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Dealing with Collection Agents

One of the most stressful parts of having a large amount of debt is trying to handle calls from creditors and collection agents. These collection calls can be stressful, annoying and – in some cases – even harassing. They can cause people to avoid picking up the phone entirely. Bill collectors and creditors can sometimes be very aggressive when it comes to finding ways to get in touch with you and getting you to pay them. Many of these tactics could even be considered illegal, depending on the specific tactics and the province that you live in.

What to do if Creditors Come Calling

Many people are unsure of what they should actually do if they start receiving calls from creditors or collection agents. Here are a few tips.

  • One of the first things to do if you are called by a debt collector is to verify the important information.
    • Find out who is calling. Is it the original creditor or is it a collection agent calling on a debt originally owed to someone else? If it is a collection agency, find out which debt they are talking about: who it is owed to, how much the debt is for, etc.
    • Whether it is a creditor or a collection agent, ask for as many details about the debt as possible.
    • You will also want to get contact information for the person calling (name, title, phone number, etc.) Tell the person that you will call them back once you have verified the debt.
  • You will need to check and make sure that the debt is yours, that it is unpaid and that the details of the debt are accurate.
    • If the debt is an error (for example, if the person owing the debt is not you or if you have already paid the debt in question) tell this to the collection agent and call the original creditor with this information. Show proof that you have paid the debt if possible.
    • Order a copy of your credit report from the major credit bureaus (TransUnion and Equifax) and make sure that any errors on your report are corrected.
  • If the debt is yours and accurate
    • The easiest and most straightforward solution is to pay the amount owing right away. However, if you cannot pay the debt, explain this to the creditor or collection agent. See if you can negotiate a payment schedule with them. Follow this negotiation up in writing to ensure that everyone understands what has been agreed to.
    • When you make any debt payments, make sure you can a receipt.
    • It’s also important that you only make payments with the person who is calling. For example, if you’re called by a collection agent, don’t then call the original creditor and make payments with them. This can cause confusion.

Remember that you have rights when it comes to being contacted by creditors and collection agencies. The rules for debt collectors generally depend on the province that you are living in but, in general, creditors and collection agents cannot:

  • Contact your family, friends, coworkers or employer other than to verify your contact information, unless you have specifically asked them to do so or they have co-signed your loan.
  • Contact you on holidays, during certain hours on Sunday or very early in the morning or late at night. Generally, calls before 7am or after 9pm are not allowed.
  • Use language that is threatening, abusive or harassing.
  • Imply or provide false information.
  • Refuse to identify themselves and why they are calling.
  • Continue to demand payment after a person claims that they do not owe the money, unless having first taken reasonable steps to ensure that the person does.

Stopping Calls from Collection Agents

If you are dealing with harassing calls from creditors and collection agents, you may wish to speak with a licensed trustee in bankruptcy. If you choose to file for bankruptcy or submit a consumer proposal with a trustee, calls from creditors and collection agencies must stop immediately. A licensed insolvency trustee (formerly called bankruptcy trustee) can help you understand more about these processes, what they will mean for you and help you file if you choose to proceed with either of the debt relief options.