Banking Industry Continues to Stalk Grieving Widows

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CreditCardAssist.com report puts illegal debt collection practices in the spotlight.

When you die, your debts are forgiven by the state, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the banking industry.

Verbal abuse, phony lawsuits, and constant intimidation are just some of the techniques the banking industry uses to illegally pursue widows and grieving family members for the debts of deceased loved ones – debts that they don’t even owe. According to a leading consumer finance website, national media exposure about the problem hasn't stopped it. A new report issued by CreditCardAssist.com features interviews with recent victims, exploring the human toll of the banking industry’s aggressive tactics.

“When you die, your debts are forgiven by the state, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the banking industry,” says Credit Card Assist CEO Bill Hazelton. “Grieving family members are being strong-armed into paying money they don’t owe. It’s illegal in the worst kind of way, and everyone knows about it, and nobody is doing anything to make it stop.”

One widow recalled being called by collectors on the day of her husband’s funeral. After they expressed their “sympathies,” she was told that they expected her to pay off his debts, including the ones he had accrued seven years before they married. Another woman was aggressively hounded by a debt collector for the money her father still owed on a truck he had purchased just before his passing. The collector called her at home and at her office constantly for two months, leaving threatening messages and once reducing her to tears in front of a client.

Though the FTC has slapped several collection agencies with civil fines for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in the last few years, it declined to institute a “cool-down” period this August that would have prevented lenders or their affiliates from contacting grieving family members for 45 days following the death of a debtor.

“It’s not illegal to call these widows,” Hazelton says, “but it is illegal to harass them. Collectors do it because they know that people don’t know their rights and because taking legal action is expensive. Legislation is required. This needs to change.”

Since founding Credit Card Assist in 2004, Bill Hazelton has been a staunch advocate for consumer rights. Under his guidance, the finance blog has grown into one of the leading credit resources on the Internet. Its on-site reports have been cited by the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Post, Yahoo! News and more.

To learn more about Credit Card Assist or to schedule an interview, please email matt(at)contentfac(dot)com or call 724-747-9792. The entire report can be viewed here.

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Matt Hoff
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