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Debt Collector Dread  Comment Icon 133 Broadcast DATE: Friday, MARCH 4, 2011
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Collecting debt or crossing the line?

More and more Canadians are living with debt. The latest figure puts Canadian consumer debt at around 1.5 trillion dollars. That's big money, and with rising default rates and late payments, collecting that debt can be difficult. Enter the debt collector.

Debt collection can be a ferocious business, and while many collectors play by the rules, what happens when they don't?

Viewers have sent us horror stories of collectors becoming wolves at the door — hounding them with scare tactics. Some have been victims of mistaken identity, caught in a Kafkaesque nightmare, afraid to answer their phone; in other cases, they're chased by collectors when they don't even owe any money.

No one is saying that it's okay to not pay your bills, but when collectors cross the line, can you count on the rules in your province to protect you? Erica Johnson investigates.

Your Comments (133)

What is the statute of limitations of a debt in BC?
I had a credit card there in 2000 which never got paid

In reply to a comment from George

The rule is...they are not allowed to harrass you, call you at work,threaten you or tell you to borrow the money from a family member

In reply to a comment from richdee

Ask them for their business licence number and say you will put in a complaint... if they haress you

In reply to a comment from Kathleen

its best to pay the credit card co,you dont owe the collection company nothing.if the card company refuses it,because as they say its out of their hands.keep it in yours,at least you made an attempt.

In reply to a comment from Lacey

Well said Lacey. That is true.

Something has to be done about collectors buying discharged debts in bankruptcy there called junk debt buyers trying to scare and bully the consumer
into paying a debt they do not legally owe causing
stress and ruining their credit report

In reply to a comment from This Guy

Hello Guy, You are right but why should anyone get billed for services not rendered and then have to pay for these?

In reply to a comment from Tina K.

thank you for the information, it was definitly very helpful. tina, how do i go about finding out the statue of limiations on a debt? thanks again.

In response to George: I feel badly that this is your main rant regarding this episode...that people who are in debt are essentially lazy. In my experience, I have never NOT wanted to pay a debt, but with a husband, at the time, on a "D" contract as an new teacher, he was not paid in the summer time, he had to appeal to EI, but because he had a "verbal" contract to return in September, he was denied. I was just going back to work from Maternity leave. After 8 weeks of only 53% of my income coming in, we were getting in dire straits with a young family to feed. Then, at 8 weeks into this mess, the school district changed it's payroll system, which added on 2 more weeks until my husband finally got paid.

We were so harassed by a credit card company by this point, we were in a constant state of even higher stress. I was begging the credit card company to work out a payment plan with me, which they informed me they could not until it went to collections - which they then did. This finally got us to the point of going to a government regulated debt program which stepped in, halted the high interest and insisted that the company accept the repayment proposal given. This is what finally halted the calls informing us we were horrible people, telling our children (when they happened to answer the phone) that their parents are deadbeats, and screaming at us instead of listening. I am thrilled to say our debts are completely PAID OFF! Does that make me lazy?
So, please, for the love of pete, open your eyes. Yes, there are definitely people who choose not to pay their debts, but more often then not, due to circumstances beyond their control, they are just people like you and me. Heaven help you if something unforeseen happens to you and you find yourself in a position with no negotiating ability. Shame on you.

Most of the comments I'm seeing, as well as the episode itself dealt only with instances where these collectors are attempting to contact a legitimate debtor who owes, or at least did owe a legitimate debt. What I would like to see is a portion of an episode devoted to the growing number of "innocent" people who are constantly being harrassed by these collection agencies. The same collection agency has caused me considerable grief over the past 2 years looking for 3 different people whom I've never known, and whose last names bear no resemblance to mine. I've made numerouse attempts at getting them to stop, but the calls always resume within a couple of months or so. What gives them the right to do this, and how can this type of thing ultimately be stopped?

In reply to a comment from Lacey

I second that. I used to be a bill collector that sometimes provided better customer service then the company we were collecting for. Most people will appreciate someone giving good information to help them out of a bad situation and use that to save them a lot of money and stress.

I don't care what province you live in, if you default on a debt, you still owe it!!!! period!!! I can't stand people that hide behind the whole "don't call me or I'll sue" how about you just pay you're bill or the lender will take it from your paycheck before you even get it. Big problem with society today is too much spending before you have it because it's too easy to default and claim bankruptcy.

In reply to a comment from G Kerr

Well said G.Kerr....

In reply to a comment from debra boyle

I agree with you Debra, I was a bill collector for 12 years and a good one at that. Often the best part of my day was when the consumer called me to thank me for educating them and explaining their options to them in order to take care of there account. A good bill collector does not need to threaten, yell or harrass and those good collectors out there know that.

I have to say it does strike me as rather weird that people let others -on the phone- intimidate them.

HANG UP! You don't have to sit there listening to someone berate you! Don't say anything, not even to try and straighten it out! Just, simply HANG UP. EVERY TIME. (and if you're in B.C. you can simply tell them "Not to call again." period. Our law states that if they call after you've said not to, and they call again, you get to sue! Just keep notes.

My personal method? I guess I'm just not that worried over a debt collector/agency, with the rampant ID theft, it just seems better, to me, to keep your credit rating just a little below perfect, much less attractive to those potential thieves!

- acorn

In reply to a comment from MonetaryReform

I have to complement CBC ... once again at working in the public's best interest. We recently encountered a credit card debt due to a personal/family financial set back and are unable to keep to the schedule for the time being. We have no intention of stiffing anyone and simply want to work out some type of temporary arrangement. We're bombarded with collection calls on this matter and going as far as calling our place of employment and speaking to my supervisor about the situation. What the heck is this crap anyway as my job is now in jeopardy over this. Not only is the situation embarrasing but to top it off, I'm now being questioned by my supervisor and have ask the collection agency to not call my place of work. I'd like to meet someone who's never fallen on hardtimes.

In Canada, 97% of the currency/money supply is created as debt; loans, mortgages, credit cards.

The interest charged on this creation of our currency ranges from about 4% to over 100%. The money to pay the interest is NEVER created, neither by the bank providing the "cash" or the government using the Bank of Canada.

Because of this, it is IMPOSSIBLE for all loans and credit to be repaid, there is not enough money in the system to do so.

At senior levels, the private banks and the government both know that this is the case. Both are guilty of fraud by allowing loans to be made without the possibility of all being repaid based on currency in circulation.

A relatively high percentage of people, even with the best of intent, will not be able to repay loans and credit cards. This will be through no direct fault of their own, the system has been broken for decades.

Fight against fractional reserve banking, fight for the use of the Bank of Canada for all public infrastructure.

A Fellow Canadian

I worked as a debt collector 10 years ago for the summer. Even though, it was an American owned company with an office in Canada. They trained us to be more customer service, not abusive and to stick to the law or you'd be fired.

It is sickening to hear how these guys are trying to collect. I had one call me to collect $20 that was not my bill and he tried to strong arm and hung up on me too but I pushed back with my knowledge of the rules. Needless to say, they couldn't prove the bill was actually mine - and it wasn't and i never heard from them again.

A couple of things I hope help:

1.the debt collection agency buys the debt from the credit card companies for less than the debt is worth. Once the debt is sold, the credit card companies have nothing to do with the debt and will report that the debt has gone to collects on your credit report.

2. Double check the statue of limitations on the debt.

3. The collection agency cannot report anything to your credit report, but do have access to it.

4. By paying $0.01 each month or whatever, shows that your account is a paying account on your report and you can legally pay just that amount.

5. Yes, all collectors do work on commission and that is why they are desperately trying to get the money collected.

6. They can't sue you, but you can sue them for harassment.

7. By law, no one can disclose your personal information to anyone else. Just like any other account you have cannot be discussed with anyone other than the account holder themselves. They cannot even leave a message with someone and identify themselves as a debt collector. Arm yourself with the privacy act.

8. Also if you share a credit card with someone else and that other person is an 'authorized' user and they rack up the bill, they are not legally responsible for the debt because the account is not in their name. Bottom line, do not share your finances!!

Arm your self with the rules and that would put you in a better position to protect yourself.

Anyone dealing with a collector, I wish you luck and remember you do have the law on your side so use it.


This segment is absolutely rubbish, the host is in fact heralding people how to avoid paying their obligation, their responsibility, their own making. And that lawyer in the story - I am absolutely sure he OWES a whole LOT, and is trying to AVOID making any payments.

Imagine if someone owes you money, hides & never returns the money back, would you just sit there & leave it alone? It's pretty common sense, of course you would go and chase after these deadbeats, or the apt word for that - fugitives. Very sad that this kind of show protects the thiefs more than the legitimate people out there who are just making a clean living. People out there, get this in to your thick head, this ain't a free world, or we're all be damned if everything is free & no one will be working. That's also the reason why the economy is bad. Also, the very reason why banks have so high charges and interests is because of these lazy fools who only wants to serve their own purposeS, borrow and go hike. Is that what you want to portray to your children? Today's society has no shame at all. It once was, got no money, then don't buy / splurge. You decide for yourself if it is your moral duty or not to pay your own bill? Should any1 need to remind you to do it? The answer lies in the color of your heart.

