The collection agents are calling. How do I make it stop?

2021-03-25   minute read

David Gowling

Credit Counselling

Are you in a situation where you’ve fallen behind on your debts and now the account is in collections? As if the stress of your mounting bills wasn’t bad enough, now you’re worried there’s a collections agent lurking behind every phone call, every mail delivery, and every email. It doesn’t take long for the fear and anxiety to consume every waking moment of your life.

If there’s one thing creditors and collections agents are good at, it’s capturing your attention and making them your number one priority. Ignoring the problem isn’t an advisable solution, either. The more difficult you make it to get a hold of you, the more persistent they will be in trying to pin you down — resulting in more calls, more letters, and ultimately more strain on you.

Instead, follow these simple steps to deal with collection agents and take back control of your debts.

Step 1: Make sure the call is legitimate

Canadians are more indebted than ever, and con artists are increasingly using this to their advantage. We’re seeing a growing number of fabricated calls where fake collections agents contact consumers about a supposed overdue debt. They may threaten legal action, request immediate payment over the phone or use other high-pressure tactics to access an individual’s banking information.

Keep an eye on your bank statements and notices from your creditors. You should receive a letter prior to any collections call notifying you that your account is past due and a collections agency has been contracted to take over the account. You are well within your rights to request notice in writing and dispute the debt if you believe it is not yours.

Step 2: Take the call

Once you’ve verified the debt in question is yours — and even if you are unable to pay — respond to the collection agents’ attempts to contact you. Being intentionally evasive will only cause the calls and letters to become more frequent, potentially motivating the debt collectors to contact your employer and friends to confirm information. At the very least, taking the call demonstrates your willingness to cooperate and may buy you some time to get the situation in order.

Step 3: Try to negotiate a payment plan

If you’re not able to pay the overdue balance in full, being responsive may persuade your creditor to agree to a payment plan. Any reasonable collection agency will be glad to negotiate some kind of arrangement that serves the best interest of all parties involved — especially if it will net a greater return than you filing a Bankruptcy of Consumer Proposal.

Step 4: Know your rights

Unfortunately, not all collection agencies are reasonable. Some will resort to threats, yelling, and general rudeness. You don’t have to deal with this. Instruct these individuals to only deal with you in writing and to only contact you by mail. Despite what some debt collectors may tell you, you have rights including: 

  1. Debt collectors cannot simply phone your employer and seize your pay cheque. Wage garnishment requires litigation, which involves a cost the creditor is usually not willing to pay. It is also a process that can take several months and which you will be apprised of as it progresses.
  2. Debt collectors cannot pursue your family for debts you hold sole ownership of. Even if they live in the same household as you. The only exception is if a family member is listed on the contract as a co-signatory.
  3. Debt collectors cannot incessantly phone your employer, neighbours, or friends to try and collect your debt. They may only call to confirm your employment or whether you reside at the place they are calling.
  4. There are limits to how frequently debt collectors can call you. Every province has limits to what hours they may call within (e.g. 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. in Ontario), how many times they may call within a seven-day window (e.g. three in Ontario), and specific days they cannot call at all (e.g. Sundays and statutory holidays).

Step 5: Meet with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee

MNP offers Free Confidential Consultations to all Canadians who are struggling with overwhelming debt. Together we can review your financial situation, discuss why you’ve fallen behind on your debt, and investigate your options for a financial fresh start.

Depending on your situation, the right fix could be as simple as changing your approach to budgeting, applying for a consolidation loan, or selling off some assets to get your finances back in order. However, we also find that you’d benefit from filing a Bankruptcy or Consumer Proposal which would put an immediate stay of proceedings on all collections action, court judgements, and creditor calls.

Whatever solution you ultimately choose, there’s nothing like the peace of mind in knowing you have someone in your corner, you have options, and there’s always a path to recovery.

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