5 things your debt collector isn’t telling you

For starters, evening calls are off limits

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From the January 2016 issue of the magazine.

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1. You don’t have to pay me. In most provinces, there’s a two- to six-year statute of limitations for collecting debts that comes into play after you make your last payment. If the statute has expired, you don’t technically have to pay a cent. Be careful though: Making a new payment or a written acknowledgement restarts the statute.

2. My deadlines are bogus. “Whenever a bill collector gives someone a deadline, 99% of the time they’ve just picked it out of the air,” says debt expert and author Mark Silverthorn. He’s simply trying to create a sense of urgency to intimidate you. Your response? Keep calm and don’t rise to the bait.

3. I can’t contact you more than three times a week. After an initial conversation with you, most provinces forbid debt collectors from contacting debtors more than this—and phone calls, emails, even voice mails all count. So if a collector is exceeding this, inform him he’s breaking the law. Just the fact that you’re aware should spook him.

4. Evening calls are off limits. In most provinces, collectors can’t call early in the morning or late at night. Take Ontario, where contact between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. is forbidden. On Sunday, it’s limited to between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. If you’re getting contacted outside lawful hours, be sure to keep records of the phone number and time of call, and file a complaint with a provincial regulator.

5. I probably won’t be suing you. Original creditors usually decide to sue within six months and typically won’t do it for amounts under $4,000. (Worth noting: They are more inclined to sue home owners). Third-party collection agencies, on the other hand, collect commissions on the amount of arrears they can get from you, and generally aren’t in the business of suing, says Silverthorn. In fact, they pursue legal action on fewer than 10% of their accounts. “As long as you’re getting the collection calls, then you are probably not going to be sued.”

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