I have been contacted by a collection agency about a debt that I do not owe. What can I do?

Question: 
I have been contacted by a collection agency about a debt that I do not owe. What can I do?
Answer: 

If you have been contacted by a collection agency about a debt that you do not owe, you can notify the agency that you dispute the debt. To be cautious you should notify both the collection agency and the original creditor, in writing, that you do not owe the debt. Explain why you do not owe it, or if you agree that you owe part of the debt, explain why you only owe a part of it and how much you agree that you owe. It is good practice to follow up with another letter a couple of weeks later, confirming that the matter has been cleared up and the debt has been removed from your credit record.

You do not have to make a payment or offer to make a payment for a debt that you do not owe. Under Ontario’s Collection Agencies Act, a collection agency may not continue to demand payment from you if you have notified the agency that you dispute the debt, unless it has taken all reasonable precautions to confirm that you are, in fact, the correct debtor.  Finally, if you send a letter by registered mail stating that you dispute the debt and that the matter should be taken to court for resolution, the collection agency is prohibited under the law from having any further contact with you without your consent.

More information about collection agencies can be found at Collection Agencies produced by Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services.  You can also learn more from our webinar, Collection Agencies beginning at the 23:30 mark.

This Common Question was prepared by Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc. in partnership with Your Legal Rights, a project of CLEO.

Resource notes: 

For information on this specific question, forward to the 23:30 mark.

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