We had someone give our cell number out to a credit card company. The credit card company harassed us continually, after many attempts in communicating we were not that person they were looking for. I had to report them to the Minister of Finance, they handled the complaint. They are to give you a letter stating how much you owe them etc, of course a letter was never send to us. We never owned them anything, the person they were looking for gave our cell number out and they ran with it. I am sure they hear this all the time "I am not who you are looking for" but there are innocent people who are harassed by them when they don't do their homework. They were nasty to me after many attempts to communicate I was not that party. I became just as rude back informing them I was taking this matter further, they did send a letter appologizing for their error, but not without a lot of harassing rude phone calls. They are to write you a letter stating how much you owe etc. They just ran with a number that wasn't even the party they were looking for. When we confronted the person who gave our number out, he said get a lawyer. A horrible experience for people who have an excellent credit rating to be treated like that.

In reply to a comment from Kathleen

Pay the credit card company get a receipt send a copy to credit reporting agencies and a copy to colection agency.

In reply to a comment from lee j.

Exposing the truth about corporate abuse of citizens, it seems we value coporate rights above human rights.

Pray hard

Hi I have a problem were a debt collection agency that called our landlady and demanded she have me call them.
The debts that they are trying to collect date from 1993 and they cannot provide me with any details other than an account number from the regional municipality.
If I want details of these debts I have to contact the regional municipality directly myself.
I was out of town when this call was made by the agency and my wife responded to the agency.
She talked to the supervisor and explained how our rights had been violated. The supervisor listened to the details of how one of his staff had called our landlady to instruct her to have me return her call.
Now our landlady is in her mid '70's and her husband suffers from Alzheimer's. She was not home at the time of the call and the husband was being attended by a day nurse who answered the call. The woman from the collection agency left all the details with the nurse to pass on to our landlady.
The call was made on 10 Mar 2011 and upon my return on 14 Mar 2011 I was greeted by this same woman on the phone at 8.32am screaming at me to pay this debt.
I have talked with the supervisor and he claims they will not call me again.
I don't think this matter is closed. I will keep you posted.

Johnny tell him what he's won?


way off mr collector

In reply to a comment from Nice Try Aaron

This sounds like the posting of someone who was a mortgage broker who paid referal fees and couldn't make it and went back to a collections agency but still has a wife who is a mortgage broker that pays referals

I have just read through most of the above noted comments and must say that I agree with all of them. I think one thing however was missed.--There is a difference between a collection agency and an accounts receivable department.--From my understanding to work as a collector in an agency you have to have a licence and be well aware of the rules/laws that govern the province of the person you are contacting. From that same understanding to work as a "collector" in an accounts receivable position within a business trying to recover their own outstanding accounts is a different matter. I have had experinces where dealing with the company itself has caused me to request my file be listed with an agency as I expected more respect from them and that is really saying something. I have also "collected" on behalf of a business and have had customers say thank you for the work that I have done and solutions that I have thought of. Just saying I guess that if you owe the best way to handle it is to speak with the business you owe to and prevent if possible the account being listed with an agency.

my son separated,now divorced from his wife, 4 years ago...his ex got the house...but he is in collections because his ex changed the name on the gas bill 4 years ago but did NOT pay what she owed before doing so and they want him to pay her bill....because his name was on the original account...The Gas company and the collections have been advised but they still insist it is his problem that she does not pay the bill...
He also had his truck repo'd because he lost his job...the bank sold the truck for way less than its worth and now they want him to pay the difference....His ex co-signed the loan but...they olny want him to pay....advised the bank and the collections to stuff the real kicker...they call my father all the time at home,on his cell, even though they have been told NOT to call him and He has gone to the Ministry to get them to stop...It does for a while, then the account goes to another collection agency and it starts ALL OVER AGAIN......

This show was great

1) Give gifts of cash so those you give it to can go whatever they want

2) As for debt collectors I never got a call from them ever because I don't go into debt

People buy goods and services, go into debt and complain about the harassment?

Tell me if your employer was not paying you for the work you performed how far would you complain?

A little advice.....consumer debt is evil!

I have a friend who was told to pay his credit card, which he'd maxed out buying textbooks (his credit limit was $500). When he told the person on the other end of the line he couldn't, because he was going to school full time, he was told to be a man, drop out, and get a real job so he could pay his bills.
The irony - he was in school so that he would be able to have a decent job and pay his bills.

I have the enjoyment of working for a collection agency 25 years ago right out of university...........nothing ethical or professional about the business. they wanted me to play hardball with US clients who owed $$ to cancer clinics.......gut wrenching way to make a living

My wife received several telephone messages from a bill collector at Total Credit Recovery. He did not say why he was calling, he just left messages.

I decided to call him back. I indicated to him I was responsible for the payment of bills in the house and I would need to know more information before I could issue him any money. He indicated it was an American Express card and the amount was roughly $1100. I asked him what the credit card account number was. He provided it to me.

What was interesting was that we always pay our bills on time, but neither of us have an American Express credit card. He provided me with a credit card number that belonged to someone else. I then contacted AMEX, provided them with the credit card number and proof that the outstanding bill did not belong to us.

I then requested that the AMEX representative contact the bill collector, to inform him he was contacting the wrong people. It turned out the person who owned the credit card had a name that was somewhat similar to my wife's name.

I then called the bill collector back and asked him why he contacted us by mistake. He replied that he just gets the information and does the phone calling. I then threatened him that if he ever called us again for any reason, I would sue him. I also told him some things that I cannot repeat here. But he has never called us back.

My biggest debt collector is revenue Canada. As a small business they send astronomical bills that are sometimes difficult to pay in slow times. What do they do when they don't get their money. They just go right into your bank account and take the funds without advance warning.

I would really like to see a follow up on those Pirates at Equifax.

They won't open an inquiry for you unless you fax in a copy of your DL, Passport and current power bill. All they do is keep repeating "You should just pay the bill"

* In my case, the Collection agency had listed the report incorrectly and removed the listing from my credit report on Equifax - DESPITE Equifax sending me a letter in response to their own investigation, stating stating "that the information they reporter (spelling mistake) at Equifax is accurate and factual. Thus, no amendment will be made to your credit file"

I reiterate.... PIRATES!

In reply to a comment from Dave Humberland

Well said !

Accepting responsibility,in this case,means resigning oneself to slavery! Really high interest assures this. A $5,000 debt at, like, 35% interest will take 35 years to pay off if all you can afford is the minimum monthly payment!
2 years ago while looking into bankruptcy (end o relationship, mid-life crisis, stress, stress, stress)I stumbled upon Mark Silverthorne's first book, a guide to dealing with collection agencies,and learned that besides rules and regulations governing collection agencies there is a limitation period on unsecured debt. How fair, I thought. If our government will allow moneylenders to make for themselves money making deals that, in most cases, will result in the enslavery of the consumer, is it not justly balanced that we, the consumer, should have a way out? In Ontario the limitation period is 2 years. (It's 6 years in NFLD!?)This means that 2 years from the time I make my last payment my unsecured debt is no longer collectable...or so I believed. Thanks to Market Place I've learned that the Ontario government is not effectively upholding it's rules where debt collection is concerned. This is not responsible or right behaviour in a $uccessful nation. What's more, the amount of anger that appears to be tolerated in Ontario is devistating. Angry phone calls, name calling, involving the children...If these tactics are what's needed then what's with our society? All this stress and anger because of ridiculously high interest rates and a government that seems to put money ahead of human rights in the name of consumerism.
During my 2 year limitation period I have applied what Mark Silverthorn calls the "wait-it-out" strategy: the consumer avoids paying unsecured debt to improve their short-term financial position...and, hopefully, gets it together, eh!
While obviously not for everyone, as a person with nothing to lose and no dependants, i have been waiting-it-out in Mexico on about $10 a day. By immersing myself in this culture I've learned lots about my own culture. I've found answers to life-long questions and found love. I now speak spanish and teach yoga. For the price of my debt I'm going to sell my story (far more complex than the money-soaked excess of last summer's "Eat, Pray, Love") as a means of paying it back. Thanks to the 2-year limitation period (hopefully still honored) I can pay-off my debt and save the world! A hundred years of servitude in the name of the RBC just wasn't for me.

In reply to a comment from Collector

That may be true that that collection agencys work on behalf of the lender but why would a collection agency harass someone who's debts were discharged in bankruptcy in 2005 and be harassed to pay a discharged debt in 2011,it is against the law to harass a discharged bankrupt.I have heard of junk debt buyers collection agencys buying discharged debts for pennies then trying to scam consumers into paying hoping they make a huge profit. That is totally against the law whenyou are a discharged bankrupt than legally you don't owe it!!

In reply to a comment from S

You are proud of not paying your bills!! This is what we call a dead beat debtor. Not the people who are really having bad financial problems. Those people get mu sympathy and should consider making a payment plan they can afford and stick to it. Lets face it we all have debts and bills that need to be paid NOTHING IS FREE. I am a bill collector and I am proud of it. I have been for over 20 years and I habe ZERO complaints because I follow the rules. You should be ashamed of yourself. I am very familiar how collection agencies function and all I could say is that it's a job just like every other job and for the most part we play by the rules. There is always one bad apple in the bunch. What ever your situation is you must repay your debt and if you cannot do so the file for bankruptcy. NOT PAYING YOUR BILLS IS NOT OKAY!!!

I watched the expose on debt collection agencies several times to fully understand the issues. While you were very expressive of how you were hurt by bill collectors, what are YOU prepared to do about it?

