Techniques that some debt collectors use on senior citizens

Debt collector harassment has caused stress and anxiety in many a senior citizen’s life due to practices such as threatening Social Security.

Not all debt collectors in Pennsylvania are created equally. Some respect the law while others engage in harassment, for example, making threats, pretending to be someone else or calling at midnight.

Senior citizens may be more at risk at falling prey to this harassment than other age groups. This could be because some older adults are relatively isolated, scared and/or struggling with memory issues. They may not be as well-educated on their rights as younger people are. Here is a look at some techniques that unscrupulous debt collectors use on senior citizens.

Threatening Social Security payments

Quite a few senior citizens depend on Social Security to make ends meet. However, debt collectors may try to scare them into paying by threatening to take away their Social Security. In reality, this is not possible. The only way that a senior's Social Security payments can be reduced is in order to pay student loans, child support, alimony, taxes and other federal debts.

Contacting family members

Many senior citizens are ashamed to be in debt. In fact, they may not have told anyone about their financial issues. Debt collectors are not allowed to contact anyone and "tattle" about the debt, but that is exactly what some do. The hope may be that relatives will pressure the senior citizen to pay off the debt or just do it themselves. Sometimes, though, this tactic backfires when the relatives are knowledgeable and realize they are dealing with a shady collector.

One way that collectors try to get the best of both worlds-getting a senior citizen to pay without running the risk of actually contacting family-is to threaten to call someone. For example, something like, "How would you like me to call your son or your neighbor Eric and tell them that you owe $10,000?" may be enough to get a senior citizen to make a small payment. Unfortunately, many older adults simply have no room for payments in their budgets, and it is illegal for debt collectors to make any type of threat.

Visiting in person

Another no-no is visiting in person. However, some debt collectors go knocking in the hopes that meeting in person will finally get senior citizens to pay up. If a senior citizen cannot, threats of tattling and bodily harm may occur.

Debt collectors in Pennsylvania use a variety of other techniques on senior citizens, including misrepresenting themselves as police or as IRS workers. If a senior citizen or elderly relative has been abused in this way, an attorney may be able to help end the harassment and seek compensation.