News & Resources

What happens when debt collectors have to contact the retired?

Dec 30, 2014 Phil Burgess

When a company is rightfully owed a sum of money, it has the right to employ a debt collection agency to get back the funds after the proper notice period has passed. It's as simple as that. People don't pay their bills for a number of reasons, ranging from contesting that the money is owed in the first place to simply being surprised by the expense and not having enough saved to cover it.

However, the fact of the matter is that this money is actually owed to the business in question, whether it's a utility provider, a doctor's office or another organization. Company leaders cannot afford to be picky and explore the particular reasons why individuals can't pay - if they start making exceptions to the rule, they're going to hemorrhage money. Then, businesses are going to have to raise their prices to contend with the drop in income and/or make policy changes that may affect payroll.

As such, recovery agents often target people from very different backgrounds with one simple data point in common - they legally owe money to an organization. The professionals don't discriminate based on gender, income, age, race or any other demographic, they just try to make sure the money is paid back.

Therefore, a number of recent news stories centering on debt collection agents and a perceived targeting of retired Americans are misleading and false.

What the critics are saying


Playing on the emotions of consumers, media outlets are saying that debt collectors are going after nice, old grandparents in their quest to make money. For instance, NBC News recently reported that many American seniors have to spend the money they saved for retirement when contending with debt collectors who call and scare them. While that might have happened to a small number of people at some time or another, there are strict laws in place preventing those types of communications.

Citing information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the news outlet explained that approximately one-third of complaints filed with the regulatory body were from elderly Americans griping about collection practices. While the source noted that these issues commonly included being called about disputed debts, being contacted about money owed by deceased relatives and receiving illegal threats, it did not comment on how many of these complaints aren't valid.

"Older Americans deserve to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve," stated CFPB Director Richard Cordray, NBC News detailed.

By and large, the vast majority of debt collection agents would agree wholeheartedly. They're humans as well and may have older family members or friends. That being said, it's important to remember that debt recovery workers simply trying to do their jobs also deserve kindness and respect.

Getting to the heart of the matter
To put it bluntly, if an older American rightfully owes money to a company, he or she has to pay that sum back. It's the right thing to do and is the only real, legal course of action. When money is essentially borrowed or there is a contract promising services in exchange for a payment, that has to be abided by.

Moreover, legitimate professionals are well aware that they're not allowed to use uncouth language when speaking to individuals who owe money, whether these debtors are retired or not.

From day one, agency managers must make sure they're teaching professionals not to target a specific demographic, while making sure that employees stick to other regulations regarding things like harassment and timeliness of calls. As long as workers are confident that they're doing their jobs to the letter of the law and are willing to work with consumers, all parties can win.