Guide to Elderly Debt Collection Laws

George Simons

April 06, 2021

Don't let debt collectors think they can take advantage of the elderly.

Summary: Debt collectors love to take advantage of the elderly. Find out how to keep debt collectors from harassing you and those you care about.

If you are being subjected to harassment by a debt collector, the stress and anxiety can be debilitating. You dread opening the mailbox out of concern that there will be a new threatening letter sent by the collection agency. You avoid phone calls, particularly calls from an unidentified number. You may have trouble sleeping due to concern about your long-term financial future.

Unfortunately, the concerns and stress associated with harassment from debt collectors are quite common and experienced by many people in all walks of life, even elderly individuals. The threats and harassment from a debt collector can be overwhelming for a senior citizen causing unnecessary stress and anxiety which, in some instances, can exacerbate existing health issues.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office for Older Americans, a frequent complaint from elderly individuals with unpaid debts is the frequent and abusive encounters with debt collectors. One out of every three complaints filed with the CFPB is related to an incident with a debt collector.

Complaints ranged from debt collectors threatening to garnish federal benefits to general harassment. This is extremely troubling, especially when you consider the fact that some elderly individuals have cognitive issues and are at a much greater risk of being taken advantage of by an unethical debt collector.

If you are a senior citizen being subjected to harassing phone calls and correspondence from a debt collector, do not give up hope. There are laws in place that are designed to protect you from such harassment.

Don't let debt collectors take advantage of you. Respond with SoloSuit.

Examples of Disturbing and Unethical Debt Collection Tactics Used Against the Elderly

Anyone can be subjected to abusive debt collection practices. Nevertheless, elderly individuals are more vulnerable and, based on public data, frequently file more complaints with the CFPB than any other demographic related to encounters with debt collectors. Some of the types of abusive collection practices that have been reported by elderly individuals include the following:

  • Threats of garnishing retirement benefits - Debt collectors often threaten elderly individuals with the prospect of pursuing a garnishment of their retirement benefits as a way to convince the individual to pay the debt. Please understand that debt collectors are legally prohibited from garnishing Social Security income or benefits. Also, most retirement accounts are exempt from garnishment related to unpaid debt. Some debt collectors threaten that they will file a lawsuit to obtain a judgment to garnish income as an added punishment. Please note that such a tactic is illegal and would never be approved by a court.
  • Making baseless threats and using inappropriate language during the call - Debt collectors are often disrespectful and downright mean to senior citizens. They often assume that senior citizens do not understand their legal rights regarding fair debt collections. They also assume they can harass a senior citizen to the point where they will bend to their will, borrow money or go without medicine, food, or other necessities simply to pay off the debt. Also, as mentioned earlier, there have been disturbing incidents where a debt collector has attempted to take advantage of senior citizens with diagnosed cognitive issues such as Alzheimer's Disease.
  • Attempting to collect on a debt owed by a deceased individual - Unless the surviving spouse co-signed on the debt or agreed to be personally liable for the debt, a debt collector is unable to demand that the surviving spouse repay the debt. Unfortunately, many debt collectors try to prey on an individual's lack of knowledge in this regard and mislead the grieving spouse into making a payment under the belief that they are responsible for the debt.
  • Attempting to collect on time-barred debts - Creditors and debt collectors are only afforded a finite period of time to take legal action to recover on an unpaid debt. This period of time is known as the statute of limitations. When the statute of limitations expires, a debt collector is prohibited from filing a lawsuit to recover the debt. This means it has become a “time-barred” debt. Unfortunately, some debt collectors will press forward and try to collect on an old, time-barred debt hoping that you do not ask them for the actual age of the debt.

Use SoloSuit to respond to debt collectors in 15 minutes.

Rights and Protections You Get From The FDCPA

If you are a senior citizen being subjected to harassing phone calls and letters from a debt collector, please understand that you do not have to endure such treatment. Debt collectors are required to obey the law regarding fair debt collection practices. At the federal level, Congress enacted the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prevents debt collectors from taking certain actions when attempting to collect on a debt.

According to the FDCPA, debt collectors are generally not allowed to harass you, your loved ones, work colleagues, etc. in pursuit of repayment on a debt. For example, debt collectors are expressly prohibited under the FDCPA from engaging in the following types of collection practices:

  • Calling you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. without your permission
  • Threatening to harm you or members of your family physically
  • Threatening to harm you or members of your family financially
  • Using obscene or inappropriate language during phone calls or other correspondence
  • Calling you repeatedly
  • Calling you at work

If you send a cease and desist letter to the debt collector telling them to stop phone and written contact, there is a provision in the FDCPA that requires collectors who receive the cease and desist letter to immediately halt making phone calls and sending letters. Though, a cease and desist letter does not prohibit a debt collector from filing a lawsuit.

