Question: I was recently discharged from a bankruptcy in Ontario. All debts that were included were discharged – none of them were opposed. Now I’m starting to get collection companies contacting me to collect on these debts! I don’t want new collection efforts reported on my credit file and I certainly don’t want to pay for debts that were discharged in my bankruptcy.
One debt has gone from the original company to a collection agency in Quebec. The debt was not with any collection agency at the time of filing for bankruptcy. I called the collection agency and they apologized for the error and said they’d take care of it. I gave them the contact info for my trustee and the estate number. A month later, I called back and it’s like that conversation never took place. They said they’re still waiting on me to send them a copy of my discharge certificate! That was not at all what was agreed upon during the phone call a month before.
Unfortunately, my certificate of discharge seems to have been lost in the mail and a “replacement” will cost me $100. Personally, I think something as important as that, especially with such an expensive replacement fee, should be sent by courier or registered mail so that it’s signed for.
Another company originally sent me a letter last year, saying that they have been notified of my filing for bankruptcy and will write off my debt. Now that I’ve been discharged, they’ve changed their mind and decided that they want the money after all!
What’s all this about? Is it common for companies to try and see if they can collect from unsuspecting and recently discharged people? These are large companies, not some mom and pop shops or anything. I’m also worried that they may report to the credit bureau and it will be a nightmare to get that removed (short of paying for debts that were discharged in the bankruptcy). What should I do, and why is this happening?
Answer: It is very common for a debt to get bounced from one collection agency to another. For example, when you went bankrupt your debt was with the XYZ Bank, who were notified of your bankruptcy, and they have not pursued you since. However, the bank obviously did not delete your name from their list of accounts, and at some point your account got transferred to a collection agency. Collection agencies are also bad at keeping track of things, so even though you have notified them, they have not yet updated their records.
You have three options:
First, you should contact your trustee, again, and ask them to send proof of your bankruptcy directly to the collection agency that is calling you. Even though you are now discharged, your trustee is still obligated to send out these notices. Every time you get a phone call, get the contact name of the person contacting you, and contact your trustee and ask them to send out the information.
While you are talking to your trustee, ask them to send another copy of your discharge certificate. You don’t need an original; a photocopy will do, since that’s all you would send to anyone anyway. Make a few copies for yourself so you have them. It’s not necessary, however, for you to be sending them out to creditors; that’s your trustee’s job.
Second, you should get a copy of your credit report and contact the credit bureau directly and ask that they remove the incorrect information. They will have a copy of your discharge certificate on file (if they don’t, you or your trustee can provide them with that information).
Finally, if the collection agent continues to call to collect a debt that was discharged in your bankruptcy, you can contact the Ministry of Consumer Affairs in whatever province the collection agency is in, and report them; the Ministry can revoke their collection agency license, which generally is enough to get them to stop calling.