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Older Michiganders may be targeted by debt collectors

A recent report has suggested that older Michigan residents may be target of aggressive, and possibly unlawful, debt collection techniques. According to the report, senior citizens both in this state and other parts of the country may be getting harassed about their debt, debt that sometimes, they don't even owe.

According to the report, 48 percent of those seniors surveyed said that they have had trouble with collectors trying to collect on debts that the person they were calling did not legitimately owe. This happened for medical debts; people complained that collectors would try to milk funds out of a person when his or her spouse or other widow died, leaving behind a medical bill. One person reported that a debt collection agency had been contacting him repeatedly for years about his dead wife's bill.

Other people reported that debt collectors did not communicate with them properly about their debt. While the law prohibits a variety of aggressive debt collection techniques, one specific problem that was mentioned was that collectors were threatening to garnish items that are exempt from garnishment, such as certain types of federal benefits. Debt collection agencies have also been accused of yelling or swearing at those they believe owe on a delinquent account.

Federal laws protect elderly Americans against abusive debt collectors, and people may be able to ward off one aggressive collector with the threat of a lawsuit. However, when a person is in financial stress, several collectors may be calling, and many of them may walk the fine line between aggressive and illegal tactics. In such cases, a senior citizen struggling with debt may want to consider bankruptcy is a viable option.

Source: Consumerist, "CFPB finds older consumers face illegal, harassing tactics from debt collectors," Ashlee Kieler, Nov. 5, 2014.

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