispute process.
» Wayne K. Palmer is a senior manager in BDO’s Brandon office. He is responsible for both the consumer and commercial practices in Brandon and surrounding areas, including Boissevain, Minnedosa, Neepawa and Dauphin. Wayne has more than 25 years experience in the financial recovery services field.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 13, 2012