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Keeping accurate records of your interactions with bill collectors

It is very helpful if you maintain accurate records of your interactions with bill collectors.  It is recommended that you maintain a journal and record the following information with respect to each and every phone call with a bill collector:

  • employing one or more screening tactics to         avoid speaking with a bill collector

  • hanging up on a bill collector who gets you         on the phone

Passive response to unprofessional bill collectors

The most passive tactics for dealing with unprofessional bill collectors can be summarized as follows:

More assertive tactics for dealing with an unprofessional bill collector

Depending upon (1) the type of debt that the bill collector is trying to collect, (2) the type of bill collector that you are receiving collection calls from--one of original creditor, collection agency, law firm or debt buyer, as well as the province or territory in which you live, you might be able to send a cease and desist letter to a bill collector, upon receipt of which it is illegal for that bill collector to make any future collection calls to you.

Canadians invariably complain about (1) the frequency of collection calls and (2) what many would describe as (2) assertive or aggressive conduct by bill collectors.  The compensation of the collector calling you depends to a large extent upon the amount of money that he or she recovers in any given calendar month.  A good month for a collector might mean a substantial bonus.  A poor month for a collector might result in the collector's termination from employment.

Background information regarding collection calls

For the first three to six months that your account has been unpaid it will typically be an employee of a creditor that is phoning you to demand payment of an outstanding account.

Once your account remains unpaid for more than six months then chances are the person calling you to demand payment is an employee of a collection agency--and in a few instances an employee working for a collection lawyer.

At any given time, a creditor can only assign your account to one collection agency.  It is illegal for a creditor to assign an unpaid account to more than one collection agency at the same time.

It is uncommon--on any given day--for more than one collection agency to demanding payment from a consumer with respect to the same account.  Some consumers will mistakenly complain that they are receiving multiple phone calls from bill collectors with respect to a single account.  A creditor may have recalled an account from ABC Collection Agency in the past few days and subsequently assigned it to a new agency, XYZ Collection Agency.  A consumer who has multiple outstanding accounts who is receiving a significant number of collection calls from bill collectors from several creditors or collection agencies might be confused about which bill collector is calling about which unpaid account.

A consumer can also take one or more actions which are a more robust response for dealing with unprofessional bill collectors than simply sending a cease and desist letter.  These include the following:

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Documenting written and verbal communications with bill collectors

You should retain copies of any written communications you receive from a bill collector including regular mail, e-mails and text messages.

It is legal in Canada for a consumer to record his or her telephone call with a bill collector.  The consumer is under no obligation to inform the bill collector that the consumer is recording the phone conversation.  Furthermore, it is perfectly legal for a consumer to retain an audio file of any voicemail messages left by a bill collector.

A very effective technique for motivating good behavior on the part of a bill collector is to simply inform a bill collector at the beginning of any phone call that you are recording the phone conversation.

These various options for dealing with unprofessional bill collectors are covered in significant detail in The Wolf At The Door:  What To Do When Collection Agencies Come Calling, published by McClelland & Stewart.

Dealing with unprofessional bill collectors

  • date and time of phone call
  • name of person receiving phone call from collector
  • phone number receiving the phone call from collector
  • name of employer of bill collector
  • name of individual calling you
  • name of creditor
  • account number 
  • summary of phone call

In his book The Wolf At The Door:  What To Do When Collection Agencies Come Calling, published by McClelland & Stewart, author Mark Silverthorn, Founder of Comprehensive Debt Solutions, discusses--in significant detail how a Canadian can deal with unprofessional bill collectors.

  • Make a written complaint to senior management where bill collector is employed

  • Make a written complaint to senior management of the creditor on whose behalf bill collector is making payment demands

  • Make a written complaint to the appropriate federal regulator

  • Make a written complaint to the appropriate provincial regulator

  • Sue the individual bill collector, his or her employer, and the creditor on whose behalf collection calls are being made

  • Raise your concerns with a member of the media

You may be receiving harassing collection calls from a bill collector.  You are not alone.  Each workday in Canada hundreds of thousands of Canadians receive telephone calls from bill collectors demanding payment of monies.

in some instances the bill collector calling you, your family member, or co-worker may have engaged in inappropriate, unethical, illegal, or sometimes even criminal conduct.

Dealing with Unprofessional bill collectors