Dealing with debt collectors

By You and Money

Debt collection is never a pleasant experience, especially when you can’t pay your debts. But when the debt collectors approach you, don’t ignore them, because the debt won’t go away.

Debt collectors may work for a financial institution like a bank or credit union to contact borrowers who have overdue repayments. Debt collection agencies can also do the same on behalf of these institutions.

They may contact you to make a demand for payment and make arrangements for a repayment plan or in certain cases they may inspect or recover mortgaged goods.

You have clear rights when you are dealing with debt collectors.

  • Be aware of harassing behaviour – intimidation and threats to send you to prison are illegal.
  • They are only allowed to phone or meet you face-to-face between 7:30am and 9pm on weekdays, and 9am to 9pm on weekends.
  • It’s a good idea to have your mobile phone listed with all your suppliers. Debt collectors can only visit your home if they can’t make contact with you.
  • Debt collectors shouldn’t visit your workplace unless you ask them to.
  • Your personal information belongs to you – debt collectors shouldn’t reveal information about your financial situation to others.

Here are a few helpful tips if you find yourself dealing with debt collectors.

  • If you receive a letter or phone call from a debt collector, try to work out a repayment plan with them as soon as possible to avoid them visiting you in person.
  • Make sure you’re realistic. If you can’t afford your current repayment plan, ask if you can extend it so you can make smaller repayments.
  • Keep a diary/log of all communications you may have with a debt collector.
  • If you’re struggling due to an illness in the family or unemployment, you may be eligible for financial hardship support. For more information talk to your bank or visit www.moneysmart.gov.au/managing-my-money/managing-debts/trouble-with-debt#apply.

Disputing a debt

If you’ve been recently contacted by a debt collector and believe the debt is incorrect, you have a right to dispute it. Don’t get angry – use your energy productively to fix the situation.

  • Put it in writing. Contact the debt collector and let them know that the debt has been paid. If you have any supporting documents like account transactions, print them off and attach them to the letter.
  • Request a statement from the debt collector that describes the debt you owe and how it was calculated.
  • If you think you’ve been victim of a scam, contact your financial institution and collector immediately
  • Get legal advice if the situation isn’t rectified in writing.

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