Steps Seniors Can Take With Harassing Debt Collectors
Debt collection is a huge industry in the U.S. and 30 million consumers have debt that is subject to collection. About half of reported incidents involved debts senior citizens did not even incur. Since July 2013, approximately 8,700 complaints were reported from older consumers about debt collection. “It is increasingly common for older Americans to carry debts into their retirement years, and consumers living on fixed incomes often struggle to pay off these debts,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. They often experience grief, confusion, and frustration.
Federal law prescribes what debt collectors can and cannot do. They can only call during certain hours, and they cannot coerce you into paying by making threatening or harassing statements. The Federal Trade Commission offers a guide to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). If any debt collectors violates the terms of FDCPA, consumers may have claims for a lawsuit and damages.
Steps senior citizens can take if they are being harassed by a debt collector:
Get more information about the debt, especially if they don’t recognize it. Older consumers report that debt collectors often may have inaccurate or inadequate information or don’t provide sufficient information to help them identify the debt.
Ask the debt collector for the company’s name and address. Debt collectors are required to provide this information. If they refuse to give information, senior citizens may be dealing with a fake debt collector.
Dispute the debt if it’s not theirs or if the amount is incorrect. Write a letter disputing the debt of any portion of the debt, and be sure to keep any copies of the letters sent. If a debt collector is sending harassing correspondence or phone calls, request by phone or written correspondence that they stop contacting you. This will not remove the debt but they are required to stop communications and there may be claims if they refuse to do so.
Contact an attorney if you feel your rights have been violated. If the debt collector is attempting to garnish your federal benefits such as social security, or they are ignoring any other rights, a consumer protection attorney may be able to help you file a lawsuit to protect your rights under FDCPA
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