Many people with good credit found themselves in trouble recently due to the lost of their “safe” jobs.
You try to pay your bills while looking for jobs. Applying to hundreds of positions with no luck.Your child or yourself might end up in a hospital due to health complication in the process.
Eventually you run out of your savings and the credit card are the first bills you just can’t pay if you have a mortgage and small children. You miss few payments, the letters and phone calls keep coming.
I was there…..June 2009 few days after my 40th birthday I learn the hard way and for the first time in my life how some collection agents operate and what illegal lengths some banks (CIBC) will go to collect.
I was scared, stressed out and caught by surprise…..till I educated myself and learned how to protect myself and my sanity from the blood thirty wolves at my front door.
Most of the credit card companies and banks will work with you as long as you return their calls. They realize that for many years you have been paying your bills on time and that your credit was very good. They know that eventually you will get a job and they are willing to wait or put you on a special payment plan that you can afford.
So what if you made a mistake and applied for a credit card in the good old days with one of the not so nice companies (CIBC)?
They don’t want to hear your story, they don’t really offer you much help and they are not willing to wait and give you the benefit of the doubt even thou you were with them for over 10 years with perfect credit.
Well, these companies will hire a Collection Agency to do their dirty work for them. First you will receive a threatening or intimidating letter and then the harassment might start (depends on the integrity of the collection agency hired).
If you live in the province of British Columbia there are few things you need to know to protect yourself and keep your sanity.
As long as you reside in British Columbia you are protected by the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act of British Columbia no matter where the Collection Agency is located.
#1 A collector is not allowed to call you till 5 days after the collector has sent a written notice explaining their intention. If they call and you inform them that you haven’t received the notice they are required to send another notice to the address given by you and wait another 5 days before contacting you again.
#2 Once you receive the notice you are entitled to send a letter to the Collection Agency informing them that you do not wish them to contact you by phone, but in writing only. After they receive your letter they are in a violation if they contact you by phone (I highly recommend this).
#3 The collector is not allowed to communicate or attempt to communicate with any member of your household, family, friends and others (which they will try to do) unless the person guaranteed repayment of your debt (co-signer of your debt) or the collector needs your home address and home phone number (if you send them letter with your address that’s all they need to know).
#4 A collector is not allowed to collect or attempt to collect from a person not liable for the debt (another dirty thing some collection agents will try to do).
#5 A collector is not allowed to contact you at work unless they don’t have your home address or number and they are only calling to request them. Also if you ignore the letters and phone calls at your home they are allowed to call you at the place of work (that’s why it’s important to respond to them).
#6 A collector is not allowed to call your employer unless to confirm your employment and get a business address (you are not required at any time to inform the Collection Agency if and where you are employed).
#7 When trying to collect a collector is not allowed to give any false or misleading information (for example: if you don’t pay your debt in full within 2 days the bank is allowed to take 50% off your paycheck immediately).
#8 In a communication with you a collector is not allowed to use threatening, coercive, intimidating or profane language (many of them use these tactics on the phone to scare you). They are not allowed to use excessive or unreasonable pressure ( for example: they will try to give you 2 business days to pay your complete debt, no payment plan accepted).
#9 A collector is not allowed to start or continue a legal proceeding to recover the debt unless you’ve been given a notice. They are not allowed to start a legal proceeding unless they informed you first.
#10 A collector is not allowed to threaten to start legal proceedings unless they have a written authority from the creditor (most cases the bank they are collecting for).
Unfortunately, sometimes life throws us a curve and we are faced with unexpected financial difficulties. The most important thing is to stay strong and try to do the best we can to resolve our situation.
I hope this article will help you to deal with your debt and collection agencies with more understanding and less fear. We work hard and when we are down nobody has right to treat us like a common criminal. We are human beings who need help and support not a kick when we’re down.
Most provinces have similar business practices. Just contact your provincial Business Practices office to find out how can you protect yourself.
The most important part is to educate yourself. It’s not as scary as it seems and you have choices and people to help you to get through it.
And remember…it’s not personal, you are just a number.