CFPB: Debt Collection Top Complaint of Seniors

One in every three complaints submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by Americans over the age of 65 pertains to debt collection, according to a new report issued by the agency. buriedalive.jpg

The most common threads of complaints stem from relentless calls and harassment relating to:

  • Medical bills in dispute
  • Attempts to collect debt owed by deceased relatives
  • Threats to seize Social Security benefits and others

These actions are undoubtedly unethical and sometimes outright illegal. Still in many cases, seniors simply pay the tab – even when they don’t believe they owe the money – simply to get the callers off their backs. Despite the protections laid forth in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, some of these callers initiate contact after 9 p.m., use abusive and foul language and make legal threats when they are barred by law from doing so.

Our Miami consumer protection law firm urges anyone being harassed by creditors – but seniors especially – to seek legal advice before paying anything. An experienced debt collection lawyer can advise you of your legal rights, send cease-and-desist notices and represent you in the event the matter does proceed to court.

Many times, these demands are dropped the moment they are met with legal challenge. Collectors bank on bullying people into paying. They know many people won’t fight back. Putting up a fight on solid legal ground is not preferable to them because often, they know they won’t win.

There is no question seniors are struggling more than in years’ past. Fixed incomes were always a staple of retirement, but now, many are coping with the rapidly rising cost of living, combined with the depleted value of real estate.

The danger in making a payment – even if it’s not the whole payment – to satiate a debt collector is this could be considered a concession the debt was owed. It may obligate a person to make future payments.

Simply ignoring the threats is problematic as well because if the case is brought to court and a default judgment issued, wage garnishment and asset seizure could be the next step.

Another reason it’s important to act (or to urge a loved one to act) is failure to do so may compound existing health problems. The CFPB’s report indicated many seniors who complained about being harassed by a debt collector also reported the harassment aggravated existing health conditions – thereby endangering their overall health.

What many older adults don’t realize is they may be “judgment proof.” This would apply if the debtor is homesteaded and his or her only income was Social Security or a government pension, which are exempt from debt collection. The debt collection agencies will not tell you this. We help our clients determine their rights.

Seniors have reported debt collectors routinely ignore or reject their efforts to clear instances of mistaken identification or disputes of inaccurate debts or debt amounts. Older adults also many not realize they have a right to be free from harassment – whether they owe the debt or not.

Contact our offices today to learn more.

If you’re battling debt collection in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.

Additional Resources:
Debt Collectors Hound Millions of Retired Americans, Dec. 20, 2014, By Herb Weisbaum, NBC News
More Blog Entries:
Mortgage Appraisal Fraud an Ongoing Issue, Dec. 3, 2014, Miami Consumer Rights Lawyer Blog