Both Brian Pitkin, Registrar of the Collection Agencies Act in Ontario, and Mark Silverthorn said several times in the program that the laws governing the debt collection industry are too weak and need to be revised. And Mr. Pitkin said that it is up to Parliament to make the changes. The laws are on the books but Mr. Pitkin does not have enough power to enforce the laws. Some of these laws were passed 20 or 30 years ago. They need to be revised and updated.

Ontario Collection Agencies Act, paragraphs 20 to 25, states what a collection agency cannot do. But it does not provide penalties.

The penalty for a debt collection agency sending a “draft Plaintiff Claim” under the Ontario Debt Collectors Act is $20.00! And this penalty does not cover the use of draft Plaintiff Claims sent by lawyers.

If you seriously want to be heard, you MUST send letters to the people who matter -- your members of Parliament. In Ontario, you can get the addresses from the following web site:

Will writing a letter make a difference? You better believe it! I have been involved in politics and politicians do listen to constituents. Your Member of Parliament needs to know where YOU stand.

What should the government do?

1. strengthen the existing laws. Either pass new laws or change the regulations by Order in Council.

2. impose heavy fines for bill collection agents who break the law. Make the fines clear for EACH violation. Fines should begin at $100 and increase for repeated offenders.

3. impose a fine for the bill collection agency owners who condone their staff in breaking the laws. They benefit from the bill collectors who are breaking the law.

4. Mr. Pitkin’s ministry should keep records of each bill collection agency and its record for following or breaking the law. And, this record should be made available to the court in any law suit initiated by a bill collection agency.

5. make the courts take into account how the bill collector broke the law in trying to collect a debt.

6. the courts should be flexible in taking into account the circumstances how the debt arose and how the debt can be repaid.

7. the judges should be ordered to assist the private person trying to defend him/herself in court when opposed by a lawyer from a bill collection agency. In court, judges unintentionally tend to side with lawyers rather than the private individual.

Some people have already posted their concerns and feelings about bill collectors on line. Take the next important step and tell your story to the people who can make a difference – your government elected representative. They will listen, or risk not being re-elected.

If enough people take this action, you will be surprised how things can change. But it all begins with YOU.

Your programme did not mention that these collection agencies sell bad debt from one copany to another. when a collector gets fed up with your non payment of their threatened collection attempt they will then sell it to another agency who will begin the process all over again. They do not seem to forward leters from Lawyers in answer to clear a mater up. Whata has been working for me is a simple process of blocking the phone number of the collection agency. the have a limited number of phone lines, so after a call use * 60 on your phone then it will direct you to list their numer. Presto, no more phone calls. It works

In reply to a comment from Cheryl

Hi Cheryl.I had the same thing happen many years ago.Did you know it's a very serious offense to harrass a discharged bankrupt? At the time,bankruptcy was under federal jurisdiction.I sued and they paid the entire amount of the bankruptcy,quickly I might add,because they knew It would cost them triple or quadruple if they went to trial.Talk to your lawyer.FYI. Regards

Am I the only one who sees the hilarious irony in NEWS REPORTERS talking about the horror stories of harassment and invasion of privacy? Cmon, who do you think your fooling with this hypocritical "Expose?"

In reply to a comment from Aaron Kates

Wow Aaron it is funny that you are commenting on this page. Maybe you should tell people that you pay bonuses to collection agencies for referring debtors to you. You will pay the collectors thousands of dollars to refer someone to you and then in turn charge the debtor a broker fee.

It is funny how people try and distance themselves from collection agencies when agencies are a necessity. Are there collectors out there that aren't acting professionally, absolutely. Do the agencies want these people working for them, absolutely not. For the most part people here are right, agencies aren't concerned with the ministry who governs them. This isn't because they don't care about the rules, it is because agency clients have more rules than the government. The collection practices act isn't needed anymore. Clients provide agencies with directives that are to be followed. In most cases these are far more detailed than the government would ever be prepared to do. The government doesn't have the time or money to manage this, the clients do a good job of it.

I was harrassed by a collection agency for almost a year because, while a student I got the phone number of someone who had it before me who had some credit card issues. The agent didn't believe me when I said they had the wrong number and that person did not live here. They thought I was that person and that I was lying to avoid them. They kept calling and calling, sometimes ten times in ten minutes. They would call me names and swear at me and then hang up. This is back when we had to enroll in unversity courses over the phone and I was unable to get into certain classes becasue I couldn't use my phone. It was complete chaos and they only stopped calling when I changed my number the next year when I moved to a new apartment (back then you had to pay a fee to change you phone number and being a student an extra $50 is groceries for that week). I understand and believe people should pay their debts and assume responsability - but harrassing people and swearing at them is just a bully tactic and uncalled for. Since then I have had no respect for bully like collection agents!

I was in the collection industry. What most people don't realize, there are 2 reasons for the actions of some collection agencies.
1. creditors typically put agencies into a contest situation where market share is dictated by collection curves.
2. Collection agencies are moving away from a work force of senior more educated personel who know the laws and try to find other means to resolve debts to juniors who have very little training and very little knowledge of the financial world. It is more cost effective to pay 2 juniors with no vacation pay, no medical benefits etc. than it is to pay 1 senior collector who can out collect the 2 juniors.. What does this mean to the public? well a senior collector will typically look at a person's financial position and try to find a way for them to resolve the debt, where a junior just says "pay your bills"
The collection industry for obvious reasons does not have a good name and lots of people complaining but when you compare the number of complaints against the tens of millions of accounts placed in collections, it is relatively a very small percentage. Now, don't get me wrong, if someone (collector) does something wrong, I think they deserve what they get, but understand that the collection industry would not be what it is today if it weren't for the number of people defaulting on debts. I can accept that bad things happen to good people but more and more the cases of fraud, theft and total ignorance is on the rise. If you are being called by a collection agency and are the wrong person, co-operate with the agency and advise them they are speaking to the wrong person. If that does not work, send them a cease and desist letter advising you are the wrong person. Typically they will accept that via fax. Once received, they are obligated to stop calling you.

In reply to a comment from Bill Thompson

i was being harassed by a collection agency for a debt that was discharged in bankruptcy in 2005.

I have call display and only answer the phone when I see a number of someone who I know. The rest can leave a messasge. If it's a message from a bill collector that is contrary to the law, I phone back and play the message back to let them know that I will be filing a complaint against them and demanding compensation. They never phone back. I've gotten thousands of dollars worth of free stuff by not paying my bills and "sticking it to the man". Boy, I'm good.

Wake UP People! Who the hell did you think was going to pay the bill when you charged all that crap you couldn't afford!!!
When companies have to write off bad debts, they just jack up the prices to those of us who DO pay our bills.
Honor YOUR Debts and there is no reason for the collectors to knock on your door. If they get, mean, just tell them you are considering going bankrupt and they should take a number. They will quit hasseling you then.
But in the meantime if you can't pay cash you simply can't afford it, regardless of what your selfish self tells you.

In reply to a comment from grampadave

As I have always been saying. People should have not tried to live beyond their means!

In reply to a comment from bob watford

That is exactly what I do not understand. They've signed the cardholders agreement and then want compassion for their stupidity. Turn off your televisions and educated yourselves on how to not get in debt and how to stay out of it.

So who should pay the collection agency or do I pay the credit card company?

To David C.

Why not make sure your info is accurate?
Be damn sure you got the right person, the facts correct, and do NOT stalk people, or harrass them.
And if you still screw up and get the wrong person, when told so, apologize, and go away, and find the right person.
Or is it too much work to do the job correctly?

The collectors are out of control, and most IMO break laws.
I am so glad that CBC Marketplace did this story.
To the people, educate yourself on the laws, and if someone breaks those laws, report them.
I reported a company years ago that said they were a collection agency, representing a video store.
They wanted me to pay aproximately $170 for 2 movies I rented but never returned.
I had never rented a movie from that company in my life.
The guy kept calling and harrasing me, at home and at work. He even told my employee that answered the phone I owed money for a debt.
I found out where his office was and went there.
Suddenly face to face he was not so tough.
I told him again for about the twentieth time, he was wrong, and i had not rented those movies.
And to stop calling me or i would be back.
He never called again.

In reply to a comment from David C.

I agree with David C. I can also assure you that collectors receive a lot more of verbal abuse and swearing on then they give to the debtors. If a collector swears on a debtor a debtor will have places to go to report the abuse however not so for the collector. If you are going to investigate a story please look at both sides.

Read and learn.

Also, no payment arrangement should ever be paid down. These fly by night collection agencies should have to follow the same guidelines as everyone else in the collection industry. Trouble is, they are not trained properly. To be a collector, you need to be licensed. Maybe the license process needs to be changed.

In reply to a comment from debra boyle

You must be one of the only few.

