Advice/Help Please

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-26-1999
Advice/Help Please
Tue, 02-19-2013 - 8:39pm

Hi all,

I'm so glad this group is still here ... I was debt free for a long time but now I am back. I am hoping people here can provide help/advice with what I suddenly have to deal with...

I'm in Canada and I am wondering if there is any statute of limitations or rules around collection of an old debt? I got a phone call for my husband this afternoon from a debt collection agency. I got her name & number and got her to tell me what company the debt was from because I am in charge of all the money and there is no way we should be getting debt collection calls. We're flat broke and scraping by and I am living by MaryAnne's guiding rules (bless her, she taught me a lot) but I keep the bills paid up...Anyway, he called the number back and a rude, nasty man told him it was from a cell phone company from FOUR years ago. He honestly doesn't remember any outstanding debt, nor ever receiving phone calls about it. He told the man clearly that he doesn't know anything about this debt, was never contacted by the phone company about it, etc. He asked for documentation about the bill and how to fix it but the man just told him to pay the amount owing and hung up on him.

So he called the company that the debt originated from to try to find out more information. He got a timeline, phone number for the account, but he was told that the debt is so old that the phone company cannot access the old invoices that show where the debt originated from. He was told the debt was "written off" in 2009. The man he spoke to said they made "many" attempts to reach him, but he was never contacted, and I never saw any invoices in the mail, which I would have from that time period. I think if he had been receiving calls about an outstanding debt from that company at that time he would have told me about it.

Neither the phone company nor the collection agency will provide any documentation for the debt. They both just say to pay it. He said to both of them that he's not just going to write a cheque because of some random phone call about a four+ year old bill without receiving proof. If they provide invoices that show he owes it, we will have to pay it...

However, it seems totally outrageous that if they wrote the debt off 4 years ago that we are suddently getting collection calls about it. Is there a time period after which an outstanding debt cannot be collected? And do the companies-either the original one or the collection agency-have to provide documentation about the source of the debt? Also, this must be showing on the credit bureaus as a bad debt, which is extremely wrong because he didn't know anything about it, and has been trying to rebuild his credit rating for the past five would never have let this bill go to collections.  If the company had tried to contact him, he would have known.

I could really use some good advice about how to proceed with this as the original company was no help in trying to sort this out. How do I find out what our rights around collection of old debt are? Can I dispute this with the credit agencies? I've been trying so hard to keep my credit and rebuild his that this is just such a shock, I'm at a bit of a loss. Apart from being told we owe money and to "pay up" without being provided documentation, the collection agency now knows they can reach him at our phone number so heaven help us in that regard because they are going to keep calling. I've googled the collection agency, the lovely internet tells me they are one of the most disreputable around.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-28-2009
Wed, 02-20-2013 - 11:02am

I tried to reply to you last night, but this board - ugh!

Anyways, first, I would get a copy of all your credit reports, see what is or isn't being reported on all your acccounts.

also, the experts would tell you to get documentation from any agency that is requesting funds from you. don't pay anyone anything until you have proof they even own your debt.

good luck & keep us posted


iVillage Member
Registered: 04-08-2008
Wed, 02-20-2013 - 9:19pm

First off, I'm sorry about this issue popping up on you like this. It must be very fustrating. If they call again, tell them that you will NOT be paying ANYTHING until/unless you see some documentation.

But...I counted at least 4+ times in your message where you wrote "didn't know anything about this"...that tweaked me bc my DH had an overdue collection issue when we met. I felt he had misrepresented his financial situation to me...and his defense was, "they never contacted me, I didn't know I owed them." I wondered how mature he was when I heard that! Obviously it would cheaper and easier for the company to contact your DH and get the bill paid - so it is not like companies sit on invoices & then write them off w/o contacting you. That would be bad for business and for their profit - they are selling this bill to a collection agency for a LOT less.

I don't have a cellphone but I do know that if you end your contract early, then the amount of your contract becomes payable immediately. Could this be it? He ended his contract and just walked away thinking that since he wasn't using the phone anymore, he wouldn't have to pay for it? Or is this just the last bill that was owed?

If the amount is under $200, then they can't take you to court in Canada. You probably have the black mark on your credit so you *may* be able to just ignore it. If they can take it off your credit, you might want to pay it. It is your choice. I had an independant parking lot give me a ticket that I should not have gotten (I paid)...I refused to pay it bc I had no recourse. Guy says I owe him and I say no. I took the black mark, the credit collection calls and just let it go. We don't have any loans so I wont' pay more in interest bc of it...if you need your credit tho, you might want to decide differently :)

Good luck,


iVillage Member
Registered: 12-31-2010
Thu, 02-21-2013 - 4:07pm

Look at the ramifications:  If you do not pay, they might keep calling you.  If you do not pay they could take you to court.  In court they MUST produce proof.  If they cannot find proof, then how are they going to produce it for court?

