‘They call ten times a day’: People on welfare say debt collectors hired to claim back their Centrelink money are leaving them ‘on the brink of suicide’
- Collection agents hired by Centrelink to collect on debts accused of harassment
- Centrelink has said only a small proportion of cases were referred to agencies
- They said anyone with concerns over debt should contact them to discuss
Debt collectors hired to claim outstanding Centrelink debts have been accused of harassing Australians, leaving at least one woman on the brink of suicide.
Other shocking claims include the collections companies claiming they could take people’s wages or prevent them leaving the country if they did not meet payment plans, according to nine.com.au.
‘Sometimes they were calling up to 10 times a day. On most days it was averaging about three times. And it was all hours, it wasn’t even 9-5. I would be cooking dinner at 8pm, or it would be 6am in the morning,’ one woman, Amy, told the publication.
‘I was being harassed. I thought about ending my life as the constant calls were mentally draining.’
Debt collectors hired to claim outstanding Centrelink debts have been accused of harassing Australians (stock)
Amy, who did not want her last name published, said Centrelink was seeking repayments over Newstart payments she received in 2012.
The 31-year-old had a broken leg and says she received the payments for two weeks while she couldn’t work but Centrelink said they assumed she got the payments for 52 weeks.
She was told she had to source bank statements going back to 2012 to clear up the issue – which she did at a cost of $21 per statement.
By then her details had been given to a collection agency.
After calling Centrelink and asking them to stop the agency phoning her while the debt was being reviewed, she claims she was told she needed to speak to the agency directly to ask them to stop.
Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen told nine.com.au in a statement that only a ‘small proportion of cases’ were referred to external debt collection agents.
They said only in cases were the person was no longer getting payments and had failed to respond to reasonable debt recovery arrangements.
‘We encourage anyone with concerns about a debt to contact us to discuss their situation. Staff are available to offer support and talk through flexible repayment options.’
Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen said in a statement that only a ‘small proportion of cases’ were referred to external debt collection agents (stock)