- by Bonny H.J. MacIsaac
Recently, a reader contacted me to ask what their rights were regarding ‘bill collectors' or debt collection agencies being the proper term.
Experiencing anxiety is not unusual when under financial pressure, but it certainly can be distressing when the calls from debt collectors start. These can come from third-party collection agencies hired by a creditor to attempt to collect a debt. Sleepless nights, arguments in the household can all be consequences of being in debt.
It helps to know what the rules are regarding debt collection agencies as they can vary from province to province. Businesses don’t need to be licensed to collect debt, but both businesses and collection agencies must follow similar rules when they contact you to collect debt.
According to the Government of Nova Scotia, here's what you should know: Collection agencies and businesses collecting debt cannot:
– Make any contact with you by phone or otherwise until they contact you by mail first.
– Collect more money than you owe the business or person who hired them.
– Make collect calls to you to demand repayment.
– Threaten or intimidate you or use abusive language.
– Call so often or in such a way that you or your family feels harassed.
– Call on a Sunday, or any day between 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. (Columnist's note – It is also important to note in Nova Scotia there is a “three strikes” rule, limiting collection agents from emailing you, leaving a voicemail, or speaking with you more than three times within a seven-day period after having an initial conversation with you. This rule also applies to the provinces of Alberta and Ontario.)
– Lie about you (directly or indirectly) to your family members or to anyone that you owe money to.
– Give information, or threaten to give information, to anyone that could affect your job.
– Contact your employer, friends, acquaintances, family, or neighbours unless they have guaranteed or co-signed the loan they are trying to collect or are looking for your address.
– Take you to court (unless the collector has taken on the debt from the company that you originally borrowed money from).
You have the right to:
– ask collection agencies and businesses collecting debt to only contact you through a lawyer
– ask who is looking for repayment when they contact you.
Thanks to the Government of Nova Scotia for this helpful information. If you are concerned that a collection agency or business collecting debt is not following these rules, you can contact the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services. In Nova Scotia telephone toll free: 1-800-670-4357.
Businesses which collect their own debts are not required to be licensed. They must follow similar rules of conduct set out in the Consumer Creditors Conduct Act.
FYI – How long can a creditor pursue a debt in Canada? If you’ve been hounded for years, or if you’re being haunted by a 20-year-old debt, you may be wondering if it’s even legal anymore. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. There is no statute of limitations on how long a collection agency or creditor can try to collect an outstanding debt. However, Canadian legislation does set a statute of limitations on the amount of time a creditor has to sue you based on acknowledgement of the debt. This time frame varies by province:
– Two years: Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan.
– Three years: Quebec.
– Six years: Manitoba, Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, the territories.
So, while collection calls can continue long after this time frame is up, any legal action they threaten is an empty threat. You can always file a complaint with the consumer protection office in your province. Source – Credit Canada
As these devices are getting more and more popular, this is an important reminder! Scam alert: Using voice search? Use caution when asking for auto dial from your smart device says the Better Business Bureau! Tell Alexa to play for your favorite song. Ask Siri about the weather. Use Google Assistant to turn down the air conditioner. But don’t ask your smart device to look up a phone number, because it may accidentally point you to a scam.
Here is how the scam works – You need the phone number for a company, so you ask your home’s smart device – such as Google Home, Siri, or Alexa – to find and dial it for you. But when the company’s “representative” answers, the conversation takes a strange turn. This representative has some odd advice! They may insist on you paying by wire transfer or prepaid debit card. In other cases, they may demand remote access to your computer or point you to an unfamiliar website.
Turns out, that this “representative” isn’t from the company at all. Scammers create fake customer service numbers and bump them to the top of search results, often by paying for ads. When Siri, Alexa, or another device does a voice search, the algorithm may accidentally pick a scam number.
According to the BBB, one recent victim told BBB.org/ScamTracker that she used voice search to find and call customer service for a major airline. She wanted to change her seat on an upcoming flight, but the scammer tried to trick her into paying $400 in pre-paid gift cards by insisting the airline was running a special promotion. In another report, a consumer used Siri to call what he thought was the support number for his printer. Instead, he found himself in a tech support scam.
Tips to avoid this scam:
– Be careful when searching for support phone numbers. Rather than doing an online search or letting your smart device look up a number, use the contact information on the business's website (double check the URL), on your bill, or in your confirmation email.
– Beware of fake ads. Scammers make ads with fake customer service numbers. Using voice search to find a number can make it harder to tell a phony listing from the real one. Get your information from the official company website or official correspondence.
– Make payments with your credit card. It’s easier to dispute a credit card payment. Paying by wire transfer or pre-paid debit card is like using cash. There is almost nothing you can do to get the money back.
Thanks to the BBB for this great information! To learn more about scams, go to BBB Scam Tips (BBB.org/ScamTips). If you’ve been targeted by this scam, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience on BBB.org/ScamTracker.
Recalled! On September 3rd, U.S. safety regulators announced that Hyundai and Kia would recall over 600,000 vehicles in the U.S. and Canada to fix a brake fluid leak that could cause engine fires. They cover more than 440,000 Kia Optima midsize sedans from 2013 through 2015 and Kia Sorento SUVs from 2014 and 2015. Also covered are 203,000 Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs from 2013 to 2015.
Hyundai said it recommends the vehicles be parked outdoors until the problem is repaired. Hyundai will notify owners of the recall by mail starting around October 30th. Not sure what Kia's plans are as of press time. In the meantime, owners can key in their 17-digit vehicle identification number at www.hyundaiusa.com/recalls to see if their Tucson is affected.
And, just a reminder that you can check Transport Canada's Safety recalls database, for child car seat or vehicle recall status, safety advisories, safety defect reporting, investigation results. Just log on to: https://tc.canada.ca/ and follow the links. Very easy to do!