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CFPB report highlights vulnerability of older consumers

The population of older Americans here in the U.S. is growing at a remarkable rate, fueled almost entirely by the baby boomer generation, whose members are enjoying longer, healthier lives. If you don't believe it, consider that statistics show as many as 10,000 Americans are turning 62 every day.

While it's encouraging to see this new generation of older Americans leading vibrant and fulfilling lives, it cannot be denied that there are certain risks to aging. Indeed, many older individuals often face limited resources, debt struggles and, sadly enough, financial exploitation.

Regarding this last point, consider that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released a report summarizing complaints received from consumers who voluntarily identify themselves as being 62 or older.

The report indicates that as of April 1, 2017, the agency has handled an astounding 1,163,200 complaints, 9 percent -- or 103,100 -- of which were filed by older consumers. Breaking these numbers down, the report found that as of March 2017, the most recent month for which complete data is available, older consumers filed 2,169 consumer complaints.

As to the top three sources of the March 2017 complaints, they included debt collection (496 complaints), mortgages (486 complaints) and credit reporting (326 complaints).

The second place status of mortgages is perhaps unsurprising given that these complaints have comprised roughly 26 percent of all older consumer complaints submitted to the CFPB since its inception back in 2011. In fact, this is 10 percentage points higher than mortgage-related complaints filed by people under 62.

As to why this is such a problem area, CFPB officials point to servicing problems with reverse mortgages that can result in foreclosure. For those unfamiliar with reverse mortgages, they are essentially a specialized loan enabling those over 62 to borrow against their home equity.

Some of the other problem areas for older consumers as identified by the CFPB include:

  • Confusion about credit card offers
  • Hardship recovering from financial fraud
  • Fees for unwanted products or services

As frustrating as these scenarios can be, it's imperative for older consumers to understand that they are not without options and that they can do more than just file a complaint with the CFPB. Indeed, they can consider speaking with a skilled legal professional committed to enforcing their rights and protecting their finances.

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