Senior citizens who are being harangued and threatened by debt collectors have rights and do not have to suffer through such abuse during their golden years. There are federal protections afforded to individuals when it comes to being contacted by debt collectors under the FDCPA. Also, many states have their own set of laws designed to protect individuals, including the elderly, from being abused and harassed by debt collectors.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James


Get Started


>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance

How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection Guides for Other States

Here's a list of guides for other states.

All 50 states.

Guides on How to Beat Every Debt Collector

Being sued by a different debt collector? We're making guides on how to beat each one.

Win Against Credit Card Companies

Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.

Going to Court for Credit Card Debt — Key Tips

How to Negotiate Credit Card Debts

How to Settle a Credit Card Debt Lawsuit — Ultimate Guide

Get Answers to These FAQs

Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.

Why do debt collectors block their phone numbers?

How long do debt collectors take to respond to debt validation letters?

What are the biggest debt collector companies in the US?

Is Zombie Debt Still a Problem in 2019?

SoloSuit FAQ

If a car is repossessed, do I still owe the debt?

Is Portfolio Recovery Associates Legit?

Is There a Judgment Against Me Without my Knowledge?

Should I File Bankruptcy Before or After a Judgment?

What is a default judgment?— What do I do?

Summoned to Court for Medical Bills — What Do I Do?

What Happens If Someone Sues You and You Have No Money?

What Happens If You Never Answer Debt Collectors?

What Happens When a Debt Is Sold to a Collection Agency

What is a Stipulated Judgment?

What is the Deadline for a Defendant's Answer to Avoid a Default Judgment?

Can a Judgement Creditor Take my Car?

Can I Settle a Debt After Being Served?

Can I Stop Wage Garnishment?

Can You Appeal a Default Judgement?

Do I Need a Debt Collection Defense Attorney?

Do I Need a Payday Loans Lawyer?

Do student loans go away after 7 years? — Student Loan Debt Guide

Am I Responsible for My Spouse's Medical Debt?

Should I Marry Someone With Debt?

Can a Debt Collector Leave a Voicemail?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

What Happens If a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

Can You Serve Someone with a Collections Lawsuit at Their Work?

What Is a Warrant in Debt?

How Many Times Can a Judgment be Renewed in Oklahoma?

Can an Eviction Be Reversed?

Does Debt Consolidation Have Risks?

What Happens If You Avoid Getting Served Court Papers?

Does Student Debt Die With You?

Can Debt Collectors Call You at Work in Texas?

How Much Do You Have to Be in Debt to File for Chapter 7?

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Debt in Washington?

How Long Does a Judgment Last?

Can Private Disability Payments Be Garnished?

Can Debt Collectors Call From Local Numbers?

Does the Fair Credit Reporting Act Work in Florida?

The Truth: Should You Never Pay a Debt Collection Agency?

Should You Communicate with a Debt Collector in Writing or by Telephone?

Do I Need a Debt Negotiator?

What Happens After a Motion for Default Is Filed?

Can a Process Server Leave a Summons Taped to My Door?

Learn More With These Additional Resources:

Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.

How to Make a Debt Validation Letter - The Ultimate Guide

How to Make a Motion to Compel Arbitration Without an Attorney

How to Stop Wage Garnishment — Everything You Need to Know

How to File an FDCPA Complaint Against Your Debt Collector (Ultimate Guide)

Defending Yourself in Court Against a Debt Collector

Tips on you can to file an FDCPA lawsuit against a debt collection agency

Advice on how to answer a summons for debt collection.

Effective strategies for how to get back on track after a debt lawsuit

New Hampshire Statute of Limitations on Debt

Sample Cease and Desist Letter Against Debt Collectors

The Ultimate Guide to Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Utah

West Virginia Statute of Limitations on Debt

What debt collectors cannot do — FDCPA explained

Defending Yourself in Court Against Debt Collector

How to Liquidate Debt

Arkansas Statute of Limitations on Debt

You're Drowning in Debt — Here's How to Swim

Help! I'm Being Sued by My Debt Collector

How to Make a Motion to Vacate Judgment

How to Answer Summons for Debt Collection in Vermont

North Dakota Statute of Limitations on Debt

ClearPoint Debt Management Review

Indiana Statute of Limitations on Debt

Oregon Eviction Laws - What They Say

CuraDebt Debt Settlement Review

How to Write a Re-Aging Debt Letter

How to Appear in Court by Phone

How to Use the Doctrine of Unclean Hands

Debt Consolidation in Eugene, Oregon

Summoned to Court for Medical Bills? What to Do Next

How to Make a Debt Settlement Agreement

Received a 3-Day Eviction Notice? Here's What to Do

How to Answer a Lawsuit for Debt Collection

Tips for Leaving the Country With Unpaid Credit Card Debt

Kansas Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection

How to File in Small Claims Court in Iowa

How to File a Civil Answer in Kings County Supreme Court

Roseland Associates Debt Consolidation Review

How to Stop a Garnishment

Debt Eraser Review