Debt Collection and the Elderly

In a recent newsletter, the CPFB warned Americans about the growing problem faced by the elderly, debt and abusive debt collectors.  Over the past two years, the CFPB has noticed a steady incline of complaints filed by older consumers regarding debt collection. 

After reviewing these complaints placed with the CFPB, the most common problem suffered by these consumers revolved around the collection of medical debt and the debts of deceased spouses.  This older population of consumers complained about suffering not only the sadness after losing a loved one, but also confusion and frustration as a result of communicating with a debt collector regarding debts incurred by that spouse.  Talking to an older parent, grandparent, relative or friend about what he or she can do to avoid an abusive debt collector will help the elderly community from becoming  victim.  Below are a few tips on what an older consumer can do as a safeguard.

When receiving telephone calls from a collection agency, immediately request additional information 

Often times, older consumers can become confused or flustered during a telephone call.  It is easier for these consumers to have all of the necessary information written down.  Requesting all of the information in writing will help these consumers review the alleged debt and determine whether or not the debt is legitimate or get help making that determination from a loved one.  Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) the collection agency is required to provide the debtor with an initial written collection letter, but advising your loved one to make a request may help to avoid him or her making a payment before the letter is received.

Make sure the collection agency and debt collector is legitimate

Scam collectors thrive on the elderly.  Calling an older consumer and flustering them into making payment is a simple task for a scam collector.  Advise your loved one to get all of the collector’s information, to make sure they are dealing with a legitimate collection agency.  The consumer should request the caller’s name, company address, telephone number and license number.  If a collector refuses to provide this information, it is more than likely he or she is not legit and NO payment should ever be made.

Dispute the debt in writing if it does not belong to you or your loved one

Make sure your loved one disputes the debt in writing immediately if it does not belong to him or her.  Make sure to save copies of the letter for your records and it is best to send it certified mail, so there is proof of when the collection agency received it.  Upon receipt, the collection agency cannot make contact to collect on the debt until it provides proof that the debt is legitimate. 

Request in writing that the collector cease all communication

Because most elderly consumers complained about repeated and abusive calls from collection agencies, the easiest solution to this problem is to send a letter demanding the collector no longer communicate with them.  This will not halt collections, for the creditor may have a right to bring this matter to court.  However, court is a better place to have a determination made as to whether money is owed.  Plus, your family member can bring help to court that may not be available during a phone call.  If the collector refuses to obey, he or she has violated the FDCPA and can be sued for their conduct.

If you or a loved one is experiencing problems with debt collection, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a completely free case review.