In reply to a comment from debra boyle

The show focused on the weak laws in ONTARIO. And how it's resulted in these types of behaviors. I'm sure there arn't many who are against a collections agency in general, they are an unfortunate necessity. I've had a friend who got a legal settlement finally paid due to enlisting a collections agency. It's the illegal tactics that really arn't being enforced in Ontario where the problem lies, not the entire industry. Most people see that. :)

I think most collection agencies are missing the boat. I truely do not believe in my heart of all hearts that Canadians do not want to pay their bills. The collection agencies still have an "old school" approach and have not adapted to the new era of 2011. I specialize in assisting people through the debt consolidation process and have consistantly observed many experiences that Canadians have been going through over the past 10yrs. Most recently it is loss of job through economic recession and tougher bank regulations and conditions to get a consolidation loan for assistance. I get a whole lot more life experiences than some saying " I just didnt want to pay and forgot about it." The collection agencies have it all wrong. It is now an opportunity to help good people by suggesting options for paying rather than harrassing their debtors. If some of them just did their home work and asked proper questions, maybe there are solutions out there. I know there because I have come accross many people whom have a 2nd opportunity. An example is using the equity in their home. Most people are not aware that there are options because it is quicker to harass or maybe are afraid to educate themselves. I think there needs to be more options available to the public. Accordingly, it is also up to us to look for an option. We have internet and many other tools to educate ourselves to get out of this mess. There is no excuse for us to not try to help ourselves other than health.

That being said there is also a lot of horrible advice being given from friends and family. If you dont know what your talking about, please seek a professional!!!! There are people whom pretend they know how to help but dont know a damn thing about this.

It is time for change and there are options.

In reply to a comment from David C.

The current financial situation occurred because of the greed of large banks and of Wall Street manipulators. Those entities took advantage of people and gave them credit that the banks knew would be beyond their ability to pay. Mortgages go into default because they issued them knowing it would happen. Your post displays an almost total ignorance of the real roots of most of the financial problems facing the average person in Western society today.

I have worked in collections since I was 18 and I think a lot of the responses on here are from people who are more than able to pay their bills but choose to indulge in unnecessary luxuries and prioritize that over their responsibilities. Several times I have contacted debtors on the phone and found that the number on which I was contacting them was a cell phone. Tell me something - how can you be past due on your bills but indulge in a mobile phone? Some times I've had to continually show up at debtor's places of employment in order to show that our agency means business. Some of these debtors are overweight! If you're past due on your bills why are you not reducing your dietary intake instead of blowing money on fast food? I remember one debtor I followed was driving a huge Ford industrial-grade truck with reinforced suspension. This is another example - the minute you are behind on your bills you could easily trade in your vehicle for something much more fuel efficient and stop blaming lack of paying bills on transportation costs.

I am sickened by the representation of debtors as poor, defenceless weaklings who are struggling to get by. I have NEVER collected from a debtor who was without the capacity to pay their bill, but instead chose to engage in other costly activities and justify it as a valid expense. How many of you with outstanding bills are putting your cable or communications on suspension? How many of you are reducing your family's consumption? What medical procedures are life-threatening and must be addressed before paying your bills? One of you mentioned about depression...PLEASE! That is not a valid excuse and BY THE WAY - I've heard that excuse before yet I typically find the debtor out perusing the mall or going out to eat. After I reported this to my supervisor concerning a past due medical bill we were at his door the very next day and followed him all the way to work until he magically came up with the funds to address his responsibilities.

You're right about eliminating collection agencies - but that starts with eliminating the lack of responsibility by debtors. I've always been an upstanding citizen and of a high morale and character, and I've typically found the debtor to be the exact opposite (like the fellow with the tattoos and piercings). I sincerely doubt Erica's depiction of debtors fairly represents the majority of people owing money. I think our agency is a sub-contractor of GCC that handled the student's VISA card. I'm glad collection agencies are pursuing their debtors and I'm glad that there are many perfectly legal procedures we can follow in order for you to address your responsibilities.

I have to say when I saw Mark Silverthorn on the show talking about the shady tactics of colletion agencies I was disgusted!! In 2006 I received the exact draft court documents from HIS office for a debt that was not mine. When I called his office to correct the situation the women on the other end yelled and swore at me repeating 'I can tell you what your phone number was!!' So yes Mr. Silverthorn knows first hand about the wolves at the door because he was (is?) one!

Can't keep the wolves at bay any longer.
After my wifes diagnosis 2 years ago with terminal cancer things financially have gone all to HELL!!! I have wolves from CIBC asking how long my wife had to live so I could pay them with her Life Insurance money. Not worth complaining. I have learned NOBODY GIVES A CRAP! My wife and I both spent our work helping others, she was a nurse and I a social worker but when it comes to money your on your own against the Greedy Wolves.

While disgusted by the collection industry, even more appalling was the ministry charged with going after these hacks. When the man said to Erica "It's not our job to tell the minister/government what to do" my jaw dropped.

So what he was saying, is that they provide no suggestions or feedback to the minister overseeing them? They just "do their job" as he so brazenly boasted? No organization, government or private can function without the leaders hearing from the front line staff on the current situation?

If they cannot stop the abuse, and do not offer suggestions to the government on how to improve the situation, what is it they do all day?

I was a victum of AKTIVE CAPITAL
I agreed to pay them 300 over 18 months
paid them total 4500 . missed 1 payment in nov
and one payment in april ... they up my acc to the original first amount of 10.000
and said the 4500. was for back interest .. so I lost that to them ... so now I.m paying 40.00 a month through consumer proposal .. and got nothing towards my account of the 4500 I paid .

they are dishonest lier's , harressment .
they used ever harrassement on me she could.

from court ,etc...guess what .. I'm investatgation with my lawyer . if they can actually steal the 4500 i paid . as that is what it looks like . they said they went back over the years for interest paid . .. that's crap there liar's .. .... my lawyer will go after them .
and i don't care how long it takes and how much i have to pay the lawyer . as there theive's .
I lost employment because of sickness .

I realize that collection officers have bad reputations, but there are more than ONE good collection officers. Some of us have been in difficult financial positions ourselves due to family problems, loss of jobs, etc.
I also appreciate that CBC has a job to do, but they don't have to tar and feather all collection officers with the same brush...
I have been a collection officer for over 30 years and we just have a job to do, like other people do, we have bills to pay just like everyone else.
In my length of time in this business, I have seen many situations were the consumers are far worse than any bad collection officer.
I have personal experiece where consumers have sent us fecal matter in plastic bags with a note to "eat s**t". I have also seen many consumers who take out credit cards and loans in other peoples names, as well as their own, just to live on credit with NO ATTEMPT to ever pay it back.
I have also seen many cases where supposed honorable consumers give us nothing but lies, abusive language, etc to get us off the phone.
I know that I have helped many consumers get out of problems with suggestions on how to WORK to clear up their debt. It may be a good idea to listen to the collection officer before lumping all in the same bag. Alot of us are good people..
We will help if we can.
And for those that say they will not pay an agency, we don't care who you pay the client or the agency, we still get paid...
And in alot of cases, you no longer owe the client, as agencies now purchase the debt, so we will make every effort to proceed against the consumer as covered under the "Debt Collection Act" in your province

I have been harassed almost daily for nearly two years by Bell Canada collections for $150 in charges that I do not owe! I have explained over and over why I do not owe them any money but the harassment continues relentlessly. I had switched my phone and internet service to ACN and Telus respectively (lower cost and high-speed stick service), and then received bills from Bell for over $50 for two calls made after the switch and a $100 disconnection fee for dial-up service when no contract existed for this service. I did pay a nominal disconnect fee which, according to my ACN representative, I was not responsible for either. I do not owe this money but cannot stop this bullying. Now Telus has started adding extra charges to my bill including text message charges when I don't have a phone plan with them! That's a fight for another day when I have hours to spend arguing with ill mannered representatives of these huge thieving entities! No protection for consumers! I have spent countless days trying to recoup lost money from Bell, et al. over the years but things just seem to get worse. Where does it stop?

I have been with the same collection agency for 30 years, we follow the rules and the guidelines very strictly, always have. I think a lot of the problems in the last 10 years have been all the call centres buying debts and hiring unexperienced collectors to work for them. There are very strict guidelines to follow, there are also people that have run into financial hardships. We are a very small agency, but we have worked these debts with compassion as well, we do not work on commission. I can only speak for our agency as all of our collectors have been with us for 20 plus years. These call centre agencies have come in and made companies these big promises that they can collect their debts for them at a lower rate and higher collection ratio. They can't. We have had a lot of our customers move their debts to these agencies, only to come back to us. I too believe much stricter enforements of the policies need to be implemented for any company collecting money. That would stop the bullying that seems to have come about and worsened in the last 10 years in this business. I enjoyed watching the story. I can tell you the 3 rules Marketplace showed in their segment, we follow. You MUST send a written notice, you cannot contact them until the 7th day after that notice is sent. You cannot disclose the debt to anyone else. And you cannot use tactics to try snd scare people into paying the debt. I hope one day there will be zero tolerance for the collection agencies that don't follow the rules.

In reply to a comment from Raymond Matheson

oh boy!have i been there,like government give you the round around.good luck sir i hope you find your way out of government bs

In reply to a comment from Perry Martin

I agree with you mr martin,David c seems to put everyone in the same boat,many of hard working canadains have lost thier jobs,and many were responiable people.don't look down your nose at people strugging,karma can sneek up and bite you in the butt,i'v seen it happen.good luck to the folks putting up with collection agents calling.i use to be there,i know your struggle.

We got calls from IQOR many times a day despite telling them repeatedly that they got the wrong person. Sometimes they even called at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings while we were still asleep. At one point we had to turn off the ringer so as to not be woken. Now I ignored the calls altogether.

And no, we never ever received a letter notifying us of any debts before these calls started. And as far as I know, we don't owe any money to anyone.

