Getting Help with Debt & Dealing with an International Collection Agency
Q: I need some help with debt. Our family immigrated to Vancouver 2 years ago in search of a better future for our kids. A year before we left, I guaranteed a loan for a friend. I thought everything was fine until I started receiving threatening emails from an international collection agency. They were demanding that I pay off what is left owing.
I found out my friend isn’t working and hasn’t made any payments on the loan for 6 months. This collection agency is threatening to contact my employer and the immigration authorities if I don’t pay. They’ve also added penalties and additional fees to what is still owing, so the balance is much higher than what I can afford to pay. I’m worried that I could lose my job, go to jail or be deported from Canada. What should I do?
A: When it comes to repayment, guaranteeing a loan is much like cosigning; if the person who intends to repay the money isn’t able to, you must. However, there are times when repayment isn’t possible and a debt goes into arrears. Countries have different laws and ways to deal with debt collection, and as a landed immigrant in Canada, you have rights.
Your Rights When Dealing with a Collection Agency
One of these rights is that a collection agency, regardless of where they are located in the world, must comply with our provincial collection agency regulations when they contact a person living in our province. They must abide by our rules because you live here.
Can a Collection Agency Threaten You to Pay or Contact Your Employer?
The regulations outline that a collection agency cannot threaten or harass an individual for the payment of an overdue account; nor can they disclose the details of your account to a third party. They can contact your employer to verify your employment, but they can’t disclose any details about the debt to your employer.
How to Communicate Effectively with a Collection Agency
Contact this collection agency by email or fax and request a detailed statement of account showing all of the payments and charges on the account. Sending correspondence by email or fax creates a paper trail, enables more effective communication, and makes it easier for you to follow up and/or prove what you have sent.
Related: How to Communicate with Creditors & Collection Agencies
Can I Go to Jail If I Owe Money?
Advise the agency that you are a resident of BC and that they may only contact you in writing or by email once they have forwarded the statement of account.
Further, if they disclose the details of this account to a third party or make threats they cannot carry out, like having you deported, you will immediately file a complaint with Consumer Protection BC and forward a copy of the complaint to the original lender. In Canada, you do not go to jail for having some debt that you can’t afford to repay.
What to Do If You Owe Money That You Can’t Afford to Pay
Once you have received the statement of account and verified the outstanding balance, you will be in a better position to determine what you can do to resolve this matter. If you really do owe money that you can’t afford to pay, or if you just feel overwhelmed as you try to determine your options, contact us for assistance and answers to your questions.
Get Help with Debt, Dealing with Collection Agencies, Money Management and Personal Finance Issues
We help with debt and dealing with collection agencies, but we also help with household money management and personal finance issues. One of our Credit Counsellors will look at your whole financial situation and give you guidance and information. Meeting with one of our Counsellors is free, confidential, and doesn’t obligate you to anything further.
Knowledge is powerful and knowing your rights as well as your responsibilities, can go a long way towards resolving a difficult issue in a reasonable and respectful manner.
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