The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently reported that for older Americans, debt collection is the top complaint. About one out of three complaints submitted to the agency by seniors is about debt collection. The major complaints include being hounded for medical debts currently in dispute, attempts to collect the debts of deceased family members from their relatives, and illegal threats to garnish Social Security and other federal benefits. . . .
Bev Clark is a volunteer at Senior Services of Seattle/King County. She helps educate older adults about their rights regarding debt collection. Many of her clients are “judgment proof” – they don’t own a home and their only income, Social Security or government pension is exempt from collection. But she told NBC News, they usually don’t know that and the debt collector won’t tell them.
The CFPB has published a list of things seniors can do to protect themselves:
- Protect their federal benefits: Seniors need to know that most federal benefits are protected in debt collection. Also, when they receive federal benefits by direct deposit to a checking account, the bank or credit union is required automatically to protect up to two months’ worth of these benefits. Benefits received on a government-issued prepaid card are usually protected, too.
- Get more information to identify the debt: Older consumers report that collectors often reject or ignore their attempts to correct cases of mistaken identification.
- Dispute inaccurate debts: Many seniors complain that they tell collectors they don’t owe the debt, don’t recognize it or believe the amount demanded is wrong.
- Stop the harassment: One of the most common debt collection complaints the CPB receives from seniors is that the collectors use abusive language or overly-aggressive tactics to intimidate, aggravate or coerce them into making payments.
The CFPB advisory has sample letters that can be used to find out information about the claims being made, dispute the debt and request that a debt collector stops collection communications. If you are having a problem with a debt collector, you can file a complaint with the CFPB.
(For the rest of the article, click the link.)