What rules do collection agencies have to follow and what are my rights?

1. Make sure you’re dealing with a real collection agency

People who pretend to be a to get money from you are breaking the law. These people are sometimes called artists.

So when you get a phone call about a collecting a debt, make sure you're dealing with a real collection agency.

Collection agencies must be registered with the government of Ontario. So you can check to see if they're listed on the government’s website.

And collection agencies must send you a written notice before they contact by phone, text, or email, or in person.

If someone calls you about a debt

If someone calls about a debt, don't give them money or your if:

  • you didn't first get written notice from them, or
  • you don't think you have a debt.

The caller might say that the letter is in the mail or offer to email you some information to prove the debt. But wait until you get a written notice before paying any money or giving any personal information.

Written notice can be sent by mail or email. But if you tell the collection agency you don't want to receive emails and give them your address, they must send you the written notice by mail.

The caller may give you the name of a real collection agency but not actually work for them.

Look for information about the company online or in the phone book. Then, call to see if they've been hired to collect your debt and if the person who called you works for them.

Having your personal information

A real collection agency will already have your address, name, and other personal information. The person you owe money to must give them this information so they can collect the money from you.

But, you need to be careful because someone pretending to be a collection agency could also have this information. For example, they might steal it or buy it from a company. That's why it's important to check that you're dealing with a real collection agency.

One way you can check is to call the collection agency and ask if they've been hired to collect your debt.

Look up their phone number yourself. Don't assume that the phone number the caller gives you is the right number.

Making threats

If someone calls about a debt, they're not likely from a real collection agency if they say you must pay them right away or else they'll:

  • sue you
  • call your friends or family
  • arrest you

The law says that collection agencies can't do these things. So, if this happens to you, you're probably not dealing with a real collection agency.

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