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Earlier this month we broke the story about Draft Statements of Claim – Collection Agency Dirty Trick Number One. Then, last week, we followed up with Draft Statements of Claim – More on This Questionable Collection Agency Tactic. In both articles we referred to the work of Mark Silverthorn, a former collection agency lawyer who is now working for debtors. Mr. Silverthorn is also a crusader against questionable collection lawyer tactics.

Mr. Silverthorn is the author of The Wolf at the Door: What to Do when Collection Agencies Come Calling, a new book that describes collection agency tricks and tactics, and how you can deal with collection agencies. In our on-going series of Book Reviews, today we review his new book.

I have interviewed Mr. Silverthorn (see the video in the upper right hand corner of this page), and he interviewed me for the chapters on Consumer Proposals and Personal Bankruptcy, so I am familiar with Mr. Silverthorn’s work. In our conversations he did make one comment that surprised me: He said that borrowers in Canada are often victimized three times.

First, borrowers often get caught in predatory lending practices, paying excessive rates of interest, or signing contracts they don’t understand. Interest rates in Canada are at historic lows, but interest rates on credit cards and finance company loans are as high as ever.

Second, if a borrower can’t pay, they are often victimized by abusive collection agency practices, such as the Draft Statement of Claim issue we discussed last week. In addition, collectors call at all hours of the day and night, and often make threats, and if you don’t know the rules, they can intimidate you, which is often unsettling.

Finally, borrowers are often victimized by “consultants”; people who earn their living by “helping” people, even though they really aren’t helping them at all. You have probably seen their advertisements: “We will reduce your debts by 70% without bankruptcy; call us today!” Unfortunately most of these ads are nothing more than Debt Management Scams. These unlicensed “helpers” take your money, but they have no legal ability to actually reduce your debt. They might be able to convince your creditors to accept a deal, but more often than not the only person who profits is the helper.

Mr. Silverthorn believes that an informed consumer has the knowledge to understand all options, and that’s the point of his book: education. He covers many topics, including:

As a bankruptcy trustee in Canada I am familiar with the various methods for dealing with debts, and I have heard every collection agency story imaginable. However, even I was able to learn many things from this book, and that’s why I recommend it for anyone looking to more fully understand how collection agents operate.

Some final advice from Mr. Silverthorn : if you meet with a debt management professional, ask them to explain all of your options, not just the option they are selling. I agree fully with that approach.

There are many debt management options. If you have access to a lump sum of money, a lawyer like Mark Silverthorn may be able to negotiate a debt settlement directly with your creditors. If you don’t have a lump sum of money, but you have an income and can make monthly payments, a consumer proposal may be your best option. In some cases personal bankruptcy is your best option. The key is that you understand all of your options, so that you can make an informed decision. The Wolf at the Door: What to Do when Collection Agencies Come Calling can help you understand your options, as can all of the information on our Bankruptcy Canada website. Or, to arrange for a no-charge initial consultation, contact a Canadian bankruptcy trustee.