If you do pay, they are quiet and got what they want, but are you sure it was all you owed?  And are you sure someone else will not come after you?

This is a collection agency.  Collection agencies buy the debt for pennies on the dollar.  If you owed say $500, they could have purchased your debt for say $200 - you never know because they do not buy one at a time, they buy them in bulk and are happy to get anything on these.  Intimidation is the process by which they are most affective at getting their money back.

Some things you MUST do:

1.  Note the day, time and person you talk with on EACH call- the debt company AND the phone company. Along with the subject you spoke about and keep that in a file.

2.  If they send a summons for court, take that file and show them the dates and times and people you spoke to trying to ascertain details of the debt so you could pay it.

3.  ALWAYS talk very calmly and nicely with debt people.  They are used to rude people who do not want to talk wth them.  Remember, intimidation is their mode of operation and as long as they do that, they are in the driver's seat.  Turn it around and be really nice.  As they keep calling, tell them very nicely:  My husband is not in (when he is not in) and I cannot talk to you about his debts due to privacy laws.  When he talks to them he should just say, "Yes, I understand that you would like to collect on a debt you say I owe, can you send that paperwork in writing." If they cannot just say, "well have a great day, thank you."  AND KEEP RECORDS.

IF they do send something in writing, ask them if they will settle for 30% of that amount.  Tell them you need that offer in writing AS WELL. 

NEVER pay online.  NEVER give them you CC number.  ALWAYS pay by check so you have a record and file that for at least 10 years with a copy of their offer.

In the US a debt can be collected for 7 years.  Not sure about Canada.


iVillage Member
Registered: 07-26-1999
Thu, 02-21-2013 - 6:01pm

Thanks Dee. It's just under $200 they say he owes. I know what you mean exactly about the "they didn't contact me, I didn't know I owed"....that is familiar to me, and I'm realizing now that he isn't as responsible financially as I had assumed. I have been naive, but in this case I believe him that they never called or tried to contact him. We shared a post office box so I would have received mail if they had tried to contact him by mail about the debt. He also had a landline with the same company, so he has always been easy to find if they really tried to inform that he owed them. I'm pretty sure he didn't walk away from a contract, he knows he would still owe them.

When we first met he was in process of settling a debt and from that point on has tried to rebuild his credit, so this being a black mark on his credit is very frustrating. And we do need the credit rating, it's quite important.

The insane thing is that he asked the collection agency guy nicely for documentation of what they say he owes, and they hung up on him. We can't try to work anything out if they hang up...

I simply don't answer the phone any more if the call display doesn't show a name or number.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-26-1999
Thu, 02-21-2013 - 6:11pm

Thank you Marie. I am going to start a file and note down the two conversations he had in detail.

It's under $200 so looks like we can't be taken to court. If they would produce paperwork that proves the debt is owed, we'd pay.  I will now be prepared to have him ask the collection agency if they would take 30% of what's owing, if we ever get paperwork. So thank you very much for that recommendation.

There is no way we will pay based on a random phone call and no documentation. He suspects this is a result of a mistake on the company's part, that he had a conversation with them about a problem bill that was supposed to be credited, and then wasn't. So there is no way we know we owe anything, nor that if we pay what we say that that will be the end of the matter.

I'm wondering if I pull his credit report and dispute it through the credit bureaus if that would turn up the paperwork and be to our advantage or not.

Thanks again

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Thu, 02-21-2013 - 6:29pm

Thus far you and your DH are doing the right thing.  Asking for documentation and not giving out any information to them.  

Like someone else already said, you don't even know if this is even on your credit report until you get a copy.  So don't worry about that unless there is actually something there.

My SO was getting calls and mail for an old medical bill of his DD's after she had moved out, but I think she may have only been 17, and possibly already married. They did tell him what hospital the bill originated from, buand that it was for her, but SO refused to pay and I was originally concerned what may happen if they persued this.  

Well.....SO has checked his credit since and guess what, it is not even there!!!  

Do be careful if you find out it is legit, as I settled for a broken ATT contract, I paid over the phone, and I never recieved the receipt they promised to send.  Years later, when going to refinance, the remaining balance was still on my credit report.  

I disputed it and it disappeared with out a hitch.  

So again, be careful, check your DH's credit report and get everything in writing first.  

Let us know!  

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-10-2003
Thu, 02-21-2013 - 9:46pm
I tried to reply last night too and could 't. Stupid boards. I would sent a registered letter asking them to not contact you until you get proof the debt is owed at which point you will gladly pay it. Other than that I don't have much advice. Good luck!

Bex -

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-08-2008
Fri, 02-22-2013 - 1:13am

Thank you for taking my post in the spirit it was intended. I didn't want to offend you by writing something bad about your bf. I happily married to my financially irresponsible guy ;) He lets me handle the bulk of finances and it works well for us.

If you need the credit, then get a report to see if it is even on there. Maybe you can dispute it!