Reports suggest that debt collector harassment is becoming increasingly commonplace in Singapore, with the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) receiving multiple complaints about shady collection agencies posing as police officers, making unreasonable demands and trying to intimidate borrowers.
When it comes to personal finance, there will always be loan sharks and those that resort to harassment and violence when trying to recover debts. The best way to avoid them from the outset is to only ever borrow from trustworthy, licensed moneylenders in Singapore – a list of which can be found here on the Ministry of Law’s website.
How Do I Report Unlawful And Illegal Acts?
The Credit Collection of Singapore (CCAS), which regulates every debt collection agency in the country, has a code of conduct that stipulates what each collection agency can and can’t do when trying to collect a debt. However, this “code” is not the same as having actual laws in place, and unfortunately there will always be some collection agencies that try to get around the rules.
If you have debts and feel that a debt collector has harassed you or acted unfairly, here’s a few things you can do:
1 – Call the police
If a debt collector or collection agency goes too far, you should call the police immediately. It’s worth noting that debt collectors can’t gather in groups of more than 5 when attempting to get or recover owed money. It’s also illegal for a debt collection agency to pose as police or other officials.
2 – File for a Protection Order
Debtors who feel that they are being harassed can file for a Protection Order. This is often the best step to take if you have proof that harassment has been involved in trying to collect any owed funds. Ultimately, debt collectors have no more rights than any other private person you may have borrowed money from.
3 – Make a complaint to CCAS
As the CCAS regulates every collection agency in Singapore, you can also submit an official complaint about the agency to the CCAS online. This is one of the best steps to take if you feel a debt collector has broken the code of conduct.
What Can Debt Collectors Actually Do?
The code of conduct offers some guidance as to what debt collectors can and can’t do – but as this isn’t enshrined in law, it’s not uncommon for debt agencies to take liberties with the rules. Here’s a full guide to the things debt collectors may do that are not officially considered harassment.
Debt Collectors Can Talk To Your Family And Friends
While this may seem distressing, it is perfectly okay for debt agencies to stop by your house, office or workplace and ask to speak with you – and the same goes for making unsolicited phone calls. If a partner and/or spouse answers, debt collectors are also within their rights to tell this person that they need to talk to you about any funds owed.
Debt Collectors Can Try To Mediate Debts And Negotiate Loan Repayment Plans
It’s not uncommon for debt collectors to approach you with attempts to negotiate some kind of instalment plan that may help them to recover their debts, and help you repay the money owed for services, loans or related articles. In fact, the code of conduct even encourages this in situations where you can prove you are short of funds. Likewise, you are also free to try and negotiate with collection agencies yourself.
What Can Debt Collectors Not Do?
Generally speaking, a debt collector can do anything a friend, relative or other third party could legally do if you were to owe funds to them which they wanted to recover.
However, under the Protection from Harassment Act, there are a number of things debt collectors in Singapore cannot do, which include:
Harassment, Threats or Intimidation
Contrary to popular depictions of debt collectors in movies and on TV, debt collectors must not threaten physical violence against you or try to intimidate you by brandishing a weapon.
It should go without saying that debt collection agencies must not physically harm you in any way. In the event of physical threats or violence, always call the relevant authorities.
Defacing a debtors’ home or property is also absolutely forbidden and will usually be a police matter. Debt collectors might leave notes at your home but must not spray paint any messages or vandalize your house in any way.
While it’s fine for collection agencies to call you on the phone, speak to your family or try to visit you at work, unlawful stalking is prohibited. This includes following you around at work or loitering outside your home.
Under section 141 of the Penal Code, groups of 5 or more people from collection agencies must not gather with the common intention of collecting money from debtors. This would be deemed an “unlawful assembly” and be punishable by law.
Stay Sensible And Stay Safe
Creditor – debtor harassment appears to be a growing problem, but from familiarizing yourself with the CCAS’ code of conduct to calling the police and filing Protection Orders, there are a number of things you can do to stay safe if ever things get out of hand.
As always, it also pays to only ever borrow money from trusted, licensed moneylenders that are properly registered in Singapore, such as Fortune Credit or the many lenders approved by the Ministry of Law here.
Is It Bad to Pay A Debt Collector?
When someone is trying to recover a debt, you should always pay it back at some point or another if it’s a legal debt that is genuinely owed.
This is true of all personal finance, whether it be a government loan, credit card or other type of owed money – but the person recovering the money should always act in accordance with the law and harassment should never be tolerated.
Always be aware of your rights and the correct process and consider negotiating an instalment plan if you a struggling to pay back any debt.
What Happens if I Ignore Debt Collection?
Ignoring a debt collector can lead to a number of consequences, including incurring additional interest or, in a worst-case scenario, facing an unwanted lawsuit.
You should always try to reach an agreement with any person or company you know you genuinely owe lawful money to – even if it is an old debt.
What is The Role of a Debt Collector?
A debt collector is a company or person aiming to collect a debt owed by a debtor. The collector could potentially be the original moneylender themselves, or a third party like a collection agency or business.
Why Should You Never Pay A Collection Agency?
In some circumstances, paying a collection agency rather than the original lender will not help improve your credit rating – and could potentially cost more, too. It’s important to remember that collection agencies and debt collectors are usually third parties related to or acting on behalf of the original creditor. Always negotiate with the original lender first.