In reply to a comment from Linda

The best piece of advice we have ever gotten was this..."Don't answer the phone" if you don't know who it is...There is no law that says you have to...and then, write a letter that clearly states that you want "all telephone calls to cease and desist"...these are magic words. Send that letter ONLY by registered mail so that you have confirmation that they received it...AND be sure to make a copy for yourself. Tell them nothing about your financial situation in the letter...they do not care and will only find a way to use the information you give them, in some other way to harrass you. I hope this helps even if it is only a little bit...good luck.

I want to say THANK YOU to the CBC Market place for airing this. I just went to my provinces regulations and have found out that a certain company has been in violation of a couple rules.
The biggest on that really has me reeling is :
Collection agencies cannot: ask that money be sent in a way that would cost the debtor money (ie registered mail)- I was told in no uncertain terms it had too be sent Western Union which incurred a extra charge on top of the payment, leaving me with no money.
To you in collections SHAME ON YOU for your strong armed tatics. Put you self in the persons shoes. What would you do if you lost your employment and had little or no money for food!

In reply to a comment from Bill Thompson

Nice plug...your book is worthless.

In reply to a comment from Raymond Matheson

We had the same thing happen to us. We finally figured out something. When we first applied for GST, we were asked how what we estimated we would be making in a quarter. We didn't really know, since we hadn't really started out the business yet, we threw in a figure we thought sounded okay. Remember, this was only an ESTIMATE! Then Revenue Cda sent us an assessment on the figure amount, which amounted to thousands of dollars. We had yet to make close to the figure we put in the application and told we called several Revenue employees and told them the situation, but we were still harassed and our bank account cleaned out. We can never recover the money without legal expense and our company closed. Overnight. Now, I will never have only one bank account for my business. Any money sent to Revenue Cda, whether it is employee deductions, GST, taxes, etc. will only come out of an account that has only the minimum amount in it to cover those amounts. Once they have your bank account number, you are out of luck. They can grab your money and then, unless you has lots of money for a lawyer, you will never get it back. Ever.

They don't care who you are or what the situation is. In fact, the same companies Global Credit, the law firm and now Rogers are gearing up to pursue people. They screwed up my credit for just $400. Wrong person, wrong claim. What these companies don't realize is this; bad publicity and specially Rogers is wasting its time. I am in a verge of collecting information to launch class-action law suit against these companies including rogers.

I had an issue with one of Canada's largest phone companies over an account cancellation after I had made a substantial payment and registered it over their new (at the time) telephone reporting system-there was a processing delay of the message and I lost my phone line before they could update my account balance. I disagreed on principle with the company for a couple of weeks-their customer service woman yelled at me, their reconnection fee was very high and I was not able to pay it all up front. I was a student and making a low wage so it became too large a financial issue for me to deal with. Plus they tacked on interest every month.I owed about $300 from a shared phone line that was in my name and a roommate did not pay his share for. A small fortune at the time of which I had been making faithful scheduled payments.
So then the debt collectors started calling after I moved in with family at a later time. 6-7 times a day and night at least. They were intimidating and harassing. My family was upset. The debt collectors were calling from long distance phone numbers. We were able to track down where this credit collection company was bouncing their number off of in the states. It turns out it was a law office in a southern state. We called them and they had no idea that their number was being misrepresented. This lawyer was furious and she called the collection agency and the calls and threat of legal action ceased.
I should have tried to settle the debt initially but the company and their credit collection allies had been so awful I found it hard to deal with their tactics. It was always a man who called me and belittled me I believe because I was young and female, prone to intimidation.
My credit score is ok now but it was very nerve-wracking for a long time. I screened my calls and felt nervous every time the phone rang. It was traumatizing.

In reply to a comment from David C.

Did you actually listen to the report? Collection agencies had it wrong and were relentlessly harassing people who HAD PAID THEIR BILLS and had nothing to do with the debts being collected.

In reply to a comment from Cathy Muise

I worked for a bank in the recoveries department. I was told even if a customer had been loyal to the bank for 25 years, he/she is only as good as her last payment. It means if a customer misses a payment your loyalty is not an issue. The money owed to teh bank is.

I think Marketplace should also do a show on these so called for profit debt assistance companies that advertise all over the place how they can do great things for people. I have seen too many people end up in a far worse position because they have dealt with these companies. People are being called from collection agencies and feel they are being backed into a corner and these companies prey on them promising them the stars and the moon all the while knowing they are pretty much at the mercy of the creditors who have the right to recognize them or not. There are definitely legitimate credit counciling agencies out there but there are far more for profit organizations that sole purpose is separating your money under the premise of helping you.

There are a lot of parts to this report that make people cringe. One thing for me is knowing that Mark Silverthorn probably made a very good living working for collection agencies. One wonders how many draft statements of claim he was responsible for. You wouldn't think that he had a problem getting his paycheque every pay period from the collection agency he used his licence to mislead the public for. Now He is saying that he is using his knowledge to help people with debts in collections that are being harassed and threatened.... Is he doing this pro bono? Did he open a web page at very minimal or no cost to himself giving people the information they need? NO.... He will take you as a client at cost or you can buy his book at cost. Just another angle for him to make an income. To me it kinda says there is no remorse for actions just another angle at making money. He says it's going to take him 12 years to make up for the wrongs he did while working in collections. Honestly? 12 years of charging people to fix wrong that you did????? Is he the one of the pioneers in the whole collection agencies using lawyers scenario? who knows, but please don't tell me you have remorse for what you did and what people are going through all the while holding your hand out for profit.

Thank you CBC for providing such a great program!

In reply to a comment from David H Albert

most debt is not bought. If you have an account in collection, you have already shown bad faith by not meeting the term of the agreement with the creditor (that you would pay your bill on time). Local police have better things to do than deal with people who cannot handle thier financial obligations.

I believe the real tragedy of this story is the lack of governmental backbone when it comes to the unscrupulous practices of the debt collector. It seems the agencies that are there to protect the citizens interest are willing to turn a blind eye to strong-arm tactics and harassment perpetrated on the citizens of Canada.

Misleading statements, bullying and abusive comments seem to be the norm from the comments listed here. Yes peoples circumstances change, and people could do more to live within their means but that does not give the collection agencies carte blanche to make peoples lives a living hell. If people are in a situation where their debts have been sent to collection, they are already under an incredible amount of stress.

Its unfortunate that the stigma of being a “deadbeat” is immediately attached to people when they fall behind on payments. Being labelled like this creates a fear to reach out for help when people need it most . They try to go it alone in their struggle against their debt and the hounding of the collection agent.

Of course the banks and finance companies prefer to have the collection agencies with as little regulation as possible. They like to have these rabid dogs on their leash. Banks exert influence over our members of government, which they wield to turn the rules in their favour. If a government attempts to create more stringent rules or attempts to raise the level of enforcement of existing legislation, one can be certain that discrete lobbying is brought to bear on MLA's and MP's. I believe that a levelling of the playing field is needed, the rights of the citizen have to be held above the needs of the bank.

The debt collection agency purchases overdue debts from a larger corporation, usually for a small percentage of the face value of the debt. The larger corporation gets to write off the difference between the sold price and actual price as loss, and receives a tax savings. The collection agent then does their best to hound you into paying the full amount, usually amounting into a fairly good profit for the collection company and a good bonus for the agent. This profit is what drives the agent, its the only thing that I can see that would make these people act in such a way. I could not do this work for I would not want its stench on my soul.

Advice for all, read the small print on your contracts and understand the implications of what you sign. Its better to not get into a situation where you have to deal with collections agents. If you do have to deal with collection departments then investigate your rights, and learn what the collections agents can actually do.

If you are in dispute, get as much information about the company as you can. Keep a phone log of the calls received, time date and subject. If you have the capability, record the calls for you know that the collection company is recording the call. Do not let yourself be forced into agreeing to something you cannot achieve, be professional even if the agents are not. Complain about abusive language, harassment and unprofessional conduct to the provincial body regulating the collection agent. Most importantly get help, their are volunteer organizations that will offer advice and can help you with negotiating a firm and final settlement of your debts.

In reply to a comment from john Anderson

We still owed Revenue Canada $2600.00 In taxes. Times have been really hard. We had to choose whether to pay them or pay our hydro bill. They froze our bank account and we could not pay anything. Sad that they can just to that.

I have had these call for a debt I do not owe. The debt does belong to my son who lives in another province. He is 30 years old. I did tell them I would send him an email and I did. They kept calling and I just would not answer the phone. They have been politely told he does not live here and to stop calling. I decided one last time to answer the phone and I had a very rude and ignorant young man on the phone. He called my son a liar. He told me he was going to call me very early tomorrow morning and disturb my sleep. I asked for a supervisor and was told I did not get that privilege. I did get nasty with him because he was nasty with me. I told him I would call my lawyer and file a harassment suit if this did not stop. He then hung up. I sent a detailed email to the company also telling them I would contact my lawyer. I have not heard from them since. After watch Market Place I see they have broken a few rules.

Thanks so much for an excellent show. I to have felt the strong arm tactics of debt collectors. In 2000 I had to leave my job (due to an injury) for retraining through W.S.i.B. Until that time my credit rating was excellent. I made the effort of contacting all my creditors by mail to see if some kind of reduced payment arrangements could be worked out. I did not receive a single reply. Since my income dropped significantly I fell behind in payments. There was no dealing with them and the end result was that I had to declare personal bankruptcy. I was averaging 4-8 calls per day. Only one credit card company reached an agreement (I was able to pay that card off). The best part is that even after I was released from bankruptcy I continued to receive phone calls and threatening letters from both the companies and their lawyers. I contacted my trustee and he advised that often the card companies sell the debt. I wonder how many Canadians who have been through bankruptcy received these additional calls and are co-erced into believing that they still need to pay this amount and actually come up with the funds to pay these wolvles off.
I am glad to say that things have worked out and I'm now able to start reestablishing my credit.

