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AARP official says deceptive calls to elderly must stop

BY MARJORIE LYONS Published: March 21, 2012

How would you feel if your aging mother or father was receiving threatening phone calls from a bill collector for money they don't owe? Maybe the debt is old, has been paid or the collector has the wrong person. Your parents, alarmed and confused by the call, succumb to the horrible pressure and pay to make the threatening calls stop.

All of us should pay our legitimate bills. But no one should be subjected to extortion by debt collectors who threaten lawsuits, jail time and even physical harm — even if it's not their debt.

Nearly 15 percent of Americans today face collection calls, including the most vulnerable population of senior citizens on fixed incomes. That's twice the number of Americans pursued by collectors 12 years ago, according to the Federal Reserve. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission's recent complaint data analysis shows that the top complaint from Oklahoma consumers was debt collection.

The increase is largely due to a new industry of debt buyers who purchase huge portfolios of debt for pennies on the dollar and seek to collect it using automated dialing systems and lawsuits. In the process, they make mistakes that can entrap even those who've always paid their bills in full and on time. Credit card companies may sell off disputed bills, including bills for a returned item, or accounts that resulted from identity theft. Debt buyer companies usually don't know if a debt is legitimate or not.

AARP Oklahoma stands firmly behind Senate Bill 1430 that has passed the Senate and is making its way through the House of Representatives. The measure will go a long way toward cleaning up debt collection practices and providing additional protection for Oklahoma consumers of all ages.

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