Senior Citizens Frequent Targets of Illegal Debt Collection Methods, Says CFPB Report
What are some of the biggest complaints? Medical bills are among the most complained of issues. Often, medical debt collectors attempt to collect bills while consumers are still trying to sort out the amount they owe, or while they are dealing with delays from insurance companies.
Credit reports are another issue. Most courts have ruled that credit reporting is a form of debt collection, and many senior citizens learn for the first time of accounts in collection from their credit reports. By the time someone notices the account, however, it may have affected interest rates on things such as mortgages, automobile loans, and credit cards.
Debts of deceased family members ranks high on the list of complaints. Although many people don’t know it, they are not responsible for the debts of loved ones who have passed away. Nevertheless, debt collectors often do not disclose this important fact when attempting to collect. To make matters worse, debt collectors may use the emotional effect of having lost a loved one to persuade someone who is not legally responsible to pay. There is no legal requirement to pay the debts of those who have died.
Last, but certainly not least, is the threats that many debt collectors make to garnish federal benefits like Social Security. In almost every case, Social Security is 100% exempt from collections. Under both federal law and Massachusetts law, there are almost no situations in which a debt collector is allowed to take a senior citizen’s Social Security. This is extremely important because oftentimes these payments are the difference between providing for basic needs like groceries and housing, or not.
Senior citizens and older consumers living in Massachusetts may be able to obtain no-cost representation if they believe that their rights have been violated by debt collectors. Our office can typically handle these cases without charging a fee, and a debt collector’s violations can cost them up to $1,000 per case in statutory damages, as well as emotional distress and other actual damages, under consumer protection laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Chapter 93A of the Massachusetts General Laws.
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