In reply to a comment from Rick

Yeah I can't say I feel sorry for that David guy. Pay your bills you clown. This show is starting to disappoint me. If these were the best examples they could come up with maybe it's best to go back to the drawing board. I thought it might be interesting but it was weak. Almost as weak as the portrayal of preloaded credit cards with the fees clearly noted on the card and packaging...then stupid people whining about fees. If you don't like them DON'T buy them. But don't complain because you were too stupid to read the package and card.

In reply to a comment from David C.

I noticed in the comments section that David C. is taking quite an arse-whupping for his point of view...but if you think about...really, really, really think about it....I mean think about it objectively, over a cup of tea or coffee (and then write your opinions)....David C. is right.

We have come a long long way from the days of our fathers and grandfathers. There was a time when "cash on the barrel" was the way you went through life. If you couldn't afford it you did without, if you couldn't pay for it you saved every penny, got a second job or worked part-time until you could pay for the item in cash. There was tremendous pride taken in working very very hard and saving every penny until the day you could walk in and plunk down your hard earned cash on your dream.....

There was a massive negative stigma attached to those who had to apply for credit or go on the dole/relief/welfare. Credit was for bums, the lazy and ner'do'wells.

How far we've come. We now live amongst those for whom an overwhelming sense of entitlement and expectation is based on nothing more than the ability to fog a mirror...its all a world of instant gratification where you aren't sexy or "in" unless you are 100,000 dollars in debt and working a minumum wage job...even cash is something foreign, hand a cashier cash and very often you get a confused expression and an "eeewwww" attitude.....

David C. is right...we need to be much much more responsible with our cash...its not sexy but it served us well for 1500 years or more...

Now I'll come up for air from my sermon and take an arse-whupping .....

In reply to a comment from debra boyle

With that being said I have had many debtors thank me for understanding their situation and giving them a way out. I have had gifts, books and numerous thank you letters. We all have a job to do and trust you me the collectors job is not an easy one. one in four people used to pay in the last 3 years one in ten pay. People have not been taught on how to use crdit wisely. spend now pay later or dont have the cash so use the credit card and then make small payments. There needs to be consequences on people not paying their bills they are borrowing money! i am sure if someone borrowed money off you and they didn't pay it back and it was a couple thousand dollars you would take them to small claims court. This is kind of the same thing but if the person offered to pay you a couple hundred bucks every couple of weeks and actually did it you would be more willing to work with them. The one thing that makes me mad is when someone sats well the bank has millions of dollars they aren't going to mind me not paying my bill. That is stealing and i think morally everyone should abide to the contract they did sign.

In reply to a comment from Nancy

I have exactly the same problem. Calls sometimes repeated several times a day.

I have been tormented for a long time by credit companies looking for people with our last name. We don't even know the people they are looking for.
We have no outstanding debts. Often they are extremely rude.

In reply to a comment from debra boyle

I fully agree Debra, I have been doing collections now for at least 13 years. For both a government agency and still currently for one of the big 5 agencies. I am licenced and bonded in all provinces across canada, and I take pride in my job. No one expects to get themselves in collections, things happen people loose jobs, go through divorces, get hurt or loose a loved one and things happen. Sometimes it is hard for the collector to understand that not unless they have been on both sides of the fence. However if the debtor does not keep the lines of communication open and explain their situation the collection agency does have the right to commence legal action. this interview was VERY misleading to debtors saying 1 in a very large amount are sued. That I will STRONGLY disagree with. We sue alot of accounts and we make sure that we do alot of investigation before we do to find out if they are gainfully employed or is a homeowner and it is on the onus of the debtor to contact the credit agency if they have good intention on paying the bill. It floors me on how many people move and then we pull a credit bureau on the debtor and they are upset that we found their parents phone #. It is the consumers responsiblity to update their address ect. What I am saying here is not all bill collectors are bad. unfortunatly in any industry their is sometimes one bad apple in the bunch, i think this story about wolf at the door was a negative as to how to avoid your debt instead of giving consumers the oppportunity to deal with their debts responsibily and the contracts that they signed.

In reply to a comment from Cathy Muise

Thank you. Well said. You make a conscious decision about each and every purchase and payment. You are not keeping up with the Jones' rather trying to keep your (and your children's) head(s) above water. It's not denial, not avoidance, but survival.

I have just finished watching this edition of the show. What I was most appalled with was the wishy-washy "out of my hands" lack of action by the man who is in charge of overseeing this practice in Ontario. 20,000 complaints in five years and how many ended up in court.
He certainly should not be considered an asset to any consumer protection branch. No action plan, just excuses. I have to wonder how much he is being paid for this great level of incompetence?
And by whom?
I am glad I do not live in Ontario.

In reply to a comment from Rick

you sound like a collector - you know what happens when you assume (tch)

My biggest frustration with the collection agencies is that they yell, interrupt and belittle leaving you to feel like a little kid. I really felt like I was a 10 year old trying to convince someone to let me go to the candy store, when actually I was a 35 year old professional single mom tring to figure out a way to settle a debt with a payment plan. I wasn't trying to get away with anything, I wanted more than anything to be able to pay, but if there is no money there is no money. I truly believe that there is nothing in this world that has a better chance of raising my blood pressure than a phone call from a collector. They just don't get that you got into financial trouble for a reason, and that reason may still exist, and that you have other bills to pay that are higher priority. I wish there was a course on how to talk to them. How to get back my dignity. I am a very well educated professional. I am logical and methodical in how I speak to people, and yet every collector I have ever encountered knows just exactly how to talk in circles and never let a debtor get a word in edgewise.

I wonder how many collectors have ever ended up on the receiving end of those phone calls.

I had a look at the rules in my province (BC) and the following rule was one i personally have had done to me.
"Collection agencies cannot give the debtor a document that is made to look like an official court document when it isn't."

We had a "document" sent to us from a "lawyer" that didn't even exist! This was over a $50 dentist fee that we had accrued after i was told my benefits were not covering it (these were dental xrays)
the collection agency itself was beyond abusive to myself and my husband. i asked for a supervisor and he was even worse. i later paid the bill AT the dentists office only to find out i owed less than what the collectors had said! i made the suggestion to the receptionist that they may want to find a different collection agency because those Bas$#$@s weren't getting 2 cents from my hands.

In reply to a comment from Collector

I'm positive none of those companies ask collection agencies to break the law, which is what this report is focusing on. If any of those companies do encourage that kind of behaviour then they become culpable and open themselves up to legal action.

In reply to a comment from Jackie Chan

Great idea, Jackie! It's time to play THEIR game by OUR rules. Arrange a mass solicitation to their offices with your friends. Everyone calls at the exact same time.

In reply to a comment from David C.

You mean like the banks who were on the verge of bankruptcy and got lots of money from the Government to bail them out?

Hey, what's good for the Goose.....

In reply to a comment from Rick

If you had been paying attention, it was clear that at the time of the debt issue (and currently) that the young man was (probably still is) living with his parents.

Which was brought up in the portion of the story that talked about the collections agent telling his parents about his debt (illegal) and telling them to pressure their son into 'paying up'.

In reply to a comment from suzie

The same thing happened to me when my young son answered the phone. He was told that his mom was a loser for not paying her bills. He also said "Don't lie, I know your mom is there." My son also cried. I was at my part-time job, and the babysitter heard all of this. I wrote down all that this man said to my son and the horrible things that he said to me when I spoke to him. What good would this really do me?

How can you people judge Collectors like this? They are people like everyone else. They go to work to make money, just like you and I. Just because they have an option to make commission doesnt mean that they are "heartless" or "wolves". That is just how they make thier money. Its just pathetic....

The visa gift card is a bit of a scam, but they are technically still visa cards so the cost of servicing them still applies. A real visa you don't notice the charges as they are spread out over a year over hundreds of purchases. So over the course of the year that $49 annual fee is only a few cents a transaction. These gift cards may seem like a great way to get access to the convenience of a visa but after a few service charges you end up spending $5 or $6 a transaction Translation - get a real visa and manage it wisely.

In reply to a comment from debra boyle

with all due respect, the stories that were the focus of this story dealt with Ontario. While I have no doubt that you are a quality individual and not all companies within an industry are alike...the focus of this report was on the "bad case" scenarios that surround Ontario collectors.

In reply to a comment from suzie

You know, calling the Collectors "heartless" isnt fair. They are doing thier job and trying to stay afloat like everyone else. A collector is just like a cashier is a cashier. They have an chance to make commission, yes, no one is saying that they arent driven by it the money. They dont need to make target, just get close. Its hard to read comments like this and think you all judged collectors when you have no idea.

What is the point in name calling? That person I'm sure David would love to not have a collection agency going after him, but there are other expenses in his life that Rick, you don't know about. David is a person who is in debt, not a worthless debtor. I hope David can find support to get out of debt and not be judged by someone like you.

Its sad that the registrar from the ministry of consumer services, really did not seem to have the best interest of the consumer. Typical pass the buck attitude.

