Friday, December 3, 2010

The Horrors of Debt Collection Agencies

In 2006, I left a bad marriage. For a short while, I camped out on my sister's couch, until I could find an apartment for me and my two girls. I found a place within a month, and moved. I am grateful to my sister.

My sister is in the military. She used to run a Cadet Corps, and there is a lot of military in her career. Back sometime in 2007 or 2008, she got Bell services in her apartment. I'm not even sure what all she had, but I know she had a satellite dish at one point.

Fast forward to 2009. I get a phone call on my business cell from an agent who works for NCO Financial. They are looking for my sister. Apparently, she owes Bell Canada some money. I tell them she doesn't work for my company any longer. They ask me my name. I tell them. Oh, you're a co-user on the account?? A what?!? A co-user. At some point, my sister had added me to the account as a co-user, so that I could take care of her account while she was away, possibly deployed in Afghanistan.

I tell them I didn't agree nor consented to having my name added to this account. No matter, says NCO. You're still on the hook for the bill if your sister doesn't pay. I call my sister. I give her the lowdown, and the toll free number to call them back. She says she'll take care of it. I hang up, not thinking about it anymore.

October of 2010. My home phone rings. It's NCO Financial calling. They are looking for my sister. Good luck, I tell them, I have no idea where she is. I know she moved, and that she lives in London, Ontario, but I don't have an address for them, or a current phone number. They tell me they *NEED* me to find her and have this matter dealt with. I tell them they *NEED* to do their own job and find her.

My phone at home starts ringing at odd hours of the day. Automaticalled generated calls from a collection agency. Seeing as I have taken care of all of my own past due accounts, I doubt the calls are for me.

Automatic message left:
"This is NCO Financial calling for (sound of click where a name should be). This is a very important business matter. Please call us back at xxx-xxx-xxxx."

I call back. I've done this several times. I've been told that I have to talk to Bell Canada to have my name removed from the account. I've done that too. They will add your name to an account without your knowledge or consent, but will not remove your name from an account at your request. Hmm.

I've talked with more agents from NCO Financial than I care to count. I've talked with supervisors. They say they can't take my name off the account, nor can they stop calling me about the account. Even though it's not mine. Because my name is on it as a co-user, they have to do their job.

They have to do their job, I get that. But in dealing with this matter, I've had agents tell me that they think I'm lying to them about not knowing the whereabouts of my sister, and have implied that I may be lying to them about not being her. I've had agents tell me that my credit will be negatively impacted by this matter. I've had them tell me they will continue to escalate the frequency of the calls until the matter is resolved.

What have I done about all this?

When I was still in contact with my sister, I called her and texted her to talk to them. I don't know if she ever did, but the calls did stop for awhile.
I've called Bell Canada. They said my name would be taken off the account, but it never was. I called them again. Was told that time that they would not take my name off the account.
I've emailed a supervisor with NCO Financial, with a statement as to why I think my name was added to the account, along with my request to have my name removed from the account and a request that all further communication from them be in writing only. I've requested in a phone call with another supervisor, that I be sent statements of the account, showing how much was owed, and for what, along with documentation showing that my name is on the account as co-user. I've told an agent on the phone that I'm so sick of them calling me when I owe them no money, as that I was prepared to take this matter to court.

What has been the outcome so far?

Well, I haven't had a phone call in a number of days. However, I expect that the calls will continue at some point. I doubt they will respect my request for further communication to be in writing only. I have yet to receive any documentation from them at all. I'm not holding my breath. I'm keeping a log of the dates and times that I get phone calls, and if I speak to someone, I get their name and employee number for my records.

I've dealt with collection agencies in the past for debts that were mine. I eventually paid when I was able. That part of being in debt is something I can do without, thank you very much. But getting daily phone calls about a debt that I did not incur really bugs me. I'm keeping tabs on my credit report should this monster rear its ugly head there. So far, so good.

I know that the collection agency has rules that they must follow. They can't call before 7 am. NCO has an auto dialer that calls here at precisely 7:10 am. And when I press a button to speak to a live person, I get a machine telling me that their office is not yet open for the day. Hmm. They call to speak to someone about an account, but don't actually have someone available to speak to.

I am at my wit's end with this matter. I'm prepared to contact Ontario Consumer Services Bureau with a formal complaint if things continue this way. Other than paying someone's else's debt, I don't know what else to do to get these people off my back. I've stopped being nice when talking to them. I don't even feel the need to be polite anymore.

By the way, I know someone who is an employee of Bell Canada. I ran the situation by them, and was told that I can't be held liable for the debt, regardless of whatever anyone says.

So readers, what's your take on this? Is there anything else I could be doing that I'm not doing now? I won't hunt down my sister to get contact information for them. Any suggestions?


  1. Good luck with this collection thing. Thankfully I've not had to deal with any of these companies - but your dealings are food for thought about always making sure not to deal with them.

    Can't wait to hear it's been cleared up and they've stopped calling your place looking for the owner of the debt.

  2. Ugh!! That would drive me crazy!! Either than doing all you've done, i'm not sure what you can do! :( But I definitely wouldn't be paying either!! Unbelievable!

  3. I'm sorry this is happening to you. I would be so upset in your shoes. I think the only other thing I'd do is contact a lawyer to get legal council on your rights in this case. Some lawyers offer a reduced rate or free one hr consultation. Good luck and keep us posted!