As many consumers move into their senior years, adjusting their lifestyle to live on a fixed income after retirement I can be difficult. No matter how much a retiree plans for their retirement, the cost of unforeseen living expenses can always occur including medical bills, prescription drugs and a rise in the cost of day to day living. Given their vulnerability, seniors can often be an easy target for debt collectors. Collectors can often take advantage of this group of people who are often uneducated on the law and living with the stress of mounting debt.
A difficult decision faced by many seniors is whether to pay their debts or to buy their necessities. As any consumer behind on their bills could tell you, the longer you wait to pay your debts the more frequently the calls and letters come and eventually the debt gets passed on to a debt collector. Once the debt is in the hands of a collection agency, it is a game changer for the consumer.
When a debt collector begins contacting a senior for payment, these consumers need to be aware of their rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Under the FDCPA, a debt collector cannot contact the person before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. Second, a debt collector cannot harass people. Harassment can include multiple phone calls to the person’s home or verbal abuse. Harassing phone calls from debt collectors are a common complaint from senior citizens. This tactic is used to wear down the consumer, who’s growing fear of more calls and elevated threats can lead to them offering up money to pay for a debt that the senior may not have any obligation to pay. Debt collectors often taken advantage of their position and threaten to file suit, threaten to send the senior to jail and even threaten to take everything the senior has in their possession, including their home, automobiles and life savings, none of which is legal under the statute.
Another common concern for many seniors is the fear that a collector may try to take their social security. Debt collectors may threaten a senior but legally, unless the debt is owed to the government or is a debt for child support, social security income is safe. Such income is exempt from any garnishment. If a debt collector is asking for payment and suggesting the senior to use their social security to pay off the debt, the simple answer is “no” and the Department of Social Security is set up to protect you from garnishment.
If you or a loved one is having problems with a debt collector and you would like to speak with licensed attorney, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a completely free case review.