In reply to a comment from David C.

Mr David C I got to sday how arrogant you are, don't you realize that SOME people loose thier jobs and can't afford to make thier payments WOW I guess we are not all mr perfect like you are. I had perfect credit too till I lost my job due to the recession anyway not getting into that. HAVE A GREAT DAY MR DAVID C

In reply to a comment from David C.

I guess your lucky and never lost a job or fell on financial hardship. I guess we all must be deadbeats.

Its time to ban debt collection agencies since they're all in it for the money. I wonder if these debt collection agencies would like it if we kept calling them thereby tying up their phone lines.

having been a collector in the province of alberta for 15 years, and having my own agency for 6 years i take offense to the portrayal of collectors.I have never suggested anyone rob a bank or take their grammas teeth to pay their bills.I take pride that I help people find a way to pay their bills and have some relief.Not all collectors are wolves at the door, however I will concede that in some larger agencies the pressure to hammer a debtoris there.I never approach collections in that manner and take pride in th fact many debtors thank me for my help, maybe you should show another side to collections that would be more positive!!!

Interesting story. Both my daughter and I get calls for someone with the same last name. As one person who was interviewed said - the calls were relentless and several times a day. I have them on all block but keep changing their numbers. My daughter has spoken to the collector and still could not get them to stop calling.

So the banks get to use the money you used to purchase the gift card, then they charge you to administer the gift card? Taking with both hands in your pockets at the same time looking you square in the eye and telling you they are going to steal to your money.

Meanwhile the Conservative wants to build more jails for poor people, instead of protecting their own citizens from corporate crime, (quit calling it white collar nothing white about it).

Dont be affraid when the collection agency calls, just inform them that you are working on getting the money, and when you have it you will pay it back directly to the debtor. This little fact will cause them to lie and tell you that you cannot do that, it is illegal etc. But you have every right to pay it back where you owe it and not to a third party, therefore cutting out the predator from getting paid. No money no predator.

Predators like debt colectors are very easy to deal with, since they are used to being in control you have to turn the table by establishing their identity then quickly looking up the adress of their company and informing them you are very familiar with that particular location. No threat no sweat they sweat and wonder is this the nut that is gona take me out? Imply dont assert so the question always exists, stress is huge and turnover even bigger in the industry.

Time for people to demand better from our elected representatives. Why do the politicians and unelected bureaucrats always side with the corporations?

Canadians hold your elected officials responsible and tell them to enforce laws with target and further impoverish the most vulnerable people in our society. We have a choice, to protect or pray on the vulnerable.

I have never denied owing my debts and have tried everything possible to be able to pay them! I have been harassed up to 10 calls per day, ignorance when I finally do answer the phone, told to have my family pay my debt etc. I'm sure many know this story, when I advised them that I had been injured at work 2 1/2 yrs ago and still unable to return to work they didnt care, they just want their money. My benefits were cut because one organization feels I am capable of working but the drs say I cant... hmmm who would you listen to? So I am living on $148 every two weeks and expected to pay this. I want to, but I am so tired of being harassed and dreading my phone ringing. The bill is $250, not like its thousands of dollars. The day will come that I will find a way to pay them, my question is how much harassment do I have to take and are there options out there that can stop their harassing?

That guy David looked liked he was pretty well off -- big place, nice furniture, piercings that probably cost $60 a pop, expensive tattoos...what are you complaining about paying a $1400 debt that you ADMIT to racking up in college?! Just pay your bills and the calls will stop you worthless debtor. No sympathy here.

Sometimes it's not about you not paying your bills. I have been harassed by creditors trying to track down another person and even trying to collect the money from me even though I was not related to the person (former tenant who left the country owing US money). Of course, the caller refused to identify himself or his agency but he threatened that he was going to start calling us until we pay up. "Hang on, let me dig up my lawyer's number" got that clown off our backs. It was for a Rogers bill.

I hope you never fall into financial hard ship.I did not ask my ex to sleep around,I did not ask for him to liquidate all of his assets and hide it in his business in the States so when the time came to throw him out I would be left with close to nothing. Or have a patient attack me and end my 20++ year nursing career and then have the insurance that I had paid into for 20++ years deny my request for disability. Until my separation I paid my bills,my utilities, ALL OF IT. Then I was suddenly a single mother of my teenagers and had to move out of my home of 20 years. I am not avoiding my responsibilities but simply asked for my creditors, who I had been with for close to 25 years, to be patient till I would finally get my settlement from my ex. When it came to a choice between rent(my home had been paid for),all my medications, food, get the picture, I fell behind. Yes there are some who don't care just like I would see on my school Governing Board parents who would refuse to pay their school fees even though they were very financially capable of doing so. So don't lump everyone into the same boat but because you NEVER know,unless you have millions,when YOU might lose you job, become unable to work,get married and then divorced and end up in financial trouble. Never say never that it won't and can't ever happen to you. The 17 year old patient that I had many years ago, never thought that by stopping to help someone by the side of the road that he would end up losing both of his legs when he was struck by another vehicle.All that was on his mind was that he would not get to dance at his high school graduation. Never say never.

In reply to a comment from David C.

Who says people don't want to take responsibility and not pay their bills. Circumstances happen to people in life like loss of job, divorce, not earning enough...etc. Not everyone in society goes around and racks up debt for the fun of it. This story was about the way collections agency treat people and the tactics they use...which are not very ethical. God forbid if you lost your job and had to choose between paying your rent or buying food to feed your family and then have collection agencies on your back.

I like this story but a few people on this board are saying that others just don't want to pay their bills. That is so not true. I also have been harassed by these heartless collectors and as a single mom just recently seperated I had NO money. I was going to school to try to get a better job to support my child. The collectors would call and I would say ok I can afford $100 a month or so. They would laugh and say are you kidding me? That just simply won't do, you have to pay us $400 a month and nothing less. I said well I just can't. They even went as far as talking to my 9 yr old at the time and telling him that mommy owed money and so on. I was in the shower at the time and he answered the phone, he told them that mom was busy but would call back, they told him NOT TO LIE. It made him cry.. cuz he knew he wasn't lying... but they basically yelled at him. EXCUSE ME? Treating my child badly because he answered the phone while I was busy? That was TOO FAR. I think that they are going too far and they should be dealt with harshly for not following the laws set out for them. It is sad that they feel they need to threaten people etc. My sister works for a mortgage company, she is the one that calls you when you don't pay your mortgage. She NEVER talks to people like that, she doesn't have to. You sure can get alot farther if you just have a little bit of empathy. SAD... really really sad this is.

I would like to comment on the issue of 'bad debts'. Perhaps, people should be more responsible about their debts. Recently, I have had the unfortunate experience of living at the same address of a person who owes the entire world money. Although it has been 4 years since the debtor has lived at this address, the debtor has managed to evade discovery. This has been achieved by - no change of address, no landline telephone, absolutely no trail. She owes many people a lot of money - why shouldn't those people be allowed to recover their money? I have heard this person verbally abuse people trying to collect their money. If you owe the money, pay up!

For almost 4 years now we get calls all the time for someone we don't know and have never known him. We've asked numerous times for our number to be removed from the list, we've had lawyers called, we've had them pretend to be the police, they have threatened to come to our house and we've said go ahead they don't know where we live. We even had Bell Canada calling in collections for this person and we freaked out they gave us this number that belonged to someone who never paid a bill. Plus this person is still giving out the number I got stopped in a store because our # was used on a purchase where the cheque bounced and that was just a year ago and we've had the number for almost 4 years. We have found this guy on facebook along with his wife why can't the debt collectors find them? It's insane they call all the time and they don't give a damn that we're not this person. I've been yelled at saying that I do know him and I'm hiding him. If someone knows how to make them stop please tell us how, we've called the RCMP we've logged the calls and let Bell Canada know and look at how long it has been and they never ever stop. Change our number sure we've thought about it but I'm self employed I work from home changing it now would be costly. yes we should have done it in year one but we thought it would stop and sure they stop sometimes for a few months and then they start back up they're like cockroaches.

Canada Revenue, is the worst I owed them $11000.and they wouldn't budge I offered so much a month for a payment plan that I felt I could afford.I had a young family and a mortgage.Revenue Canada told me they needed $1000/month or they would start proceedings to garnishee my wage..I went to a trustee,The trustee my wife and an agent from revenue Canada sat down, My trustee gave him a proposal and the agent from revenue Canada Rejected it.So we had no choice other than Bankrupt..My Country Canada ruined my credit Please don't make this public as my family and friends have no idea of the bankrupcy...I have nothing good to say about my country.I use to be proud to live here but as for now it is just a place to live...Every time you tun around the government wants more.

One great way of not getting these calls is to pay your bills! Shows like this represent a society not willing to take responsibility or accountability for their actions and then take the irresponsible easy way out when payment time comes. The real investigation is why are people feeling entitled to receiving services or products and not paying in full for them?

In reply to a comment from Bill Thompson

This issue has nothing to do with the people collecting the debt but everything to do with the clients (CIBC,RBC,407 ETR, Rogers). The clients control the way inwhich they want their calls handle by way of an external QA form. The agencies collecting on their behalf work for them. CIBC says jump, the agency says how high. That's the reality.

I think Canada Revenue is worse!

