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Debt Collectors Harass Millions of Retired Americans

Michael Rapp Jan. 5, 2015

It seems that debt collectors have found a new target: seniors. In a recent story by NBC News, the CFPB reports that it has received an increasing amount of complaints from the elderly.

Millions of American seniors are being hounded by debt collectors everyday for a variety of reasons. One reason that seniors are common targets for debt collectors is that due to declining health, seniors typically have more medical-related bills than younger consumers. Very often, such medical bills are in dispute between seniors and healthcare providers, but nonetheless, seniors are asked to pay up.

Seniors are often more trusting than younger consumers, meaning they are more likely to pick up the phone from a collector at 10 o’clock at night.

In other circumstances, collectors attempt to hound retired seniors about debt owed by deceased relatives, or (illegal) threats to garnish their Social Security. Many seniors, fed up with being harassed by collectors, pay the debt in order to get the collectors off of their back.

The CFPB reports that debt harassment is especially concerning for retired Americans, as it can cause increased stress for those who already at risk health-wise.

Furthermore, retired Americans are on a fixed income, making paying debt a challenge for many.

The CFPB offers the following tips for seniors who wish to protect their rights:

  • Federal benefits are protected: Debt collectors cannot legally garnish federal benefits from any citizen. Seniors should take note of any requests to do so in the event that they take legal action against collectors or file a complaint.

  • Ask questions: One of the best ways to combat unjust debt collection attempts is to ask specific questions about the type of debt owed and identity of debtors. Debt collectors may balk at such questions if seniors repeatedly inform the collectors that they have the wrong person.

  • Take action: If collectors repeatedly use abusive language or tactics, or unjustly request that debt be paid, seniors are encouraged to file a complaint with the CFPB, or contact a consumer protection lawyer.