In 2008 I get this note saying I owe $66K in GST. Holy Cow!! The I questioned where they got that amount and they couldn't answer me. Then I get another letter saying the amount was incorrect and is now $34K. I questioned them again and guess what...I get another letter saying I owe $25K. They made 3 BIG mistakes. While I am trying to dig out years of receipts (I am self employed) I see countless errors my accountant made. While this is going on, out of no where my bank account was cleaned out. That month all my checks bounced and it was hell.

I explained the to the "wonderful" clerk at CRA (who suffered from a public administrative condition called "trained incapacity") that I was reviewing my files and was working on this matter and was about to go to court, however she stated "I am doing what I need to do to protect my department". WOW!! You take every cent I have before I am about to go to court and cause extreme hardship. No kidding here...I couldn't buy food or anything because my pay all goes through my account.

After finding a a way to make a small payment this "wonderful" woman lifted the freeze because I provided a fax stating my case is going to court. I had a lawyer and all my paper work ready to go.

Finally I get to court and the judge was outraged by the Canada Revenue lawyer for letting this get to court - Canada Revenue did not do an AUDIT! The judge looked at all the letters they sent me and couldn't understand where all the numbers were coming from.

Today it is all cleared and I often wonder how these administrators can make such massive errors by chasing "the little people" when we have endless corruption on behalf out countless politicians and public officials.

If you think a collection agency is hell.....try dealing with the Powerful and Attractive Canada Revenue Agency!!! Ya...the folks that collect OUR money....!!

I wish I knew about regulations surrounding debt collectors, as my family has been a direct victim of someone by the name 'Sultan' eight years ago. My older brother has neglected payments for his car when he left the country (his fault), and the agency was calling to get a payment out. We were 3 years new in Canada, and my mother was working four jobs to sustain our family. The agent has yelled at my mother and me(I was fourteen at the time), and he has repeatedly threatened to take my family's home away. This is all considering the fact that the car he was collecting the payment for belonged to my brother, not the family. The worst is that this 'Sultan' continued to harass my family even as my mother has scrambled the full payment demanded by him. It was a very demeaning experience.

Who are responsible for those agencies?
The banks, the big institutions such as Bell, Rogers, AT&T, Sprint etc... They tease you with full of needs you don't need and then they make money because you can't pay. I wouldn't be surprised that most of the collector agencies belong to those institutions because it is a good way to make more money... Anyway they srew lots of people and after that they hold you. The goal for them is not to pay in full you debt like this they make more money on the interest (example Bell 43%/year). Anyway I think the best is to pay the bill and when you can't afford them anymore then cancel your everything you can and refund asap. Unless you will have to pay more and more...

The sale of debt owed by individuals ought to be illegal, period.

I dealt with aggressive debt collectors in the past and the only way I was able to keep my sanity was to call on their bluff. They dispense threats in generous amounts but they cant back it off. The best argument is to tell them to stop calling and propose an arrangement that does not choke you financially, if they refuse , then they are demonstrating that they are in bad faith.

You can also complain to the local police force.

I see mark Silverthorn is part of this piece. Since he profited, so I am to understand, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars I think the CBC should challenge his to donate part of those profits to a non-profit credit counselling establishment. Simply dogging the industry that made you rich is not enough. Why should anyone be surprised by someone trying to capitalize by being a hypocrite?

Until 2 years ago I had excellent credit and was always able to pay my bills. That was before I separated. I will only and finally be receiving my settlement from my ex sometimes next week. When I saw the preview about collection agencies I cringed because for the first time in my life I have had to deal with their abuse and harassment for the last 12 months.
With my separation I had to become suddenly a single mom for my teenage son.I moved,Dec.2008, from my home province of 50 years,Quebec,to Kingston,Ontario leaving my then 18 year old daughter under the support of her father.I had settled her into her apartment in Montreal before filing for divorce as she was to start at Vanier that September. Unfortunately as things had not been going well between my ex and myself, I found out that he had slowly been liquidating his RRSP's to his business in the States,a move he said was needed to support the business. Right!! As well, he had drained my RRSP's but had promised that he would return all the monies "and more". Of course that did not happen. So when I moved he did help me out financially as court ordered but soon I started to max out all of my credit cards. That included a RBC Visa card, a Bank of Montreal Mastercard and Sears card.
Anyways, as things became maxed out I started to fall behind in my minimum payments. Once that happened too many times my low rate interest cards,with the exception of Sears,reverted back to their normal interest rate.So soon a payment of $300 worked out to $250 of it going to interest and only $50 going to bring the principal down. Even with the low interest rates I was still paying anywheres from 12% all the way up to 18%, Sears being the worst.
Then the letters started and finally the phone calls. I had explained to my creditors that I would be receiving a settlement that would allow me to catch up but unknown to me at the time, the whole process to get my settlement took over a year to complete. So then Visa, Mastercard and Chase, who represent Sears, started with the calls. I don't know who was the worst since I had Chase call me one day, every hour on the hour or RBC. The joint account that I had still with my ex, was at RBC so to get a payment, they would freeze the account and when I asked to have it "unfrozen" I was told they would ONLY after I made a payment to them for my Visa. This account was the one my ex's check went into,the one where I wrote my rent check from, the one my daughter's rent check came out of plus from where I would get my spousal and child support from. In essence, they were preventing me from receiving my support that I was legally entitled to, but oh, I could receive it,just pay my Visa the amount they wanted.
After refusing to deal with all the harassment then the collection agencies became involved.Then the letters started. Then the phone calls, EVERY day and every morning at 8 a.m. except Sunday when they were not allowed to call before 9 a.m. These people are the rudest most incompetent people I have had the displeasure of dealing with. The thing is I had gotten the book "The Wolf at the Door. What to do when collection agencies come calling" by Mark Silverthorn and started to read what your rights are. I also went on the Ontario Consumer Protection Government site. Well the collection agencies were not too happy when I informed them that what they were doing was a form of harassment and against the OCP act. That would stop them for awhile until the next week came along and they would start all over again. The thing too is that I would explain my situation, make an arrangement but then get called anyways,six time a day because it seemed the person I would make the arrangement with had not noted it into my file. That was the bs story that they tried to sell me just to be able to get around the rules as to the number of times that they could contact me in a single week. As well, when I would try to get their registration number, that by law they have to have to be called a collection agency, I always got the run around so I started to hang up on them. When RBC froze my joint account,I asked to speak to a supervisor and they refused to let me talk to one and again they are not allowed to do that. Before even checking, the person would say that their supervisor was not available and when I persisted the ***** hung up on me.
Now Chase has cancelled the collection agency and are dealing with me directly but at least now they are trying to work out a settlement with me and the everyday calls have stopped. Mastercard has done the same as well.
RBC is another matter. They are still guilty of coercion,the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats, rewards, or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way.
They told me that until I made a payment towards my Visa in the amount they wanted, as my offer of $100 every 2 weeks was "not enough", that the joint account would remain frozen. I have had health problems ever since my work accident and being stressed is very detrimental and only exacerbates all of my symptoms.My medication is expensive and I would cry to them on the phone why I could not make the payments that they wanted as it would mean I would have to cut out some of my meds. After being with the same banks for over 20 years that they would "give you a break" but when you fall behind all they want is their money and they don't care how they get it.
As a note, yes I had thought of consolidating all of my debts but I kept thinking it would not be necessary as I thought my settlement was "right around the corner". Once I can pay off my cards, I am canceling all of them, closing my RBC account and telling them to all **** themselves. Excuse my French.

Well when you miss paying your bills and the call and call and call , and when you finally get around to pay the bills, you now have bad credit and even after you payed it and then you have to deal with 3 companies to straighten up the mess of not paying one time because the company you pay hasn't informed TransUnion, Equifax, and anyother compy who has decided to screw with your credit. Back in the old days you would call and talk to a human and it was straighten out in no time. Now you call and get a person who informs you that they will send you a form to fill out (and you better not miss anything)and send back ths process takes 3-4 and sometimes 6 week before you get a report back from them,then you if you can read it,,,you figure out who hasn't up dated your info and them you call once again to get someone else who tell you they are sending you another form to fill out and to send proof that the bill has been paid. Now it has been at least 3 months and your still waiting. So we are told to check our credit once a year thank the good lord it is only once a year.. and why isn't there somewhere the cosumer can fill a bad credit report for the big companies who spend more money on paying another company to call you every freckin day.. what a waste of time and money,, the little guy hasn't got a hope in hell,,

As a Canadian consumer I agree that people should pay their bills, if they can.

However, I been Power of Attorney over more than one individual that was being pursued by a collection agency. And in at least two of the cases, I found out that the collection agencies and their agents were using illegal tactics to try to collect even from hospitalized, disabled individuals.

When I say disabled, I mean that their only income was from a CPP Disability Pension. Regardless, the collections agencies just kept coming to a point where one individual was so depressed they had to be hospitalized for over four months.

The creditors found out where she was hospitalized and then they started calling the hospital.

Luckily, I met a Kitchener lawyer named Mark Silverthorn and got a chance to read his book entitled, "Wolf At The Door."

What an eye opener that book proved to be.

It was Silverthorn that showed me that the collections agencies or lawyers representing them, were using illegal tactics to try to collect the money from at least two individuals that I knew.

I feel quite fortunate that I have my health and have the means to pay my bills. However, if I became disabled, it wouldn't be long before there would be a wolf at my door, as well.

Bill Thompson

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